STORRS, Conn. — Fran Dunphy wanted to dismiss the topic almost immediately.
During his news conference after Thursday’s 78-71 win at UConn, the Temple basketball coach was asked his feelings about what is likely in his final regular-season home game on Saturday against Central Florida.
Beginning next season, associate head coach Aaron McKie will replace Dunphy as head coach. Saturday will be Dunphy’s last home game at Temple unless the Owls miss out on the NCAA Tournament and wind up in the NIT, where they would likely play at least one home game.
Saturday will also be Senior Day as the Owls (22-8, 12-5 American Athletic Conference) host No. 25 UCF (23-6, 13-4) at the Liacouras Center.
Dunphy said he isn’t even a fan of Senior Day and then added: “If it is going to be any type of attention on me, I will hate it even more.”
Despite all Dunphy has accomplished in 30 years of coaching at Penn and Temple, the game is truly the story for him, and Saturday’s will have both NCAA and AAC Tournament implications.
“[If] we get that game, I feel we are a lock for the [NCAA] Tournament, and that is all anybody wants,” Temple guard Shizz Alston said after scoring a career-high 34 points against UConn.
Temple might not be a lock for the tournament with a win, but the Owls would have a convincing argument. The consensus is that three AAC teams ― Houston, Cincinnati and UCF ― are tournament locks already.
In addition to the NCAA scenarios for Temple, both the Owls and UCF are still working on being seeded as highly as possible for next week’s AAC tournament in Memphis. Both have earned first-round byes and won’t begin action until Friday’s quarterfinals. The top four teams earn byes, and Temple is in fourth place and unable to advance higher than third.
According to the AAC, here are the scenarios for Temple to earn the No. 3 seed. Any scenario is contingent on a win over UCF.
The Owls would earn the No. 3 seed with a win against UCF and a victory by Wichita State (9-8) at Tulane (0-17), or a win vs. UCF and a Tulane win against Wichita State and a win by Memphis (10-7) against visiting Tulsa (8-9).
Besides losing to UCF, there is the another way Temple would remain in fourth place: with a win over UCF and a Tulane win against Wichita State and a Tulsa win against Memphis.
In short, if Temple beats UCF, it should earn the third seed and could punch its NCAA ticket.
Temple played UCF in its first conference game, losing in Orlando, 78-73, on Jan. 2.
UCF has a four-game winning streak and just had an impressive 58-55 home win Thursday over No. 20 Cincinnati. It was the Knights’ second straight win over a ranked team, coming after Sunday’s 69-64 victory over No. 12 Houston.
“They are a really good team,” second-leading scorer Quinton Rose said about UCF. “They have good guard play with [B.J.] Taylor and [Aubrey] Dawkins, and of course there is Tacko.”
That would be 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall, the likely AAC defensive player of the year. He is averaging 11.2 points and 7.3 rebounds and leads the AAC in blocked shots, averaging 2.5.
Taylor averages a team-high 16.5 points. Dawkins, the son of UCF coach Johnny Dawkins, averages 14.7.