The last time Duke and Temple met in a neutral cite showdown, the Owls’ fan-base stormed the Wells Fargo Center with Khalif Wyatt leading the team to a 78-73 triumph.
Though the storyline remains the same, with Duke the heavy favorites, both squads are looking for bounce-back seasons. Duke stormed through the revamped ACC last year but was bounced by the A-Sun upstarts, Mercer, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Owls, however, missed the big dance for the first time since 2007. The cherry and white have looked like a retooled team in the early portion of the season going 2-0 without a full rotation.
Transfers Jaylen Bond, Jesse Morgan and Devin Coleman are not yet eligible and the lack of depth could be troublesome against the dominant Blue Devils.
While the Owls are looking for answers on their final rotation, Duke has no issue with elite talent all around the floor.
Led by three McDonald’s All Americans in Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones the Owls will have a hard time defending coast to coast against the favorites.
Okafor was the consensus number one overall player in the 2014 recruiting class and brings a diverse game that will be tough to answer for C Devontae Watson. He lacks athleticism albeit has a post move set that is rare for a freshman.
Justise Winslow will be predominately matched up with sophomore Mark Williams and is an uber-athletic wing who gets to the paint with ease. If the Owls have a chance Friday, they have to hope Winslow settles for jumpers and shies away from drawing fouls.
The matchup to watch will be Temple senior PG Will Cummings against the Duke duo of Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones. Cummings put up unsightly numbers against American and Louisiana Tech but has the size advantage in the contest. If the senior can catch fire, Duke will have to answer with Cook as their primary option on offense.
Duke will probably outperform the Owls, but the game against Coach K’s club will be a strong indicator on how the season will play out for the developing team from Philly.