Rest In Peace: Temple Owls EditionPosted by Mike Lemaire on February 1st, 2014
Although we aren’t even halfway through the conference schedule, the herd of NCAA Tournament contenders has thinned considerably and there are some teams whose prospects of playing in any meaningful postseason tournament are already dead in the water. We are gathered here today to celebrate their brief turn in the conference conversation.
Why are we mourning Temple?
The Owls beat Rutgers at home on Wednesday, but unfortunately it was also their first conference win in eight tries and the Scarlet Knights have more than one foot in the proverbial grave too. The team that was picked by the conference coaches to finish fifth currently sits in last place and has limped to a 6-13 start to the season. There is talent here and the team has been competitive against good opponents like Texas and Cincinnati, but their best win came in early December when they beat a mediocre Saint Joseph’s team at home, and they still have to play Villanova, SMU twice, and Louisville twice. Short of a miraculous AAC Tournament run, there is quite literally no hope for the Owls to make the NCAA Tournament or even the NIT, and it would take a strong finish for them to play their way into the CBI, something no team should enjoy being said about them.
How did they end up here?
They are here because they have consistently failed to play defense against anybody. There is plenty of talent on this roster. Will Cummings and Dalton Pepper are both above-average offensive players; Anthony Lee has regressed but is still a better-than-serviceable big man; and Quenton DeCosey has a Division I skill set as well. They also have one of the better coaches in the country in Fran Dunphy and a slew of promising young freshmen who will be heard from down the road. It’s because of this talent that the Owls are 58th in the country in offensive efficiency and have scored 75 points or more in 12 of their 19 games. Unfortunately, the team’s defense has been atrocious. They rank 267th in defensive efficiency — good for worst in the conference and right behind Fordham and ahead of the New Jersey Institute of Technology — and it’s because they force hardly any turnovers and allow opponents to grab an obscene amount of offensive rebounds. Lee hasn’t been the same imposing shot-blocker he was last season, and the team gives up some size on the wing by routinely playing DeCosey and Pepper together. Also, losing sixth man Daniel Dingle for the season at the beginning of the month didn’t help the team on either end of the floor and freshman Mark Williams has been hampered by injuries as well. But their inability to do anything positive defensively is borderline inexcusable given the athletes on the roster.
How quickly can they be resurrected?
The good news is that if things go according to plan, Temple can get the ship righted fairly quickly. The Owls are one of the youngest and least experienced teams in the conference and, assuming no one transfers, they will only lose Pepper next season. It’s not ideal to lose the team’s leading scorer and best shooter, but Cummings and DeCosey should be better with a full year of experience under their belts. Also, Josh Brown has been playing a lot recently and should be better as well; Clemson transfer Devin Coleman will be eligible after the first semester; and there is still a chance that former high-scoring UMass guard Jesse Morgan will petition for an extra year of eligibility.
Lee will be back to anchor the frontcourt; Dingle and Williams should be healthy; and even raw big man Devontae Watson has been playing meaningful minutes lately and could make a consistent impact next season. The Owls are also adding Texas transfer Jaylen Bond, who is sitting out this season, and 6’8″ forward Obi Enechionyia, a player who had offers from the likes of Indiana, Georgetown, and Maryland. There will still be plenty of questions, but at the very least Dunphy’s team should be deeper and more experienced. Plus, the conference will be getting worse next season with the additions of Tulsa, East Carolina, and Tulane and the departures of Louisville and Rutgers, so there should be more winnable games on the schedule.