Top two teams face off

Both Temple and Xavier are undefeated in the A-10 Conference.

Both Temple and Xavier are undefeated in the A-10 Conference.

ANNA ZHILKOVA TTN Junior forward Lavoy Allen dunks in a 15-point win against Penn. Allen is averaging a double-double this season.

As Temple students begin their new classes for the Spring 2010 semester, the men’s basketball team is already thick into its conference schedule.

The Owls are 3-0 in the Atlantic Ten Conference with wins against Saint Joseph’s, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

In addition, Temple is ranked nationally for the first time since November 2001. The Owls, in the Top 25 rankings for the fifth consecutive week, are currently ranked No. 16 after wins against Siena, Virginia Tech, Villanova, Seton Hall and Rhode Island.

Tomorrow, the Xavier Musketeers visit the Liacouras Center for a conference battle that may help determine the early favorite between the A-10’s top two teams.

The Owls have won the A-10 Tournament the previous two years, but it has been the Musketeers who have been near the top of the standings in their 14 years in the conference. Xavier owns seven regular-season and four tournament titles, and the Musketeers earned the regular-season crown each of the past three seasons.

The Musketeers also seem to fare well on the national level, as they have made the NCAA Tournament eight times in the last nine years, including the past four seasons. Last year, they reached the Sweet 16. In 2004 and 2008, they advanced to the Elite Eight.

It seems that Xavier will be one of the better teams in the conference again this season, as it travels to Philadelphia winners of four straight games after Saturday’s win against Dayton. The Musketeers are 12-5, and their perfect 4-0 conference record tops the A-10.

While the Owls and Musketeers have built up a rivalry in recent years, there is an added bonus to tomorrow night’s game: a battle of the top defense versus one of the top offenses in the A-10.

Temple tops the A-10 in scoring defense (allowing 55.5 points per game), field-goal percentage defense (37.3 percent) and 3-point percentage defense (24.9 percent).

On the other hand, Xavier enters the contest as the second highest scoring offense in the conference. The Musketeers average 78.7 points per game this season.

And they have a lot of firepower.

Sophomore guard Jordan Crawford leads the A-10 in scoring, averaging 19.3 points a game in 16 games this season. Crawford scored a career-high 30 points in a 96-92 loss to Wake Forest and scored 16 points in a 78-74 victory versus Dayton Saturday afternoon. He has scored 16 points or more in 13 consecutive games.

Temple’s big men will have difficulty figuring out Xavier senior forward Jason Love on both ends of the court. Love is averaging nearly a double-double with 10.7 points and 9.1 boards a game, good for fourth in the A-10. On the defensive side, Love averages more than two blocks a game. Saturday against Dayton, Love scored 10 points to go along with eight rebounds and six blocks.

The Owls and Musketeers are near the top of the conference in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio, with Xavier’s sophomore guard Terrell Holloway one of the best. Holloway brings a 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks second in the conference. Holloway is also a terrific free-throw shooter, leading the A-10 and ranking 19th in the country with a 90.3 percent clip.

Temple leads the series 11-9. Four of the last five meetings have been determined by 10 points or less. All indications point to another tight battle between the top two squads in the A-10 Conference.

Pete Dorchak can be reached at

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