Team Preview: Temple Owls
Coach: Fran Dunphy
2011-2012 Finish: 24-8 (13-3 in the Atlantic-10). Eliminated in March Madness Round of 64
The Owls have a more prestigious history than any other mid-major competitor, and it’s a long list. They rank sixth all-time in NCAA wins and have visited the March Madness tournament in four consecutive seasons.
Is a fifth straight appearance in store?
Strongside: Temple is coming off a 2011-2012 campaign that showed promise but lost its footing toward the end. They cruised through the regular season, then derailed in the A-10 tournament against UMass. One week later, a disastrous offensive performance against South Florida culminated in an early round exit.
Scootie Randall should help the cause. The 6’6” wingman missed all of last season due to knee surgery, and through 10 games already leads the team in rebounding (7.9 RPG) and assists (3.9 APG) and is second in scoring (13.7 PPG).
Coach Fran Dunphy brings a boatload of experience to the team, having coached over 200 games for the Owls. He quickly snatched up transfers Jake O’Brien and Dalton Pepper. The former is a strong power forward coming from Boston U, the latter a perimeter shooter who transferred from West Virginia. O’Brien has been effective stretching the floor for the Owls and has contributed 7.5 PPG in 10 games.
The unquestioned leader is Khalif Wyatt. Coming off a 17.1 PPG junior season in which Wyatt shot 48 percent from the floor, this team’s basketball pulse hits its beat with him. His hand hasn’t been quite as hot this season, but this is a new group of guys and the chemistry is still a work in progress.
Weakside: Juan Fernandez, one of the best three-point shooters in the nation last season, is gone, and leading scorer Ramone Moore is too. On paper, it’s easy to tell that the Owls simply aren’t who they were last season.
While they’ve cruised past the lighter competition to begin the year, their big measuring stick game was a nationally televised contest against Duke, and it was a forgettable performance to say the least. The Blue Devils thumped the Owls 90-67 and connected on 60 percent of their three-point attempts, perhaps opening eyes on the defensive efficiency of this squad.
All Told: The Owls may have been underrated heading into this season by pundits, with some ranking them to finish as low as seventh in the Atlantic-10. The fact is, you can never take a franchise as storied as the Owls for granted. Dunphy has brought in additional talent to help with the loss of star power, Wyatt and Randall command a very capable frontcourt and once their field goal shooting improves (currently 252nd in the nation at .416), they will make serious strides.
The Owls should be there on the opening night of the Dance, beady-eyed as usual.