There were rollouts. There are always rollouts. Temple students will graduate Summa Cum Laude in rollout making one day.
At the Liacouras Center on Saturday, the rollouts came one after the other, drifting down from the upper reaches of the student section toward the court. The banners generally stayed there for a few moments, lingering behind the basket near Villanovas bench so the Wildcats could get a good look and let the message marinate. Owls fans are helpful that way.
The Villainova rollout was pretty good. As I mentioned on Twitter, I dont remember Temple students being that clever when I went to La Salle. (Are they getting smarter or am I getting dumber? I know, I know: both.) The banner that hit hardest was far more topical and scathing, though: Youre scared to make this a conference game.
It wasnt a conference game, of course. Temple won 78-67 and claimed Big 5 bragging rights (see story), but thats not quite what the Temple kids meant. Theyre mad about the Big East. And they should be.
The way the story is told on North Broad Street by students and alumni and pretty much anyone who favors cherry-colored clothing is that Temple really wanted to join the Big East and Villanova really didnt want that to happen. The Villanova people deny that, of course, but thats how the tale is told at Temple. (To that point, the students crafted more rollouts: Nova says jump! Big East asks how high? and Villanova. Latin for Liar.)
Even if the Villanova people wrapped their arms around the Temple people and begged whats left of the Big East to add the Owls to the conference, Temple still might not be in. The Big Eastin a desperation move to stitch itself back together after recently hemorrhaging Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia to other, stronger conferencesannounced it will add Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members, while Houston, SMU and UCF will join for all sports.
If youre wondering how schools from Idaho and California and Texas and Florida fit into a conference called the Big East, the answer is obvious and green. Money makes it easy enough to forget about inconvenient geography. The conference thinks the new schools will bring in lots of loot, and thats all it cares about right nowthat and survival. And, hey, maybe the Big East will rename itself after all this is over. My vote: The Big But Only Kinda East. (Needs to be work-shopped.)
But back to Temple. The Owls are mad. And, again, they should be. Maybe it wasnt all Villanovas fault that Temple didnt get into the Big East. Maybe Villanova wasnt the only obstacle that prevented their gritty North Philly neighbors from moving on up George Jefferson-style to a deluxe conference. Doesnt matter. Because the end result is the same for Temple: the Owls got robbed. And so did basketball fans.
Forget about football for a moment (though Temples ever-improving program would have been a fine addition on that front, too). What makes the soon-to-be-defunct-as-we-know-it Big East the best hoops conference in the countrymore than the incredible talent level and parityare the natural rivalries intensified by history and close proximity. UConn hates Syracuse and Pitt hates West Virginia and so on. The schools are practically packed on top of each other geographically, like stepbrothers who have been forced to share a too-small room for years. The disdain builds up and eventually explodes and before long, someone wants to club someone else with the bedpost simply for smiling the wrong way. Thats my kind of fun.
It could and should have been the Big Easts kind of fun, too. The conference made a huge mistake by not adding Temple. Saturdays game provided proof in support of that argument. As with most Big 5 clashes and all Temple-Nova meetings, the game was tight and tense and wholly entertaining. The two schools have been rivals for a long while. Theyre good at it. You think youre getting the same kind of intense atmosphere for a regular season meeting between St. John's and SMU? Its a real shame. Watching the Wildcats and Owls go for each others throats in the Big East standingsand in the Big East Tournamentwould have been a treat.
After the game, Ramone Moorean explosive guard who had 32 points for the Owls and led all scorerswas asked about beating Nova, about what it means and how he might explain the rivalry to someone who maybe isnt familiar with the Big 5 and how these backyard tussles tend to go. He didnt have to think about it too long.
Its very intense, Moore said.
And whats it like to beat the Wildcats?
Theres a lot of pride, Moore added.
That will have to do for Templenow and in the future.
E-mail John Gonzalez at email@example.com