Somehow, someway the Temple Owls managed to get an eight seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
They will take on ninth seeded Central Florida this Wednesday, March 12th at 9:30 PM.
Yes, I know an eight seed is by no means something to be proud of, but two weeks ago an eight seed looked good for the Owls. Temple was 7-21 before winning back to back games against both Central and South Florida. Surprisingly enough, the Owls beat South Florida on a buzzer beating jumper by Quenton Decosey.
Temple’s past two wins have been a buzzer beater and a win in overtime, so that may be a telling sign that they finally (28 games later) figured out how to close out games.
Defensively, they played better than they usually play Saturday at South Florida. They held the Bulls to less than 40% shooting from the field. South Florida is one of the worst shooting teams in college basketball (actually the worst in three point shooting), but it is refreshing to see the Owls keep a team below 40 percent shooting.
Looking ahead, thinking Temple has any shot of winning the conference tournament might be considered insane. The team just plays so poorly defensively and does not shoot well enough behind the arc to actually be considered a threat to any of the top teams in the tournament.
All of that is true, but with the exception of Louisville, the Cherry and White have played every team in the conference close. This includes beating third seeded SMU and taking fifth seeded Memphis to overtime. They fell to top seeded Cincinnati at home by just four points on January 26th. They contended with fourth seeded Connecticut for most of the game on February 20th.
The Owls have seen all of these teams twice, so they know what to expect. Luckily, the only way Temple would play Louisville is if they made it to the conference championship.
How does Temple match up with UCF in the first round? Well, the Owls have four conference wins and one of them was at home against the Golden Knights.
Temple lost by two to UCF on the road, and Will Cummings had a career high 31 points that night. The Knights shot almost 50% from the field in that January 4th matchup. They also out rebounded the Owls 41-27.
In their March 4th matchup in Philly, Temple needed overtime to take down the Knights. It was Dalton Pepper’s senior night where he scored a game high 26 points. The Owls forced 19 turnovers in the game, and made 12 of 13 free throws in overtime to seal the victory.
If the Owls can take down UCF, they will go on to play the top seeded Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats took care of the Owls at home 69-58 on January 14th. In Philly, Cincinnati held off the Owls by just four. Pepper posted a career high 33 in that matchup. Temple has shown they can contend with a team like the Bearcats, if they slow down Sean Kilpatrick.
Temple has played well the past two games, and I think they will continue that Wednesday night. I see Will Cummings having a big game and Dalton Pepper shooting better from three point land. UCF guard Isaiah Sykes will score a lot, considering Temple’s inability to play defense on a guard all season.
Cincinnati will be a different story. Sean Kilpatrick is too good of a player for the Owls to handle. I know Temple has played them well this season, but the Bearcats are on a mission to prove that the inaugural American Athletic Conference season is theirs for the taking. Cincy has the top scoring defense in the conference, and I don’t see Temple’s lack of shot making to get hot just as they play that top defense.
If Temple does get to the second round, Cincinnati will take care of them 76-62. Finally ending the Owls’ nightmare season.