PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Temple’s upset over No. 3 Villanova was still warm when students stormed the court, stomping and chanting, “We Want Kansas! We Want Kansas!”
Three weeks after the win that thrust the No. 18 Owls into the national rankings, they get their wish.
“They’d better be ready because we’re coming,” Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor said.
The No. 1 Jayhawks (12-0) are coming to Temple on Saturday, making a rare stop in Philly as part of a homecoming for forwards Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris.
The twin brothers led Prep Charter to consecutive PIAA Class AA state titles, wanted to play outside Philadelphia and never seriously considered Temple’s recruitment pitch. They might have to ring up the Owls athletic department and see if they can order a few more tickets to fulfill the crushing demand from friends and family.
“I got 30 tickets. If you can get me more, I can use them,” Markieff Morris said. “I told coach how much he can get me, that’s how much I can use. I haven’t played at home since high school, so it’s very exciting. A lot of my family will want to watch me in person.”
Kansas coach Bill Self said he was concerned the brothers might be too pumped up for their big return to their home city.
“They could be wound pretty tight,” Self said. “But they need to go through this because they’ll be wound tight and our other players will, too, in other situations. So that’s just part of it.”
Kansas is in a familiar spot atop the rankings and in place to make its usual run at a Big 12 title and the Final Four. What might surprise them are the Owls (11-2) and the way they’ve plowed into the Top 25.
After losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons under coach Fran Dunphy, the Owls were picked to finish in a tie for fifth in the Atlantic 10. No rebuilding here. Backed by one of the stingiest defenses around, the Owls have won seven straight games and went undefeated in December for the first time since 1987.
They knocked off the Wildcats 75-65 on Dec. 13 and are ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2001.
“It was hard to get here and it’s going to be even harder to stay here,” leading scorer Ryan Brooks said.
Temple is off to its best start since 1993-94 and is playing a No. 1 team at home for the first time since the Liacouras Center opened in 1997. The arena is sold out—so hurry, call soon Markieff—and the Owls are trying to knock off a No. 1 for the first time since 2000.
The first time the Owls defeated a No. 1? Might sound familiar to some of the Jayhawks fans who helped sell out Saturday’s game. Temple beat No. 1 Kansas 74-66 in overtime on Dec. 22, 1995.
Dunphy knows how hard it was for Temple to crack the Top 25.
“It’s a tough, tough task to stay there,” he said. “There’s a reason all those great teams are there each and every year. We hope to be one of the them. Right now, we’re still a work in progress in many, many ways. We’ve had a great start, but we need to continue to play as good a basketball as we can.”
The Jayhawks were unbeaten and No. 2 in the country the last time they played in Philadelphia. They were thrashed by Villanova on Jan. 22, 2005 in a game that kicked off the Wildcats’ return to among the nation’s elite.
The last time one of the six city schools beat a visiting No. 1 was when the Wildcats topped No. 1 Connecticut 69-64 on Feb. 13, 2006 at the Wachovia Center.
And the last time a visiting No. 1 played in the city was North Carolina’s 106-71 win over Penn on Dec. 4, 2007.
Kansas wants to avoid becoming the latest No. 1 to fall in Philly.
“We’re playing in their home, which is my home, too,” Markieff Morris said.
Kansas beat Temple 71-59 last season at Allen Fieldhouse.