So, what’s wrong with Temple?
That’s probably something more than a few people are wondering, after the Owls lost by 11 Saturday at Xavier, where they gave up 88 points in the process, a week after getting beat by a dozen at Duquesne, where they surrendered 78.
That’s not good. And I’m not trying to diminish the results. But lots of teams lose at X, which is why the Musketeers have won 35 in a row at home in the Atlantic 10. Even though they might not be quite as good as they were the last few years, the venue still has to count for a reasonable explanation. And you could make the argument that Duquense, which isn’t bad, has been waiting for a game like that for a long time. Yes, things happen.
So I wouldn’t go into all kinds of panic mode just yet. The Owls are the three-time defending A-10 champs, and this season’s favorite, for a reason. But playing on the road in any league is hard. And they still have to go to Dayton, another traditional toughie, on Feb. 12. But between now and then they don’t leave Philadelphia. They have Charlotte at home, bus rides to play Saint Joseph’s (at the Palestra) and at LaSalle, followed by two more at the Liacouras Center against Rhode Island and Fordham. Chances are they won’t lose more than one of those, if they drop any.
The schedule is what it is.
They’re not going to win many games when Lavoy Allen plays 15 minutes. And he didn’t have a really good stat line against the Dukes, either. Juan Fernandez has been bothered by a sore left knee, but he wasn’t playing as well as last season before that. For the Owls to be all they can be, those two are obviously going to have to bring more to the equation.
But it’s not just about them. Ramone Moore has to be the wing scorer, and more. And guys like Micheal Eric, Scootie Randall, Rhalir Jefferson and Khalif Wyatt are going to have to do their part. And it’s not just about scoring. Fran Dunphy’s teams, which have always gotten better as March approaches, have mostly done it with defense. In a perfect world they’d excel at both ends, since putting the ball in the basket has actually been the bigger problem in the NCAA losses.
Allen is a rock, even when the numbers don’t necessarily suggest as much. But he needs to come up the biggest when Temple needs him the most. Fernandez seems like he was better equipped to make something happen last season, when he had Luiz Guzman alongside him handling the point. Maybe folks didn’t realize just how much the Owls would miss Guzman’s subtle presence, not to mention Ryan Brooks. They led, in their own ways. Now it’s up to others to fill that role.
Hey, a four-peat would be an indelible accomplishment. But everyone knows this season isn’t about that. It’s about winning games (yes, plural) in the Madness. And this team will probably be a fairly high seed once again. So it’s going to be out there for them. In that sense, the emphasis shouldn’t be on January. Still, that’s what fans are for.
If the Owls lose a couple more in the next few weeks, maybe you start worrying. Me, I still think this is a promising group with a bunch of upside. The good news is, if there is something to be fixed, there’s time to do it. The real season doesn’t start for another seven weeks.