Nobody in North Philadelphia could believe it. Not the students, not the staff and most certainly not the men’s basketball team at Temple University.
The Owls ended the 2014-15 regular season with a 23-10 record and an almost sure bid to the NCAA Tournament as many thought, including ESPN’s Bracktelogist Joe Lunardi who had Temple as a lock in his final pre-tournament bracket. Despite the respectable resume Temple carried into Selection Sunday, the Owls did not make the field and some speculated that their mediocre non-conference schedule played a large part in the snub.
Although the Owls rumbled against three ranked opponents in Kansas, Villanova and eventual national champions Duke, their schedule last season consisted of many more unsubstantial contests. Temple took advantage of their weaker non-conference matchups, as they should have.
Winning against teams that are easily beatable, however, does not make a team, or their schedule, look any stronger, as the Owls unfortunately learned.
The sting from being snubbed has sustained throughout the Temple Men’s Basketball organization up until now, so the Owls have already taken action to give their team a better shot at making the tournament.
Non-conference scheduling is key for earning a bid to the Big Dance, so here is a breakdown of what the Temple Owls have in store to open up their 2015-16 season.
Begin With a Bang: Veteran’s Classic – North Carolina
For their first game of the season, the Owls look to make a statement as they kick off a two- game/ four team event against North Carolina. The 2015 Veteran’s Classic will be a nationally televised double-header that features Temple, North Carolina, Florida and Navy. With Temple starting the season in the national spotlight, that alone helps bring more attention to the team. Squaring off against UNC won’t hurt either, as the Tarheels are projected to be a top three team this coming season. A strong outing from Temple that brings a closely contested match-up against a national powerhouse like UNC can help boost the Owls’ reputation positively, but a victory would be ideal. The Veteran’s Classic, hosted by Navy, will be held on November 13th with Temple vs. UNC tipping off at 7:00 p.m.
Quality Competition: Puerto Rico Tip-off in San Juan
Six days later, on November 19th, the Owls will be participating in the Puerto Rico Tip-off. This will be Temple’s third time partaking in the tournament. Held in San Juan, the tournament will span three days, with the championship game on November 22nd. ESPN will be broadcasting the entire event so this is yet another chance for the Owls to prove their worth in front of a national audience. The field is a strong one that consists of respectable and recognizable competition. The eight teams participating in the Puerto Rico Tip-off are Temple, Minnesota, Butler, Missouri State, Miami (Fla.), Mississippi State, Utah and Texas Tech. Temple will tip-off play in the first game of the tournament against Minnesota. The Owls may be able to meet Miami in a revenge matchup if the brackets play out a certain way. Miami eliminated Temple in last season’s N.I.T. semifinal game by a painful three points in which then-junior, Quenton DeCosey, missed the game-tying three. Now a senior, there is no doubt that DeCosey will look to dominate against Miami if the opportunity presents itself.
Last Season’s Runner-Ups: Wisconsin:
The next significant contest that the Owls are looking forward to is against last season’s second place NCAA team, the Wisconsin Badgers. This will be the first game of an agreed on home-and-home series between the two teams. Temple will have a chance to silence the student section at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin when the Owls face-off against the Badgers on December 5th. Wisconsin is predicted to be a top 25 team again next season, giving Temple another opportunity to take down a top team.
Big 5 Play:
As always, the Temple Owls will keep the tradition alive and play against the four other Big 5 schools in Philadelphia. Temple begins Big 5 play versus the University of Pennsylvania on December 9th. The next week, on December 13th, Temple will square-off against St. Joseph’s at the Liacouras Center. After a month break from Philadelphia basketball, Big 5 Play will resume and be highlighted on January 20th, during a double-header at the Palestra in which Temple will face La Salle in a rematch from last year. Temple will wrap up Big 5 play in their final contest of the non-conference schedule against national powerhouse, Villanova. Even when any of the Big 5 teams are having a down year, the tradition is so well respected nationwide that these four games always help Temple’s resume reputation.
With these four key points in consideration, the 2015-16 Temple Owl’s already have a stronger schedule than last year. With plenty of national coverage, a tournament in San Juan and a number of household programs on the schedule, this year’s non-conference match-ups present a better opportunity for the Owls’ to build a strong resume compared to last season’s schedule that included games against lesser known schools like American University, LA Tech, LIU Brooklyn and Towson.
Other non-conference matchups for the Owls during this upcoming season include games against Delaware (Nov. 29th), FDU (Dec. 2nd) and Delaware State (Dec. 19th).
Photo courtesy of Split Second Photos
When the Temple Owls made Fran Dunphy their head coach before the 2006-07 season, the university thought they made the best hire possible. Since taking over for Hall Of Famer John Chaney, Dunphy has done a good job.
He’s only had two losing seasons in his tenure, averaging 20+ wins the rest of the time. All the while he has done it without notable recruits. This is thanks to Dunphy and his staff, who have done a good job developing their guys during their time in college. Players like Will Cummings, Khalif Wyatt, and Michael Eric are recent examples of players who were not heavily recruited coming out of high school, but managed to make an everlasting impact. However, when you look at this years recruiting class, it has to be his best at Temple.
Not only did Dunphy snag three four star recruits, but he recently added a really good international prospect as well. Levan "Shawn" Alston, Jr. (the son of former Temple legend Levan Alston, Sr.), Trey Lowe, Ernest Aflakpui, and Ayan Carvalho could all be big time contributors to this program very soon.
Levan comes in with a ton of expectations not just from himself but from the city as well. The first time I saw Levan he was playing in the Positive Image 15U League. I saw the potential then. He showed flashes of being a smooth slashing scorer, who can play both ways.
In his first year for coach Dunphy, Levan should play solid minutes. However, he still needs work on playing the point because Temple may need him to be the future at the 1. In addition, the guard situation for the Owls indicates that coach Dunphy will probably have to rely on his freshman a little more than he normally would.
With Levan, the Owls have a player they could possibly build around in a year. This year, I see him averaging 8-10 points per game with 3 rebounds and 1-3 assist per game. Alston has played with the best and learned from the best coming up. It shouldn't be any problem for him to step his game up and take over this team in due time.
On the other hand, Alston’s former AAU teammate, Trey Lowe, may turn out to be better than Levan. Trey is an athletic enough guard, who can play above the rim. He doesn't shy away from contact and knows how to use his body. The Ewing, New Jersey native is most importantly a scorer. He dropped more than 2,000 points in high school.
Trey has the potential to form a really good backcourt with Levan. Both players complement each other well and have played together for awhile.
I see Trey getting some solid minutes, but he is definitely coming off of the bench. Due to his size and frame, I think he can definitely be a solid defender and scorer from the beginning. With that said, I expect Trey to average a solid 6-8 points and 1-2 rebounds a game.
Center Ernest Aflakpui definitely has the chance to be an immediate starter because of the lack of depth in the front court. Defensively, he is ahead of his time. He plays in the mode of a Tyson Chandler or DeAndre Jordan. Ernest is a mobile, athletic big man and does a great job of protecting the paint.
The big man from Archbishop John Carroll High School has a chance to be an NBA prospect based on his defense. But offensively he has a ways to go. If he can somehow manage to find a couple post moves and show he can finish around the rim, Ernest will become a premier NCAA player. He should be fine, but the first hurdle for him will be recovering successfully from the torn meniscus he suffered last season. The Owls medical and player development staff will need to get him ready for the start of the season.
With that said, Ernest could be a gem for coach Dunphy and this Temple program if he puts it all together. I really like his upside.
Ayan Carvalho comes in as the unknown. The Argentinian has made a name for himself overseas, playing for the Argentinian national team, where he recently competed in the FIBA U17 World Championships.
According to nbcsports.com, Ayan is still 17 and will not turn 18 until September. The guard is a reliable scorer who can hit the three point shot. During his FIBA U17 campaign, he shot 44 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three.
However, who knows if he will actually play this season. I could see Ayan possibly redshirting this year, just to get use to life in the States.
On the other hand, if he does play and can show that shooting touch that has been so raved about, he could be a great addition off the bench this year.
I think he could grow into the Owls' three point sniper. But, he will probably have to get a little stronger.
Lastly, don't be surprised to see a future lineup where Temple goes small and plays three guards. With Carvalho, Lowe, and Alston, they could do this. It would be similar to what Jay Wright and Villanova did with Kyle Lowry, Allen Ray, and Randy Foye.
All in all, with these four guys, coach Dunphy has something he can build off of. If these young men can live up to their expectations, the sky's the limit. Maybe a Sweet 16 run in the future? Possibly. But it's up to them to answer the challenge.
Picture courtesy of comcasttix.com