Temple (10-3, 0-1) at Wichita State (7-6, 0-1)
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Koch Arena (10,506), Wichita, Kan.
TV: ESPNews (604 on UVerse, 245 on Cox, 207 on DirecTV, 142 on DISH)
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Radio: KEYN, 103.7-FM or GoShockers.com/Listen
Vegas line: Wichita State by 1
WSU ranking: No. 123 (No. 153 on offense, No. 99 on defense)
Temple ranking: No. 71 (No. 106 on offense, No. 62 on defense)
Score prediction: Wichita State 71, Temple 70
WSU’s winning odds: 50 percent
Scouting the Temple Owls
Temple has plenty of motivation this season, playing for Fran Dunphy in his 30th and final season as head coach. It also helped the Owls are stocked with two of the most talented offensive players in the conference in Shizz Alston Jr. (19.2 points, 5.2 assists) and Quinton Rose (16.4 points, 2.5 steals). Temple is 10-3 with notable wins at Missouri, Davidson on a neutral floor and Georgia at home and no bad losses (VCU on neutral and on the road at Villanova and Central Florida). The offense has yet to hit its ceiling, due to 31-percent three-point shooting, which ranks 270th in the country, so it does most of its damage on two-pointers. The Owls are struggling to force misses on the defensive end, but they hardly ever give up offensive rebounds and they have the fifth-best steal percentage in the country. As a result, Temple’s defense ranks No. 62 in KenPom. Temple relies heavily on its starting five, as it ranks in the bottom-25 nationally in bench minutes.
Five keys for Wichita State
1. Limit turnovers to 12 or less. WSU is slightly below the national average in turnover percentage, but it doesn’t feel that way. That’s because a handful of turnovers every game are “atomic bombs” that see the opponents start a fast break that often ends in points allowed. Temple is one of the lankiest teams in college basketball on the perimeter with two 6-4 players and a 6-8 player guarding the perimeter, so it’s not surprising to see it has the fifth-best steal rate in the country. Pierre-Louis has been a particular terror in transition, ranking in the 88th percentile in transition offense. Temple is turning opponents over at a 22-percent rate, so with the game being projected at 69 possessions, that’s 15 turnovers for WSU with many of those being live-ball turnovers due to Temple swipes. The way WSU is shooting, it can’t afford empty possessions where it doesn’t attempt a shot. That’s why this category will be so important for WSU on Sunday.
2. Get Temple in foul trouble. After 13 games, this year’s WSU team is posting the worst foul rate in Marshall’s tenure at WSU. That’s likely a result of so much inexperience at the guard positions, but there’s no denying WSU has not been the aggressor much this season. That was never more obvious than Thursday’s loss at Memphis and I’m sure Marshall has shown plenty of clips that emphasize that. WSU should be fired up at home to be more aggressive and it has even more incentive against Temple. That’s because the Owls rely heavily on their starting lineup to get the job done, as they rank bottom-25 in bench minutes. Dunphy usually never plays players with two fouls in the first half, so it should be WSU’s goal to strap as many Temple starters as possible with that second foul. Temple plays exclusively man-to-man defense and uses its length to disrupt, so this will come down to how guards like Ricky Torres, Samajae Haynes-Jones, Erik Stevenson, Jamarius Burton and Dexter Dennis hold up against the pressure. If they handle it appropriately, then Temple will have more fouls than WSU has turnovers.
There’s no stopping these two from hoisting 15-plus shots up on Sunday. But WSU’s goal should be to make them volume scorers, not efficient ones. The best way to do that is to try to control where they take their shots. Let’s start with Alston, whose Synergy shot chart is displayed. The thing that stuck out to me was how much less effective he was taking jump shots on the left side (0.79 PPP) compared to the right (1.15 PPP). The goal with Alston should be to run him off the three-point line as much as possible, a challenging task considering 54 percent of his shots are three-pointers. But Alston is the only three-point threat on Temple, so turning him into a two-point jump shooter, where he is making only 33 percent, should be the goal. Alston is creating more than ever for others, but you’re not going to be able to take away everything on defense. I’d rather force Alston to make the pass and rely on his teammates to score than him being the one doing the scoring.
As for Rose, baiting him into taking threes may be the way to go. For some reason, Rose is taking more threes than ever this season (nearly 5 per game), despite shooting a career-low 21 percent. While he’s clearly a better shooter than that, it’s not by much. After all, Rose is a career 30-percent shooter on 270 attempts now. What WSU can’t afford to do with Rose is allow him to get to the rim, where he’s generating a third of his offense and making 64 percent of those shots. The percentages say whoever is defending Rose to give him extra space and try to turn him into a jump shooter. Temple doesn’t have another spot-up shooter outside of Alston to make defenses pay for coming off them, so whoever is guarding Pierre-Louis and Perry should be able to lend support to help when Rose drives. I’ll be curious to see how WSU matches up with these two. I assume Dennis will match up with the 6-8 Rose, but that leaves an average defender (Torres or Haynes-Jones) on Temple’s best player.
4. Grab at least 10 offensive rebounds. After being horrendous at defensive rebounding last season, Temple has clearly made it a priority this year and has become a top-35 defensive rebounding team. The Owls have never sent numbers to the offensive glass under Dunphy, so the Shockers are likely going to board out at a high rate on their defensive end. The real battle will be how many offensive boards WSU can grab. The Shockers have been a top-50 offensive rebounding team, so this will be a strength-vs.-strength matchup. Jaime Echenique has been WSU’s best in this category, while Dennis and Jamarius Burton have been surprisingly effective grabbing offensive rebounds. With how WSU is shooting lately, generating as many second chances as possible are only going to improve the chances of winning.
5. Make at least 35 percent of threes. WSU has hit the 35-percent barrier only three times in 13 games this season. These Shockers are shooting almost as many threes as any Marshall team in WSU history, but they are connecting on a paltry 30.9 percent of them. That’s not a good combination. After a torrid start, Markis McDuffie (37 percent) has come back down to reality; Haynes-Jones (35 percent) and Dennis (36 percent) have been fine, but Stevenson (26 percent) and Torres (7 percent) are in major shooting slumps. Temple appears to be an ideal opponent to get the outside shooting on track. Per Synergy, WSU is making only 27 percent of open catch-and-shoot jumpers, which ranks almost dead-last in the country. The good news is that the Owls are giving up a healthy amount of those open looks and opponents have shot 36.7 percent on three-pointers against Temple this season. WSU keeps getting open looks, at some point they have to start falling, right?
It doesn’t feel like Wichita State has any momentum at all. The Shockers were ran out of the gym the second half at VCU, then came back after a nearly two-week break and suffered another double-digit loss Thursday at Memphis. But this is the first game at Koch Arena in nearly three weeks for the Shockers and I think there is some extra excitement around the first conference home game. WSU is surely to be motivated, not only to avoid a three-game losing streak and 0-2 start in conference play, but also to play in a way where the players and coaches feel good about their performance afterward.
Temple is certainly no easy task. The Owls are 10-3 and have two of the most talented players in the AAC in Shizz Alston and Quinton Rose. KenPom has this as a virtual coin flip, as does Vegas. But the more I studied Temple, the more I see this as a game I like WSU to win. And do the Shockers ever need this one because it doesn’t get any easier after this with a road trip to Houston and two home dates against Cincinnati and Central Florida upcoming.
I have no doubt Marshall will have his team fired up for this one after showing them the film of the Memphis game. I have a feeling WSU will want to prove its toughness and will be much more aggressive against Temple. That should lead to a rebounding advantage and as I mentioned above, if Temple gets in foul trouble, then WSU will have a huge advantage. The difference truly might be the outside shooting from the Shockers. If they can hit that 35-percent mark, then I think they’ll be in business.
After watching Dexter Dennis begin to unlock his athleticism in his first game back from a concussion on Thursday, I like the freshman from Louisiana to be the impact player of the game for WSU against Temple. Not only can he make a difference if he starts to attack with purpose like he did against Memphis, but he also can grab offensive rebounds and has a three-ball stroke that could help WSU. But perhaps his most important role will be staying out of foul trouble so he can stay on the court to defend Rose. If he can slow Rose down, that alone will give the Shockers a great chance of winning.
Right now there’s not many positive things to talk about with WSU after back-to-back double-digit losses on the road. I think the return to Koch Arena will fix that. Wichita State 76, Temple 68.