Big game tonight down at the Wells Fargo Center tonight that doesn’t include my beloved Sixers. Instead my alma mater (wow that sounds funny) Temple University hosts the #3 ranked Duke Blue Devils. Initially when this game was released on the schedule, I immediately made plans to go with some fellow alumni; I love my Owls and I love to hate Duke. However, as tonight’s matchup approached, I realized I had a choice to make: pass off my Wednesday work shift so I could go see the Temple game tonight or pass off my Friday shift and attend the Sixers home opener. As my excitement built for this Sixers’ season, I began to lean toward their home opener. CEO Adam Aron is definitely accomplishing his goals because his tweets about all the plans and surprises that the team has in store for Friday’s game have me just as eager to see the show as the game itself. But unfortunately, my irrational giddiness over the Sixers was not the only deciding factor that led to me blogging at work tonight while I wait for a customer’s stuffed mushrooms to be ready.
To be blunt, I think Temple is going to get smoked tonight. Beating Duke was going to be a challenge under any circumstances, but with an experienced team with senior guards like Juan Fernandez and Ramon Moore, I originally thought the Owls would give the Blue Devils a game and maybe even pull off the upset. But with the loss of Michael Eric, Temple has no size or depth inside to deal with the plethora (“would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?”) of athletic bigs Duke can run out in waves, from the Plumlee brothers to Ryan Kelly,etc. Often the biggest player on the floor in crunch time for the Owls is 6’6″ Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson. The Chester product has been phenomenal off the bench for Temple this year, but it’s unfair to expect he and freshman Anthony Lee to battle with the likes of the Plumlees for 40 minutes, which is what Temple coach Fran Dunphy will likely need in order to compete with the Blue Devils tonight. They faced a similar challenge against Texas, and while the Owls played valiantly, they were eventually worn down by Texas’ depth and size and got crushed on the glass.
Another factor is the locale; I understand that the Wells Fargo Center allows for a much bigger crowd and certainly more money for the schools in ticket sales. But it also allows for the stands to be full of bandwagon riding, obnoxious Duke fans (no one claimed this was an unbiased blog). Temple would’ve benefited greatly from hosting Duke in the Liacouras Center, in a rowdy intimate setting, the way college basketball is supposed to played. Those of you that don’t think the Liacouras Center can be a game changer should refer to the Pepe Sanchez-led upset of Michigan State in the on-campus arena.
Finally, aside from the loss of Eric, Temple is simply not playing well. They followed up the tough loss to Texas with a couple underwhelming wins over MAC teams and Delaware. Meanwhile Duke has been rolling, recently destroying a Penn team that took the Owls to overtime when they still had Eric in the lineup. Sure Big 5 rivalries make games closer, but not 40 points closer.
Some of you may rip me for deciding not to attend because of my lack of faith in their inability to win the game. Fair enough. I’ve been known to rip casual sports fans for less. But realistically, I decided that $17.76 for a Sixers ticket to see their home opener (with a free ticket to another game thrown in) is just a much better value of a lost work shift than $50 to see Temple get blown out and wanting to throttle the Duke fans in the process. So let’s just say I’m embracing happiness instead of frustration and violence. Of course, I’ll likely just get frustrated and want to punch myself after Temple pulls off the massive upset tonight.