After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2015, Temple had another strong season, making it back to the NCAA Tournament and were the regular season champions of the American Athletic Conference with 14 wins in conference play. The Owls still couldn’t overcome the “one anddone” stigma, dropping a heartbreaking buzzer-beater overtime loss in the first round to Iowa to end their season with a record of 21-12.
Temple is picked to finish sixth the AAC and they have been able to exceed expectations in the past, but this year might not be the case. The Owls come into the season losing their top two scorers, Quenton DeCosey and Devin Coleman along with their leading rebounder Jaylen Bond.
On top of that, Temple is banged up with senior point guard Josh Brown on the shelf with a torn achilles tendon and sophomore shooting guard, who has redshirted, still hasn’t fully recovered from his car accident last March. The absence of these two players leaves a gaping hole in Temple’s lineup and their depth will be tested.
The offense will flow around Obi Enechionya, who averaged 11 points per game and showed flashes of his play-making ability that can allow him to take over games. Enechionya had trouble with fouls last year, which ended up sidelining him for key moments, so if can stay on the floor more, he can be the go-to player Temple needs. He will be helped by Daniel Dingle, who stringed together some nice performances last year and seems to have found his identity as a player. Temple desperately needs Levan Alston Jr. to have a breakout season because he wasn’t very effective off the bench last year and his offense was nonexistent. With Brown out indefinitely, Alston Jr. will have to mature fast in only host second year to keep this Temple team afloat or he could see his playing time go to the promising freshmen that will already have an expanded role.
Freshman guard Quinton Rose is a player the Temple staff is really excited about and Luke Winn of SI.com projected him to be the 16th highest scorer among freshmen in the country. Rose has the makings of be a solid defender with his great size and he has the potential to become a versatile scorer who make easy shots as well as tough ones. Rose is not a true point guard, but he does have the ability to run an offense. Fellow freshman Alani Moore will likely see a lot of time at point guard along with Levan Alston Jr. . Moore has great quickness that allows him to get into the lane off the dribble, making him a strong distributor. He also has the ability to hit the outside shot to keep defenses honest and his options open.
Projected starting lineup:
Guard: Levan Alston Jr.
Guard: Alani Moore
Guard: Daniel Dingle
Forward: Obi Enechionyia
Center: Ernest Aflakpui
Taking a peek at Temple’s schedule, their non-conference schedule isn’t as strenuous as last year, which may hurt or help them. The non-conference schedule is headlined by La Salle, Villanova, UMass, Saint Joe’s, and Florida State. If Temple can win three out of five of those games, it could be a real confidence booster for a young team and it may help set the tone for when the Owls head into AAC play.
It’s hard to predict what Temple will do this year with a lot of new faces and the uncertainty of their identity as a team. I see Temple finishing the 2016 season at 17-13 with a 10-8 record in AAC play. Temple would most likely need to win their conference tournament to have any chance to be in the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year, which would be huge for a young team. Temple opens up its season this Friday at home against Big 5 rival La Salle in a 7 p.m. showdown.