Last Season’s Record: 26-11 (13-5 AAC), NIT Tournament Semifinalist
Head Coach: Fran Dunphy (193-108 at Temple)
The Owls of Temple University have quite a respectable history in the context of men’s college basketball. They are the fifth most winningest program in NCAA basketball history, have made over 30 NCAA Tournament appearances, seven Sweet Sixteen appearances, seven Elite Eight appearances and have competed in a pair of Final Four contests. The Owls were also national champions in 1938 under hall-of-fame coach, Harry Witlack, and NIT champions in 1969. John Chaney, another Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, coached Temple from 1982 to 2006 and brought the Owls national fame in the modern era of college basketball by compiling a total of twenty 15-win seasons with an overall record of 516-253 and a handful of national rankings. Succeeding Chaney, was another outstanding coach in Fran Dunphy. He has coached Temple to six straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 2007 to 2013 but for the past two seasons, Dunphy the Owls have found themselves in unfamiliar territory.
After being a regular fixture in the NCAA Tournament, the Owls have failed to make the ‘Big Dance’ in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. The first year out of the tournament was a deserved one, as Temple recorded a 9-22 record in what was an injury riddled season. Last year however, the Owls were left out in what was a controversial committee decision that had college basketball experts across the nation dumbfounded. That is why this year, the Owls are looking to leave no doubt and make it clear that they are a competitive team. But as last year’s snub displayed, Temple cannot play good basketball, they have to play great basketball.
vs. UNC, Novmeber 13th and vs. Wisconsin, December 5th
The biggest opponents this season for the Owls will be the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Wisconsin Badgers. These two teams on the Owls schedule are the most respected nationally coming into this season as UNC is projected to be the top team in college basketball for the 2015-16 season. The Badgers are coming off of a season that ended in a closely contested national championship game against Duke. If the Owls are able to put up a fight against these two teams and come away with the victory, there is no doubt that they will earn the national respect they are used to having.
vs. SMU, January 23rd, 2016
SMU is coming off of a nationally ranked season and an NCAA Tournament appearance, so this will be a vital conference matchup for the Owls to take seriously. Last season, the Owls were swept by the Mustangs in the conference series with each game resulting in a blown halftime lead by Temple. It was assumed that if Temple beat SMU at least once last season, they would be a sure selection for the tournament. Therefore, the Owls must win against the Mustangs this time around.
G – Josh Brown (8 PPG, 4 APG, 20 MPG)
G – Quenton DeCosey (15 PPG, 3 APG, 34 MPG)
F – Daniel Dingle (6 PPG, 2 APG, 18 MPG)
F – Jaylen Bond (11 PPG, 9 RPG, 36 MPG)
C – Devontae Watson (4 PPG, 6 RPG, 13 MPG)
6th – Obi Enechionyia (10 ppg, 7 RPB, 44% FG)
7th – Levan Alston Jr. (12 ppg, 6 APG, 3 RPG)
Brown will be the first successor of Cummings. Although he is not quite the playmaker and scorer that Cummings was, Brown has the ability to command the offense at the point. As a lefty, Brown has deceptive finesse, can get by defenders using his signature spin move that he flashed a couple of times last season, and has a decent mid-range shot. To take his game to the next level, Brown has to add more range on his jumper, improve his ability to draw attention from the defense, and make plays to his open teammates.
At the shooting guard position, senior wingman Quenton DeCosey will man a majority of the minutes. ‘Q’, as the fans like to call him, will be the offensive and backcourt leader coming into this season. DeCosey has been a top option for the Owls on offense since his sophomore campaign and he has not let down by averaging double-digits each of those seasons. This year he is expected to carry the offensive load for the Owls and be their primary scorer.
Daniel Dingle is an interesting player to keep an eye on. Coming out of high school, he was a four-star recruit under the assessment of ScoutHoops. He is an underrated passer who also actually has an impressive handle and can score when he needed. Although he has only averaged pedestrian numbers thus far at Temple (3.6 ppg in 16.5 minutes last season) Dingle is one of those players who when is on the floor, knows how to play the game.
Jaylen Bond will be the star for the Owls this season in addition to being named team captain in October. ESPN’s Seth Greenberg compared his physical frame to that of Lebron James, while Doris Burke praised Bond’s IQ, skill. and effort on the court by comparing his game to that of reigning NBA Champion, Draymond Green. Bond is a player who is all about hustle, grit, grind, and momentum plays. He is a defensive minded player who thrives off of blocked shots, tough rebounds, and throwing himself into passing lanes. He can also throw down posterizing dunks that are Sports Center Top 10 worthy — last season Bond made the SC Top 10 highlight reel three times! Jaylen will be that energy guy and leader for Temple this year and much is expected out of him.
Devontae is a seasoned veteran at the center position. By starting Devontae, opposing teams usually have trouble scoring around the rim due to his towering height. At six-eleven, Watson can protect the rim without even jumping and has the ability to drain the occasional hook shot in the paint. He is a vital part of creating mismatches in the opening minutes of the game for the Owls.
Though Brown and Watson will be starting, I see freshman Levan Alston and sophomore Obi Enechionyia taking most of the minutes at those two positions, respectively. Alston is a four star recruit and seems to be the next big thing at Temple. Alston has the skills of Will Cummings with better height and a more polished jump shot. Enechionyia is arguably the most athletic player on the Temple roster and provides quickness at the center position with a decent outside shot. Enechionyia’s combination of speed, leaping ability, and an impressive perimeter touch for a big man will certainly create problems for opposing defenses.
The Owls haven’t made the NCAA Tournament and this may be the year they can break back into the big dance. Their scheduled currently hosts five preseason ranked opponents in Villanova, Wisconsin, UCONN, UNC, and Butler with SMU and Cincinnati receiving votes as well. If Temple can hang with all of these opponents and keep the games competitive while winning some of them, do not be surprised to see the Owls back in the Top 25 polls.
Defense was a huge improvement last year, and it was coach Dunphy’s priority to bring back that defensive culture. Unfortunately however, the Owls offense was inconsistent throughout the season when it was expected to not be a struggle with Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey predicted to be a tough backcourt to guard. Although the Owls flashed moments of offensive brilliance last season — especially when Jesse Morgan became eligible — consistency was an issue. Josh Brown is replacing Cummings this season, but don’t expect him to be as productive as his former teammate. Freshman Levan Alston Jr. will be the player to develop into that next dynamic guard and depending on how quickly he falls accustomed to the NCAA game that will determine how well the Owls do. If Alston is able to adapt instantly, expect the Owls to average around 75-80 points a game. That is a 10-plus point improvement from their 65.8 that they averaged last season. With the young group they are bringing in, they should run the ball in transition as much as possible to create easy opportunities to score.
The defense should carry over from last year as key defensive players such as Jaylen Bond, Obi Enechionyia, and Devontae Watson are returning. The frontcourt is set but the backcourt is where the Owls will have to piece the defensive puzzle together. Just as he was the offensive leader last season, Will Cummings was Temple’s perimeter defensive leader as well. This year, DeCosey and Josh Brown have to step up and stay in front of their opponents. The two are not the worst defenders, but they did not defend with the intimidating aggressiveness that Cummings carried. The two have natural long length and quickness to stay in front of other players, but the effort and aggressiveness they play with will dictate how well the Owls defense contains opposing offenses.
All in all, the Owls schedule is tough. It is difficult to tell how many wins the Owls will record because of their competitive schedule and their new personnel. A safe guess would predict the Temple Owls to win AT LEAST 15 games but I expect them to have as many as 20 Ws to end the regular season. Temple is hungry to return to their usual national recognition in the college basketball world and are due for a tournament appearance. With the schedule they have now along with the fresh legs they are bring to the hardwood this season, this is the ultimate opportunity for the Owls to do just that.
Coming into this season, the Owls have already improved in terms of depth. Since losing star guard playmaker Will Cummings, and three-point threat Jesse Morgan, the Owls have brought in four new freshmen that have all been rated as competitive prospects out of high school. The most impressive out of the bunch is Levan Shawn Alston Jr. who is four-star recruit and an offensive maestro. At six-foot-four, Alston is the ideal height at the guard spot for the college game. He creates a size advantage at the point guard position and a speed advantage at the shooting guard spot while also coming into the college game with refined shooting, finishing and passing skills. With high school teammate, Trey Lowe, by his side, the two can establish an offensive chemistry for Temple that seemed to sputter at times last season.
When analyzing the team as a whole, this idea of offensive depth seems to be the biggest improvement coming into the season. Although Fran Dunphy and his staff are defensive minded, the Owls have true offensive talent this season that can make them more respectable.
Photo: Getty Images
-Temple finishes season with 80-69 loss against East Carolina in first round of AAC tournament