UMass game could help determine Owls' NCAA fate

Massachusetts' Raphiael Putney (34) pulls in a rebound in front of Temple's T.J. DiLeo (11) during the first half of a quarterfinals NCAA college basketball game at the Atlantic 10 tournament in Atlantic City, N.J., Friday, March 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

There’s a sports cliché about the next game being the most important game on a team’s schedule.

Usually, that’s a boring, yet true statement.

But for Temple, the game after next is the most important one.

Here’s why.

Temple (16-7, 5-4 Atlantic Ten) should destroy its next opponent, Duquesne (7-16, 0-9), on Thursday night at the Liacouras Center. The Dukes head to Philly with an 11-game losing streak.

But the Owls will be tested in Saturday’s game at Massachusetts. It is a game that could go a long way in determining if they make the NCAA tournament.

Right now, Temple is one of the last four teams in, according to ESPN college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi.

Beating the Minutemen (16-6, 6-3) would be recognized as a quality road win for the Owls.  While Temple did defeat Syracuse at a neutral site, its best true road win was at Villanova (15-9). The Owls’ other road wins are against – Kent State (13-11), Buffalo (9-15), George Washington (11-11) and Dayton (13-10) – teams with a combined 46-47 record. Of those four squads, Dayton has the best RPI ranking (116), according to  However, beating UMass, which has a 52 RPI, won’t be an easy task.

The Minutemen are 8-2 at the Mullins Center. Their two home losses came to third-ranked Miami on Dec. 1 and to George Washington on Jan. 19. Since then, UMass has won its three home games by an average of 13.6 points.  

The Owls' other remaining road games are at Charlotte (17-6) and at Fordham (6-18).