These teams met late last February at Cameron Indoor. Duke won by 17 but it was tight for a half even though the Owls were down two starters.
They'll still missing the same pair, now seniors, swingman Scootie Randall and big man Micheal Eric. Both are out with knee injuries. It appears likely that Randall will redshirt, while word is Eric could be back before the end of the month.
You'd prefer to have all your weapons, particularly versus this obstacle, but . . .
"It's funny, I mentioned it to [sophomore guard] Aaron Brown," Dunphy said following yesterday's practice in South Philly. "He didn't do a great job on a checkout on a corner jumper. And I told him, 'It's probably not fair that we're asking you to check this guy out. But you're going to be undersized the rest of the year. You know what? Too bad. It's not fair what we're asking, but life's not fair sometimes. Get it done.' That's the attitude we have."
And part of that is measuring yourself against the best. Dunphy has credited the Janauary 2008 meeting (a 10-point Duke win in the last game Temple played at what was then the Wachovia Center) as being the one that got those Owls around a corner.
"In the second half, even though we were getting beat, we started to understand who it was that we were and what it was going to take to play at the highest level," recalled Dunphy, whose relationship with Mike Krzyzewski goes back four decades to their time together on an Army team. "I think it helped us. It certainly helped us that year [as the Owls won the first of three consecutive Atlantic 10 Tournament titles]."
Dunphy has never beaten his friend in four tries since 2005 (one with Penn). That's not the point. The fact that he absolutely relishes the challenge and everything it encompasses is. And his guys take their cue from him.
"They're one of the great teams, every year, with one of the greatest coaches to ever coach," said senior guard Ramone Moore, the Owls' top scorer at 17.4 per. "Any time you play that type of team, you have to have yourself fully prepared to match [what they bring]. You want to put yourself in position to play teams like this."
Even shorthanded, once again.
"It's tough," Moore admitted. "We've been struggling to pull some games out lately, since we've been small playing four guards throughout. But it's something we've got to deal with."
Just like the fact that Duke will proabably have a lot of fans in the building as well.
"We can't worry about that," he said. "We have to play like the crowd's in our favor. When you're in front of your family and friends, it's a different atmosphere, to be able to get over the hump."
The Owls, who have won six of their last seven, open the conference schedule Saturday at the Liacouras Center against Dayton (10-4). They can start thinking about that tomorrow.
"You prepare like any other game, but you know it's not," said senior guard Juan Fernandez, who's averaging 13.3. "We're not getting Mike [Eric] back tomorrow, so you play with what you have. Duke's got everything, to be honest. We've got a bad taste from last year. We know we could have done a little better. I don't know if [it would have been enough] to win the game, but definitely a little better.
"I mean, you respect them, just like you should respect everybody. But there's only two ways you can take it. As pressure, look at them like they're untouchable. Or you use it to motivate yourself. Hopefully we'll come out and do our best.
"You always dream about playing in this arena. Sometimes I get the chance to come down and watch the Sixers. We're going to have that chance. It's going to be awesome. Obviously we're going to be nervous. It's part of this. But you've just got to let that go in the first few minutes and play basketball. It's something all of us have been doing since we were young. Nothing new."
Except, of course, for the name adorning the front of those blue jerseys.
"I heard of them before coming [from Argentina]," Fernandez said. "I knew about college basketball, but I didn't know too much about the system or how it worked. But you hear about teams and stuff. You know who the best ones are. And they're one of them. So it's really what you play for."
Precisely. No matter how it could turn out. The rewards are simply too meaningful.