By Justin Thomas
The Temple Owls have had arguably the most interesting season of any college basketball team this year. And interesting is putting it lightly. Some words that one would use to describe this season would be hectic, agonizing, hopeful and painful. However the word that really sums up the season is frustrating because of how the Owls started and the promise they showed all the way back in November.
The Owls started the season in a dream fashion for any non-power 5 conference team. They started off winning the Charleston Classic tournament down in South Carolina where they defeated Old Dominion, Auburn and Clemson. They then had a crushing loss to Big 5 rival La Salle. A game in which the Owls held a double digit lead in the second half too. The next game the Owls blew out the University of South Carolina (a team that was in the Final Four last year) at Madison Square Garden. However another tough loss befell the Owls as they lost to George Washington in the next matchup. The Owls would finish their non-conference play at 8-4 which also included wins against Wisconsin and St. Joseph’s.
Then conference play came around and everything essentially hit the fan. Temple started off their conference schedule 2-6. There were quite a few heartbreaking losses along the way as well. Their loss against Houston came down to the wire where the Owls lost by 3 and the very next game against Cincinnati the Owls lost on a last second jump shot. It is worth noting that Cincy is one of the best teams in the country. The Owls had a huge win against SMU but then lost another heartbreaker at home to Memphis on a last second 3 point heave. After that loss the Owls seemed to finally figure it out, winning their next 7 out of 8 games which included a victory over Wichita State. This had the Owls right on the bubble however back to back losses to Wichita State and Houston all but popped the Owls tournament hopes.
Temple has two more regular season games remaining (UConn & Tulsa) before the American Athletic Tournament. Although Temple’s tournament hopes are slim to none, they still have slim. It’s worth noting that Temple has had one of the toughest schedules in all of college basketball and will finish the year with potentially 18 wins. If Temple can win their next two games and be fairly successful in the AAC tournament then they may have a chance of the committee showing them favor. Outside of winning the AAC tournament which guarantees an automatic spot in the tournament the Owls would have to make it to at least the championship round of the tournament. And depending on their seeding they will have to go through either Wichita State, Tulsa or Houston to get there. If they can do that, coupled with the fact they have beaten NCAA tournament quality teams such as Auburn, Wichita State and Clemson the committee will have to take a hard look at the Owls to determine if they are indeed worthy of going to the big dance.