The Empire's season podcast series will cover college basketball in the City 6. We will be releasing a podcast to accompany a written report covering our outlook for the teams' seasons. Please note that the podcasts and the written season previews may differ in writers and opinion.
The Temple Owls showed signs of potential last season, but were ultimately an inconsistent team. The Owls finished the 2016-17 season with a 16-16 record and missed out on postseason basketball. It was the third time in the past four seasons that head coach Fran Dunphy’s team has failed to make the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the .500 record, Temple had back-to-back wins over Associated Press Top 25 opponents last year. Those victories showed that Temple had the individual talent to compete with some of the best teams in the nation.
The Owls won the 2016 NIT Tip-Off Championship after defeating then-No. 25 Florida State on Thanksgiving and No. 19 West Virginia the day after at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Other than that big weekend though, during their non-conference slate the Owls lost to mid-major New Hampshire and a UMass team that ended with a losing record. Temple also struggled in American Athletic Conference play, capping it off with a 7-11 conference record. The Owls finished eighth in The American standings and ended their season by losing to East Carolina in the first round of the conference tournament.
Because of the shaky results from last season, Temple has been selected as the seventh best team in The American for the 2017-18 preseason rankings.
Despite the low ranking, the Owls have a deep team heading into next season with redshirt-senior guard Josh Brown expected to be back playing consistent minutes. With more key players returning for the Owls and four new freshmen joining the team, as well as a schedule that boasts at least 10 opponents that played postseason basketball last season, Temple will be an interesting team to follow this season.
Who’s Gone? Daniel Dingle (G/F, graduation), Mark Williams (F, graduation), Mike Robbins (G, graduation), Isaiah Lewis (G, Transfer)
The Owls didn’t lose too many significant players. Daniel Dingle was a big part of Temple’s scheme last season as a starter and one of the primary ball-handlers. Dingle played and started all 32 games for the Owls and was second on the team in minutes, only behind Shizz Alston Jr., who will probably fill Dingle’s role.
Mark Williams was a senior who only logged 509 minutes and contributed 6.1 points per game. Mike Robbins and Isaiah Lewis also saw limited minutes. The two walk-ons combined to just play 125 minutes last season.
The 2017 graduating class will be replaced by a talented group of rising upperclassmen with players like Obi Enechionyia, Quinton Rose, Alani Moore II, Ernest Aflakpui and Damion Moore. Round that lineup out with the veteran leadership of redshirt-senior Josh Brown and the Owls won’t have too much trouble filling in the spots that have left.
Who’s New? J.P. Moorman II (F, Fr.), Nate Pierre-Louis (G, Fr.), Justyn Hamilton (F, Fr.), De’Vondre Perry (F, Fr.)
Temple’s incoming recruiting class is one of the highest rated under Dunphy. J.P. Moorman II, Nate Pierre-Louis,and Justyn Hamilton were all rated as four-star recruits on ESPN while De’Vondre Perry was rated right below them at three stars.
Dunphy has said that each of the freshman will be interchangeable since each can play at least two different positions. Dunphy said Pierre-Louis will be playing the one and two, Perry the two and three, Moorman the three and four and Hamilton the four and five.
The four freshman add even more depth to a team that already looked deep without them. Dunphy is known for making freshman earn their minutes, so it will be interesting to see how playing time will be distributed among the newcomers.
Projected Starting Lineup:
RS Sr. G: Josh Brown (Proj. Stats: 8 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG)
Brown only played in five games last season while recovering from a torn achilles. In 2015-16, Brown was one of the leaders on that American Athletic Conference regular season championship team that went to the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 8.3 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.8 rebounds that season. Brown also ranked eighth in Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio. In his final season at Temple, Brown should hover around his 2015-16 numbers while he plays with a team that is more talented all around compared to previous seasons.
Temple guard Josh Brown dribbles the ball.
(Photo credit: Timothy D. Sofranko)
Jr. G: Shizz Alston Jr. (Proj. Stats: 15 PPG, 4 APG, 1.8 SPG)
Alston, the reigning Big 5 Most Improved Player, is arguably Temple’s best one-on-one offensive weapon with his ability to create space and score or pass off the dribble. He was Temple’s leading scorer last year with 13.7 points per game, as well as the Owls leading assist man, averaging 4.1 assists a contest. Alston also showcased his defensive potential last season as Temple’s steals leader, averaging 1.7 steals on the season for the Owls.
So. F: Quinton Rose (Proj. Stats: 11 PPG, 1.5 SPG, 45 FG%)
Rose is already being talked about as an NBA draft prospect after one year with the Owls. Rose showed up on CBS Sports’ “Ridiculously early 2018 NBA Mock Draft” as a first round selection. Rose thrives in the open court due to his length and athleticism. The 6-foot-8 guard has the ability to push the pace in transition and finish at the rim consistently, whether it be with an athletic layup or a highlight-reel dunk. As a freshman, Rose averaged 10.1 points per game and was second on the team in total steals.
Sr. F: Obi Enechionyia (Proj. Stats: 18 PPG, 8 RPG, 40 3P%)
Obi Enechionyia started last season looking like an NBA lottery pick. For the first six games, the junior forward averaged 20.2 points, 9 rebounds, and shot 56.3 percent from the 3-point line. Halfway through the season, Enechionyia fell in an overall slump and saw his numbers drop. Enechionyia ended the season averaging 13.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and a 38.5 percent 3-point field goal percentage. Despite the slump, Enechionyia’s skills are clearly there. The only question is his consistency. Enechionyia has been ranked as one of the top-50 college basketball players for the 2017-18 season by The Big Lead, so the expectations for him are high. There is no doubt that Enechionyia will be a main concern on scouting reports all season long.
Jr. F: Ernest Aflakpui (Proj. Stats: 8 PPG, 6 RPG)
Ernest Alakpui’s numbers have never jumped off the stat sheet in his two years at Temple, but he is a steady player. Aflakpui serves as a strong, physical big who can set screens, grab rebounds, alter shots at the rim and make an occasional post-shot when needed. Aflakpui’s output will need to rise this season with Temple’s competitive schedule. His rebounding numbers should increase from his five rebounds per game mark in 2016-17 since he is more experienced now and used to the physicality of the college game. With Josh Brown running the point as a true distributor who can naturally spread the floor, expect Aflakpui to have more chances to score as well.
Reserves: Alani Moore II (G, Soph.), Damion Moore (C, Soph.), J.P. Moorman II (F, Fr.), Nate Pierre Louis (G, Fr.), Justyn Hamilton (F, Fr.), De’Vondre Perry (G, Fr.)
Temple has a lot of young talent that can come off the bench in 2017-18. Alani Moore II is the player who has the most experience if he were coming off the bench. He participated in all 32 games last season and had significant plays that contributed to some of Temple’s biggest wins.
The frontcourt will be primarily backed up by sophomore center Damion Moore. Moore only played in 20 games last season but showed that he had a midrange jumpshot, intimidating presence in the post, and the ability to finish strong at the rim.
After the two sophomores, Dunphy can choose from the interchangeable group of freshmen who will be eager to show their potential at the college level.
Temple has one of its toughest schedules in recent years. The Owls will play at least 10 postseason teams this season with the chance of playing up to 12 depending on how the Gildan Charleston Classic Bracket plays out. Other than focusing on the usual high profile rivals like Villanova and Cincinnati, we’ll focus on some of the rarer opponents on Temple’s schedule.
vs. South Carolina (Nov. 30th, 2017)
Temple will head to Madison Square Garden the week after Thanksgiving to take on 2017 Final Four participant South Carolina in the Under Armour Reunion. The Gamecocks are returning two starters and seven letterwinners from their 2017 Final Four team.This is a chance for Temple to prove they can compete on a neutral court with a team that is coming into the season with tons of momentum.
vs. Wisconsin (Dec 6th, 2017)
The Owls won’t play at home during the November stretch, but Temple’s home-opener will be against Big 10 powerhouse Wisconsin in early December. This is the final game of a home-and-home deal, which the two teams agreed to in 2015 when the Badgers played in the National Championship game. The season after the Badgers appeared in the National Championship game, they beat Temple 76-60 at Wisconsin.
vs. Wichita State (Feb. 1st, 2018)
One of the biggest non-traditional opponents for Temple in 2017-18 will now become an annual foe. Wichita State and Temple have only played each other a few times in school history, but now that the Shockers have been added to The American, the two teams will play each other every season. Wichita State is expected to be a top 10 team throughout the season and a contender for the national title. The Shockers are ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press Top 25 Preseason Poll for the 2017-18 season which gives the Owls another chance to prove they can compete at an elite level.
Temple has a tough schedule ahead of them, but they also have enough talent to stay competitive throughout the season. Their success all depends on how quickly the team can build chemistry and find their identity. The Owls play their first six games on the road, so the team will have to find continuity at the start of the season if they want to build the confidence to be successful.
With a veteran leader in Josh Brown and two NBA prospects in Obi Enechionyia and Quinton Rose, the Owls definitely have depth.
Temple’s offense is currently ranked as the 31st best in the country by Sports Illustrated and the 32nd best according to the 2017-18 ESPN Basketball Power Index Ratings. The question lies in the Owls defense.
If the Owls can protect the rim and prevent penetration from the perimeter, expect them to end with 20-plus wins this season.
Also, if Trey Lowe makes his return sometime this season, Temple will be an even deeper squad than initially expected.
“I think [Quinton Rose] surprised a lot of people on how ready he was [as a freshman]. I think he’s highly respected by the other teams in our league and by the prognosticators who are talking about college basketball players for this year. He’s got himself where he wants to be and the next step is to absolutely be killing it on the defensive end and making really good decisions on offense.” - Fran Dunphy on Quinton Rose’s impact last year and transition to this year - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I think [Trey Lowe] is trying to think about that right now. He’s not ready to play at this point. That would be something that he wants to improve, his guard skills, his playing making skills. He’s trying to do all of that, improve his ball handling, improve his decision making but he’s just trying to get back on the court to be somebody that we can count on. He’s working really hard at it. I’m proud of him.” - Fran Dunphy on Trey Lowe working on being able to play point guard and recovery progress - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I think we always wanted to be the same. A really good defensive team and really good on the offensive end in terms of decision making and efficiency. We’re not a run and shoot kind of team, although we shoot a lot of threes. On the defensive end we want to be as solid as we can, that’s what we’re trying to be. We’re not a pressing team by any stretch.” - Fran Dunphy on the team’s identity early into official practices - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I wish I could tell you that we had a Tony Allen amongst us, but we don’t. We’re working toward that end...like Big Ern [Ernest Aflakpui], that’s what he’s got to do. He needs to be the best defender he can be, he has to be the anchor for our defense and be great back there not only physically but mentally and communication wise.” - Fran Dunphy on if any individual player has stood out to him defensively early into official practices - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.
“I play basketball and this is my passion. I love playing it so I’m not going to be mad out here all the time and too serious all the time. Obviously there is a time and place for everything but I like to keep the spirits light and when I stop having fun with it, then I’ll be done with it. That’s kinda the motto I go by.” - J.P. Moorman II on the energy he brings to the team during practices - Recorded during interview at practice on 10/13/17.