Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Owls and their MAC connection

So, as one e-mailer asked me, how can Temple’s football team go 4-4 in the MAC (for the second straight season), while the basketball team is already 0-2, with two games left to go? Well, Lavoy Allen didn’t play Saturday at Buffalo, which never helps. Still, the Owls gave up 50 second-half points, and let a 12-point lead slip away. As coach Fran Dunphy pointed out afterward, that’s not good no matter who’s playing. Point well taken. Buffalo, on Thursday night, lost to visiting UConn, 66-64.

Owls and their MAC connection

So, as one e-mailer asked me, how can Temple’s football team go 4-4 in the MAC (for the second straight season), while the basketball team is already 0-2, with two games left to go?

Well, Lavoy Allen didn’t play Saturday at Buffalo, which never helps. Still, the Owls gave up 50 second-half points, and let a 12-point lead slip away. As coach Fran Dunphy pointed out afterward, that’s not good no matter who’s playing. Point well taken. Buffalo, on Thursday night, lost to visiting UConn, 66-64.

In Wednesday’s home loss to Miami, Allen played 16 minutes but was obviously not 100 percent. Even if he had been, it might not have made a difference. Miami was picked to finish second in the MAC East. Its losses were at UCLA, Pitt and Xavier. Two of them were actually close losses. For whatever it’s worth, the Owls were only favored by a field goal.

On Jan. 5, in what will be only their third home game, the Owls will get Kent State, which was picked first in the MAC East. The other MAC game is Jan. 7, at Eastern Michigan, which supposedly isn’t that good.

It is what it is. In this case, a necessary concession. It’s the price Temple must pay, for getting its football team into the MAC. That may not seem fair to some folks, but it was either that or not play football. Because it wasn’t going to work as an independent. And that was the only conference that really made any sense. And the program, whether people outside Temple really care or not, is no longer a punch line. In fact, the Owls might be the MAC East favorite next fall. So unless Temple elects to stop playing, which doesn’t appear likely or even smart at this point despite the obvious problems it still has attracting enough fans to most of its home games, nothing’s going to change.

There’s always the hope that the Big East will split in two at some point, and Temple will be asked to join up with the football schools. Which would obviously solve a lot of problems. Trouble is, I’ve been hearing this for a long time. Maybe it actually will happen. But until it becomes reality, I’ll deal with what is.

And at some point, perhaps sooner than later, maybe the MAC will ask Temple to join for all sports. And Temple will have a decision to make. Right now, the timeline for all that remain murky. Maybe the MAC likes this arrangement, and will just let it go on for as long as it helps both parties. We’ll see.

In the meantime, Temple will play these MAC basketball games. John Chaney wouldn’t have liked it. Dawn Staley probably didn’t, either. Maybe Dunph isn’t thrilled about it. But it’s not going away. So you live with them. On paper, if you take away the football angle, it’s a no-win situation. If you lose, people wonder why. If you win, people say so what? What it does with the old RPI, who knows? Temple is already locked in to playing Penn and Villanova every year, so that’s six games accounted for out of conference. It does limit what you can do schedule-wise, although the Owls are playing Tennessee and Kansas, and got Clemson in the season-opening tournament in Charleston. I guess you make the best of it. One thing I do know: Dunph will never use it as an excuse.

In his first two seasons, the Owls went 2-2 and 3-1 in those games. They got into the NCAA Tournament last March with a big second-half run that ended in an Atlantic 10 title. If they hadn’t beaten Saint Joseph’s in the final, chances are they wouldn’t have received an at-large bid. We’ll never know for sure. Nor will we know how much of a factor the MAC games would’ve played in keeping them out.

The only thing I usually care about is, how well will the team be playing by February? I can’t tell you the Owls will win the A-10 again, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be one of the main contenders. And ultimately, that’s all most folks will remember, one way or the other.

But I’m not the guy trying to figure out those RPIs.

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