The Temple Owls are the No. 7 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, where they'll face No. 10 Penn State in the first round. It's familiar territory for the Owls, who have reached have reached the Big Dance for the fourth straight year and 29th time in school history.
Getting on to the NCAA Tournament bracket hasn't been a problem for Temple but winning sure has as they have been bounced out of the first round the past three seasons (2008: Michigan State, 2009: Arizona State, 2010: Cornell) and have not won a tournament game since 2001 when they made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to, you guessed it, Michigan State.
Coach Fran Dunphy, thought of by many as one of the country's most underrated coaches, is 1-12 in NCAA Tournament games. Dunphy's first tournament appearance came with the University of Pennsylvania way back in 1993 and resulted in a four point loss to the University of Massachusetts. The Quakers won their first round game in 1994, beating Nebraska by 10 points. Since then, Dunphy led teams have gone 0-11 in tournament play.
Doom and gloom aside, this may just be the squad the breaks the 'One and Done-phy' curse as the Owls have a dynamic group of guards and one of the more talented -- and unheralded -- senior big men in America. Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, Khalif Wyatt and Scootie Randall all have the ability to light it up from any spot on the floor.
Moore is a prototypical Temple guard who can fill it up from beyond-the-arc or slash his way to the basket for an easy layup. Fernandez, who just missed making Argentina's senior national team this past summer, has had a bit of a down year shooting the three-ball (32 percent this year compared to 45.3 percent last year) but is averaging career highs in assists (3.9) and rebounds (2.8) to go along with his 10.5 points per game.
Wyatt, the newly crowned Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year, has been Dunphy's offensive catalyst off the bench this season, averaging just under 10 points a game on 46 percent shooting from the field. Randall, the A10's Most Improved Player, was another revelation for the Owls as he went from being a deep reserve his first two years on campus to the team's vocal leader and best perimeter defender. He is coming off of a hairline fracture of a bone in his right foot but has insisted he is ready to play and help his team in whatever way possible.
Lavoy Allen, who went from being one of the better seniors in the country to highly underwhelming and back over the course of the season, is the guy who makes a good Temple team great. Dunphy has often commented on the fact that Allen's impact on the team goes far beyond the box score as he has the ability to cover up for his teammates mistakes with his excellent help defense.
The first team All-Atlantic 10 and All-Defense pick will have to stay out of foul trouble for the Owls to have any chance to make a serious run as they have no depth at the forward position thanks to the season-ending knee injury junior Micheal Eric suffered during a practice in February. Sophomore forward Rahlir Jefferson has done an admirable job filling in for Eric but, at just 6-6, his lack of size can be exploited on defense.
Aaron Brown and T.J. DiLeo round out the rotation for the Owls. Brown, a freshman out of St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey, filled in admirably for Randall when he suffered his injury. The 6-5 guard is known more for his defense at this stage of the game but he does have the ability to hit the open shot if he finds himself with some room. DiLeo, a third-year sophomore and son of Philadelphia 76er's Senior Vice President Tony DiLeo, is a guard who often spells Fernandez. He was a big-time scorer in high school but has yet to find consistency in his shot. Nevertheless, he plays meaningful minutes as he runs the offense efficiently and makes this happen on the defensive side of the ball.
Record: 25-7, 14-2 in the Atlantic 10
Key wins: Nov. 29 vs. Georgia (Old Spice Classic), 65-58: Scootie Randall and Ramone Moore combined for nearly half of Temple's points as they rebounded from a first round loss to Cal. The Owls were able to contain Trey Thompkins, a likely first-round draft pick in this year's NBA draft, to 13 points on 5 of 14 shooting. ... Dec. 9 vs. Georgetown, 68-65: Ramone Moore scored a career-high 30 points to lead the Owls to a nationally televised upset victory over the then No. 9 Hoyas. The win was the 400th in Dunphy's career
Key losses: Nov. 25 vs. Cal (Old Spice Classic), 57-50: The Owls were considered one of the favorites to win going in to the Old Spice Classic but they were given a dose of reality by the young Golden Bears. Cal went on a late 16-1 run that turned a seven point Temple lead into an eight point deficit.
Player to watch: At first glance, senior Lavoy Allen's statline won't wow you (11.8 ppg., 8.2 rpg., .488 fg percent) but he is Temple's most important player. He routinely covers up any mistakes his teammates may make on defense and is comfortable guarding down low and on the perimeter. Allen, Temple's all-time leading rebounder, ended the regular season on a five game double-double streak during which he averaged 17.6 points and 14 rebounds. Lately, he has shown that he can consistently knock down open jump shots, something that could not be said about him earlier in the season. While his NBA status may be up in the air, Allen has proven that he is one of the better college players in the nation.