(10) Temple was unable to complete the comeback against (7) Iowa, as they lost 72-70, in the first round of the South Regional at the Barclays Center. The Owls forced OT after senior guard Quenton DeCosey was fouled while attempting a three pointer with 2.1 seconds left in the game. DeCosey would hit all three free throws, tying the game at 63 and sending the contest into OT.
In the extra period, Temple kept the game close but a buzzer-beating putback by Hawkeye center Adam Woodbury, who finished the game with 10 points, gave Iowa the victory.
DeCosey led the Owls with a game-high 26 points, while junior Josh Brown and senior Jaylen Bond had 16 and 14 points, respectively. Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff had 23 points, while guard Peter Jok had 16.
The Owls finish the season (21-12), while the Hawkeyes (22-10) move on to face (2) Villanova in the second round of the South Regional this Sunday.
Photo: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
The Temple Owls are finally back in the NCAA Tournament after a two year hiatus, and have been awarded the #10 seed in the South region of the bracket. Though the Owls are undeniably ecstatic about their return to the postseason national spotlight, they have drawn a tough team in the round of 64, as they will be squaring off against the #7 seed Iowa Hawkeyes at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York this Friday.
Though the Hawkeyes have been ranked as high as the fourth best team in the nation this season, they have hit a wall en route to the tourney.
The Hawkeyes began the season 19-4 overall, as they headed into mid-February with an impressive 10-1 record in the highly competitive Big Ten conference. Since being ranked #4 in the nation, Iowa has gone 2-7 to close out their conference schedule and now sit at 21-10 heading into the Big Dance.
There is no doubt Iowa has had impressive offensive runs throughout the season, but for the most part, that offensive punch has been carried by just two players on the team -- senior, Jarrod Uthoff and junior, Peter Jok. As the season progressed, it had become more obvious that Fran McCaffery’s squad relied almost too heavily on the two veteran scorers of the team rather than distributing the offense throughout the entire roster. This made it easy to trap the offensive pair and force errors on the Hawkeyes.
In the first 25 games this season, when the Hawkeyes were at their best, they scored 75 or more points 23 times. Since then however, in Iowa’s most recent offensive struggles, Iowa has scored less than 70 points in three of its last six contests, which included a disappointing 68-66 loss in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament to 15-18 Illinois.
In that loss to the Illini, Uthoff and Jok scored 50 of those 66 Iowa points, while the rest of the squad scored just 16. The next highest scorer on the team was freshman sixth man, Nicholas Bear, who scored just eight points off the bench.
As stated earlier, with an obvious focus of a two man offense for the Hawkeyes, it is easy to force errors when a team is playing two-on-five. The struggling Illinois team was able to do just that by forcing 18 Hawkeye turnovers. Six of the seven Hawkeyes who played had two or more turnovers in the loss, mostly due to the forceful attempts to get the ball in either Jok or Uthoff’s hands.
All this being said, Jok and Uthoff are talented players. The junior Jok averages 16.2 points per game and shoots over 40-percent from three, while Uthoff leads the Hawkeyes in scoring rebounding and blocks with 18.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks blocks per game.
This provides an interesting matchup for the first round game, as Temple’s top three scorers matchup similarly in size with the dynamic duo that Iowa relies on.
The Owls’ leading scorer, Quenton DeCosey stands at six-feet-five inches tall and averages 15.6 points a game for Temple while Iowa’s Jok is listed as a 6’ 6” guard.
In the pivotal front court battle, Jarrod Uthoff will probably be matched up against both Obi Enechionyia and Jaylen Bond of Temple. Uthoff, the leader of this year’s Hawkeyes’ squad is a 6-foot-9 stretch forward, who can play both inside and out. Jaylen Bond, 6’ 8” is Temple’s main rebounder and post presence averaging 10.2 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game. Enechionyia is the big man for the Owls who can stretch the floor effectively when he is making shots. The 6’ 9” sophomore is Temple’s second leading scorer at 11.2 points per game and shoots an efficient 40-percent from behind the arc.
Although those are the key matchups of the game, Temple certainly has more effective depth between the two teams. Devin Coleman, Temple’s streaky sixth man can be the x-factor in the game. If he makes threes at an efficient rate, just like the seven he made against a once undefeated SMU squad, then the Owls balanced scoring attack may be able to keep up with Iowa’s talented tandem. Add in the possibility of Josh Brown contributing a couple points on offense along with his ability to make plays without turning over the ball, and Temple’s poised squad can possibly be too much to handle for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa is a team that likes to get out and run by forcing turnovers when looking for points outside of Jok and Uthoff, but that will be tough to do against this year’s cautious Temple squad. The Owls lead the nation in taking care of the ball, at an even nine turnovers per game. With Temple’s ability to take care of the basketball, Iowa may have to settle in running their two-man half-court game between Jok and Uthoff, and if that is the case, we may be seeing the Owls matchup with Villanova in the round of 32.
Whatever the case may be, this seems to be one of the more balanced 10-7 matchups in the round of 64. Though the two teams play different styles, their weaknesses and strengths balance out. Temple may be able to stop the scoring of Uthoff and Jok, but may also find themselves struggling to put the ball in the hole at the same time. The Owls shoot a poor 40.5-percent from the field as a team and similarly so, Uthoff and Jok may have a field day against Temple’s defense. However, perhaps the balanced scoring of the Owls will be able to keep pace with the two stars, making for a competitive game throughout, and in the end, that may be what decides the game.
If one thing is for sure, it is that Temple knows how to win close games against good teams. Nail-biter games against Tulsa, Cincinnati, UConn, and Houston have proved Temple’s resilience throughout the season. For Iowa, the opposite is true. In the last five contests when the games have been decided by four points or less, the Hawkeyes have lost four of them, with the only win being a 75-71 win over Minnesota.
Overall, the way both teams seasons have been going, this one seems to be a first round game that will create some drama. The teams have contrasting strengths, but are evenly matched overall. Expect a grind it out, slugfest type of game on Friday. If Uthoff and Jok are able to get others involved in the offense, the Hawkeyes may be able pull away, but if the game is a two-possession contest with three minutes left in regulation, the Owls may have enough late-game experience to edge Iowa.
Though the Temple Owls finished the regular season atop the American Athletic Conference as the outright regular season champions, it has been popularly agreed upon across several college basketball platforms that any team from the American can come out of the conference tournament as the team to claim the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament – and that is no exaggeration.
Temple currently has a 20-10 overall record and are 14-4 in conference play, giving them the top seed in the AAC tournament in Orlando this week. Despite being the best team in the American, Temple still sits firmly on the bubble in the eyes of many bracketologists, including Jerry Palm of CBSSports who currently has Temple as a 10-seed for the NCAAs. In large part, Temple is still considered a bubble team due to their poor non-conference play, where they played several respectable opponents such as UNC, Utah, Butler, Wisconsin, and Villanova, but came up short in all of those contests. Two tough one-possession losses against East Carolina and Memphis plus a blow-out home loss to Houston within the conference does not help the Owls’ resume either. That being said, to avoid the anxious waiting process on selection Sunday, Temple is going to have to win some games in the conference tourney to truly feel safe about their chances in returning to the big dance.
The American Athletic Conference tournament began on Thursday, with first round action that decided which of the lower seeds would have to face off against Temple. Since the Owls earned the top-seed in the tournament, they were awarded a first round bye along with the top six teams in the league.
In a closely contested matchup between East Carolina and South Florida, the USF Bulls were able to defeat that ECU Pirates 71-66 to advance to the quarterfinals, where they will play Temple at noon on Friday.
In the regular season, the Owls swept the season series against Orlando Antigua’s Bulls, and comfortably so. The scoring margins were not the largest, but in each of the two games, Temple seemed to be in control and composed against this season’s struggling USF squad. A loss to USF would certainly make things antsy for the Owls – the Bulls have an RPI of 233 and Temple is already 8-9 against the top 200 RPI – and may ultimately be what keeps them out of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year if that is how things play out. If the Owls handle business cleanly on Friday against USF though, that won’t guarantee them a spot in the big dance either, basically making the game a survive-and-advance contest.
If they advance, Temple would have to play either Cincinnati or UConn in the semi-finals, two other fellow bubble teams from the American. Just as the Owls did to the Bulls, Temple also swept the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UConn Huskies in the regular season. The four wins between the Bearcats and Huskies were arguably the most difficult wins for Temple this season.
Temple opened conference play earlier this season with a seven-point win in Cincinnati when the Bearcats were ranked #22/23 in the nation, thanks to some unexpected clutch shots by forward Daniel Dingle. Temple also took a double-overtime thriller at the Liacouras Center on January 16th where they won 67-65 in a physical, grind-it-out type of game.
Against UConn, the Owls took the first meeting in Hartford when Josh Brown hit a game winning floater to give Temple a 55-53 win over the then #23/24 Huskies. Then later on in the season, when the four-time national champions came to Philadelphia, Temple was able to storm back from a 12-point deficit with five minutes left in the game to win 63-58, once again thanks to the heroics of x-factor, Daniel Dingle.
In no way were any of those wins easy, and Temple is fortunate to earn season sweeps against two of the best teams in the conference, but a loss in the semis to either the Bearcats or the Huskies will definitely keep the Owls on the bubble. When bubble teams lose to bubble teams, the winner usually squeezes in while the loser gets bumped out. A win in the semis for Temple would be huge, and may be even tougher than winning the championship game due to the matchups created by the seedings and the desperateness of the teams on the bubble.
On the other side of the bracket stand Tulane, Houston, Memphis and Tulsa. If the Owls make it through to the championship round, they would have to play either of these teams. Temple is a combined 5-3 against these four American squads, carrying a sweep against Tulane and splits against the three other teams. This side of the bracket also holds two bubble teams as well in Tulsa and Houston.
As stated earlier, any of the eight teams left in the tournament can come away as the post-season champions and it really is difficult to make a sure prediction as to who can definitely win.
Houston, Cincinnati, and Tulsa each have 12-6 records in conference, play while five of the eight teams remaining boast 20-plus wins in their overall records. This conference is one of the most competitive ones in the nation, and due to that competitive nature, there is no sure team that is truly the dominant one. If Temple wants to be sure they make the big dance this year however, they must win. A loss in any of the rounds they have to play in, including the championship game, would do nothing but keep them on the bubble, and as we saw last year, you never know what will happen on selection Sunday, even if you are confident in your resume.
If one thing is for sure, it is that Temple can definitely win-out if they stay focused and alert. With the reliable scoring of Quenton DeCosey, the playmaking and ball security of Josh Brown, the rebounding of Jaylen Bond, the emergence of Obi Enechionyia’s offensive game, and the scoring spark off the bench in Devin Coleman, Temple certainly has all the tools to come away with the tournament championship if they execute and play hard.
Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports