NCAA Tournament Bulls Recon: OwlsBlog Talks Temple Basketball

Welcome to your Round of 64 Edition of Bulls Recon! With no Temple site on SB Nation, we reached out to John Lamb from the great TU site OwlsBlog for today's Q&A. In this edition of Bulls Recon, we see what the Owls like to run, their thoughts on the season, and of course Big East expansion.

1. Congrats on the great season. Did things go as well as you expected this year?

Right back at ya. I think things have gone just about as good as they can considering that the Owls lost one starter (center Micheal Eric) to injury for a 13-game stretch from November to mid-January and another (forward Scootie Randall) to a season-ending knee injury suffered this past summer. Still, the Owls put together another excellent season capped off by a win over Duke for the first time since the mid-nineties and the team's first outright Atlantic 10 regular season championship since 1989-90.

But the expectations coming into the season had nothing to do with Temple's regular season or conference tournament performance; they were all about what the team could do in the NCAA tournament. The five straight 20 win seasons and numerous appearances in the two major polls mean nothing if the Owls bow out of the Big Dance in the first round (I refuse to call it the second round) again. For a lot of fans it's Sweet 16 or bust for this squad.

2. Can you give us a brief scouting report of what the Owls like to run on offense and defense?

The Owls run a four out, one in motion offense most of the time. Almost all of Temple's perimeter players are capable of knocking down three-pointers but the big three of Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez are the most lethal from distance. Eric is Temple's only true post player but even he has the ability to step out and knock down an 18-footer.

As for defense, the days of Temple's vaunted 2-3 matchup zone are long gone as Fran Dunphy is a firm believer in man-to-man defense. The impact of Lavoy Allen's graduation has been far-reaching as almost all of Temple's defensive metrics have taken a hit this year. Still, with all three guards standing at 6-4 or taller, the Owls make opponents work for every basket they get. Temple has struggled a bit this season with smaller guards in the mold of Anthony Collins so it wouldn't surprise me if Dunphy utilizes a kid like T.J. DiLeo to try and mitigate his impact on the game.


3. If there is one weakness on this team, what is it?

Temple doesn't have a lot of size down low as thee 6-11 Eric, 6-9 Anthony Lee and 6-7 Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson are the Owls only frontcourt players. Any team that is committed to force feeding it down onto the low block will almost certainly have success against Temple. The Owls' 2p% defense is also a bit suspect but that number is skewed a bit thanks to the fact that they played without a legitimate center guarding the paint for half the season.

4. How are you feeling about rejoining the Big East? Who will have an easier transition, football or basketball?

I'm pretty excited for the move. I started at Temple just in time to witness the football team's final season in the Big East so if you would've told me eight years ago that Temple would be moving back into the conference as an all-sports member I would've laughed. The football team has morphed radically in a relatively short amount of time thanks to a new administration that values the contributions of athletics to the university.

The move to a power conference has been a long time coming for the basketball squad. The program took a few steps backwards in the twilight of John Chaney's legendary career, but Fran Dunphy has done a wonderful job repairing the damage that was done and elevating Temple's national profile. The Owls have the sixth most wins on college basketball history so most people are pretty excited to see their team play big name teams on a regular basis as opposed to a few times a year in November and December.

I'm not quite sure which team will have the easier transition but I would probably lean towards the hardwood Owls. Temple has proven in recent years that it can compete with almost any team in the country in a one-off situation but playing 18 games in the Big East is a whole nother animal. The basketball team isn't the prototypical Big East squad as they are more finesse based and not really equipped to bang with the big boys night in and night out from late December to March. The flip side to this is that Dunphy is bound to start landing some of the big name local recruits that have turned down Temple due to the school's affiliation with the 'inferior' Atlantic 10. I think Temple can be one of the better teams in the league within a year or two of joining.

The football team is probably going to take its lumps this upcoming season as it lost 15 starters to graduation or the NFL draft. I've seen some people predict a 1-6 or 2-5 finish in the Big East this year which might be overly pessimistic. I think this team can win three or four games in the Big East and finish with a 6-6 overall record. That's obviously nothing to sneeze at but I think most would be satisfied with that in what many have already tagged as a rebuilding year. It might take a full four-year recruiting cycle before Temple can really establish itself as one of the better Big East football programs, if it's going to happen at all.

5. Finally, any predictions for the game?

The first team to 50 is going to win this one. USF's insanely tough defense is built for tournament success BUT I guess I have to play the heel here and pick Temple to win this game. I believe two things: Temple is superior to Cal in every way and USF isn't going to shoot over 60 percent from the field again. The Golden Bears were rattled early and never settled into anything that could even be remotely called an offense. Most of Cal's 'possessions' were nothing more than one guy trying to break his defender down while his four teammates just kind of stood around.

It's going to be a slugfest but I don't think the Owls' season is going to end on Friday night.
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