Temple’s perch on the NCAA Tournament bubble appeared to take a hit last weekend when the Owls were defeated soundly at Tulsa, a team that began the game with a 3-7 mark in the American Athletic Conference, and lost a chance to come up with an important Quadrant 2 victory.
However, when ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi hit the send button on his latest tournament projections for the website, the Owls actually moved up one spot, from the fourth team to the third team in Lunardi’s “Last Four In” prediction.
So the Owls won, in a sense, for losing, but they had plenty of help.
“Initially, after Tulsa, they fell out of the field,” Lunardi said Tuesday, “but then there were teams around them that suffered worse or more losses, and they managed to bubble up back in.
“The other thing that helped them, and this is just the strangeness of it all, when Davidson lost at UMass, they fell out of first place in the Atlantic Ten, so they lost their automatic spot. VCU, which was already in, got that spot, so there was an opening, and that was the exact moment that Temple actually moved back in.”
Lunardi said he can see Temple hanging around the NCAA bubble until Selection Sunday.
“This is going to be their life,” he said. “I can’t really see many scenarios, other than winning every game, in which they’re solidly in, or that they’ll lose enough to be solidly out. They’re just going to live right there.”
The Owls, who are ranked 55 in the NET on Tuesday, would qualify for a First Four, or play-in game, if they’re one of the last four in.
The Owls have one Quadrant 1 win this season, but it’s a big one: a 73-69 upset of Houston at the Liacouras Center on Jan. 9. The Cougars, currently ranked seventh in the NET rankings, were penciled in as a No. 3 seed in the “midseason bracket reveal” released Saturday by the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.
“That’s huge. That is absolutely their lifeline,” Lunardi said. “They need to add to it, but they’re not the only team in the field at large that’s a little bit lean in that category. But if Temple loses all its remaining Quad 1 games, whether it’s now or in the [AAC] tournament, they’re probably going to miss, very probably going to miss.”
As of Tuesday’s NET rankings, the Owls have two more Quadrant 1 games remaining: Saturday at South Florida and at Memphis on Feb. 26.
Villanova was thought to have had a pretty good chance to be one of the top 16 teams included in the NCAA Tournament bracket reveal, but ended up as team No. 17.
The Wildcats lost out to Wisconsin for that final spot, committee chair Bernard Muir said, based on Quadrant 1 wins: seven for the Badgers to four for 'Nova.
However, by the time Saturday ended, four teams among the early top 16 — Virginia, Louisville, Iowa State, and Wisconsin — had lost, along with Villanova.