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