Temple is now off to a 3-4 start to their 2015-16 campaign. There are positives and negatives with their play, but it’s important to know that they have faced tough competition.
As of right now, they have the 13th highest strength of schedule in the country with three games against ranked teams and an away game against the 2014 national championship runner-up.
All four of those opponents beat the Owls. Beginning the season in Annapolis, Md against #1 UNC went as expected. It turned into an easy victory for the Tar Heels although Temple did stick with them in the first half without Obi Enechionya.
Their next two losses came in the last two rounds of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. After edging out their first win against a decent Minnesota team, they played #22 Butler and #16 Utah. They hung in with both and were just short of a comeback victory against Utah when it looked like the Utes were about to pull away for good.
They took care of business and defeated Delaware and Fairleigh Dickinson on their home court afterward despite sloppy play that led to FDU giving a scare in the second half.
The Owls then traveled to Wisconsin where they were outplayed by better talent.
Each loss and win were warranted. They lost to who they were likely to lose to and beat who they were expected to beat. However, finding a way to win against Butler and/or Utah would’ve not only given the Owls a better record, but it would’ve also given them another level of confidence.
Temple played well enough against both teams that they probably should’ve left with a win against one of them, but the usual minor mistakes haunted them. A missed free throw or turnover here and there could’ve swayed the games in another direction.
They aren’t bad losses though, so it doesn’t necessarily hurt them. The issue is the number in the loss column. As Selection Sunday came last year, Temple was 23-10. Even with the blowout win against #10 Kansas, the committee probably looked at their schedule and couldn’t find one more impressive win. Winning just one game against a team like SMU or Tulsa could’ve been the ticket in.
But this season, the team is seven games into the year and Temple already has four losses. To improve on their record from last year, Temple would have to finish out the regular season on a 17-6 run. They still play teams like UConn and Cincinnati twice, SMU once, and don’t forget about Villanova either.
Of course, it’s already important to do well in conference play, but it is crucial for the Owls to do so at this point. The rough schedule to begin the season could come back to bite them otherwise, but it also might be a blessing as well. The players now have experience playing against high profile opponents and it can help out in the long run. Now they know how they stack up against some of the better teams in the nation and that will certainly help against the top American Conference teams. It also doesn’t hurt that freshmen Trey Lowe and Levan Alston are getting a bunch of minutes against these teams. Quality experience against the nation’s top team is needed for any player to get better in the future.
Temple now has three more non-conference games before they start their conference season (aside from La Salle in January and Villanova in February). Once they play Cincinnati on December 29, they need to be at the top of their game for the rest of the season to get back into the March Madness conversation. But it’s going to be a tough climb up.
Photo: AP/Ricardo Arduengo