Injuries are never a good thing. But they’re part of the game. Every team usually has to deal with them at some point. Temple’s timing just wasn’t very good.
You lose guys early, if you know they’re going to make it back, you can usually figure out a way to get by until they do. But when guys go down at this stage in the journey, there’s really not a whole lot of options. It’s not like there’s a waiver wire, or you can make a trade with somebody for future draft picks. You go with what you got. That’s where the Owls are.
It’s a shame, because the Owls looked as if they were hitting their stride at the right moment. Which shouldn’t come as any kind of shock, since Fran Dunphy’s teams usually do that. They know they’re not getting starting forward Micheal Eric back, since he has a season-ending knee injury. The status of starting swingman Scootie Randall is less certain. He has missed the last two games with a foot injury that some have described as a hairline fracture. Temple isn’t saying, which is understandable. But it appears that the earliest he might be able to return would be the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Temple, the three-time defending champion, likely won’t play until the quarterfinals on March 11. The NCAA Tournament starts six days later for 32 teams. And if he does get back, there’s no telling how effective he’ll be since the injury figures to hurt his lateral mobility.
Neither Eric nor Randall are the best players on the Owls. But Eric was another big-man presence alongside Lavoy Allen who did a lot of those so-called little things. Randall was a bona fide outside threat who also brought other stuff to the equation. And in Dunphy’s world, it’s always been about playing a team game. So everyone’s contributions mean something to the whole.
Now, they have to start Rahlir Jefferson for Eric and either freshman Aaron Brown or Khalif Wyatt on the perimeter. All of those pieces have shown they are capable. But the roles are just different. And the depth is obviously compromised, with T.J. DiLeo being the only other sub of note.
But if you watched the Duke game, you saw that Temple is nothing if not well coached and well prepared. They were not in awe of the Blue Devils, or Cameron Indoor. That doesn’t mean they would have won if they’d been at full strength, because Duke never loses there, especially to non-conference opponents. But it might have been interesting. Because as depleted as they were, they still played hard and smart. They just didn’t have enough, not against No. 1.
But they ran their offense, to the point that they made the extra pass and got a bunch of backdoor layups. I’m sure Coach K. wasn’t pleased, even if Dunph is his friend. And the Owls defended, which they would do if the managers had to suit up. Yes, they’re shorthanded. And it may stay that way. But they are not without certain attributes that usually serve them well no matter who’s out there. This is who they are. It might not be good enough to win another A-10 title, or win some games in the NCAA Tournament. But even with the losses, there’s a lot of teams that would love to have what they still have going for them.
Yes, it’s a shame. Dunphy won’t use it as an excuse. So play on and let’s see what happens. If Allen, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez can play as big as a lot of folks think they can, there’s no reason why the Owls still won’t be a tough out when it matters most.