Monday, November 10, 2008

Temple Basketball...Oh yea, there was a reason I went to Temple!

Sorry for the long delay since last Thursday, took the weekend off to relax.

Several weeks ago I posted about how Temple's football team came from behind to beat Ohio in the 4th quarter, injecting a bit of life into my hopeless spirit. Well, the following week I think God was angry at himself for falling asleep at the switch and smited ye olde football team by having Navy score 20 points in the 4th quarter to come from behind to beat Temple. Stick a fork in 'em.

Also, for the past 2 weeks I've had a ridiculously insatiable appetite. No, not metaphorically, I've been hungry as heeck and couldn't figure out why. Well, I'm convinced that it was case of the munchies after coming off the high of the Phillies winning the championship. And now I'm wondering what's next. Enter Temple University Basketball Season.

Tip off is this Friday at 3 against East Tennessee State(who?) in first round of the 8-team Charleston Classic tournament. ETS reached the semifinals of the Southern Conference last year, and will be our first test of the season. What's the Southern Conference you may be wondering? And the answer is: who knows? Temple has started awfully slow the past 2 years, including going 1-2 and losing after being up by 25 in last year's Puerto Rican Tip off. The field in this year's tournament is particularly weak, and the only other nationally known team is Clemson, on the other side of the bracket.

Temple has a promising squad this year, with the pluses being a number of capable big men, some decent depth, and Dionte Christmas returning for his senior season. Lavoy Allen and Sergio Olmos proved to be a formidable duo in the paint towards the end of last year, and having another year under their belts should only show further improvement. Michael Eric, a 6'9"red shirt freshman who was forced to sit last year due to NCAA rules, is set to play and the inside word says he is going to make a huge impact immediately.

It was just announced that Junior Ryan Brooks will be starting this year. Brooks had an inconsistent season last year, going through a cycle of hot and cold streaks. However, it always seemed like he found his stroke at the right times, including good performances in the A-10 tournament and against Michigan State in the NCAAs. It will mainly be his performance, and those of some of the bench players, needed to combat the loss of do-everything Mark Tyndale. This includes sophomore Martavis Kee and freshman Scootie Randall for some scoring off the bench, and some solid minutes from sophomore big man Craig Williams. Another possible contributor is freshman guard T.J. DiLeo, although some believe that he will not be ready to play at this level yet.

Dionte Christmas is possibly the greatest strength of the team as he returns for his last season as an Owl. Christmas will have plenty to play for, as he tries to increase his draft stock and become the first player in history to lead the A-10 in scoring for three consecutive seasons. Christmas is a great 3 shooter to have this year, as the newly extended three point line plays to his advantage. A good portion of 3-point shooters will have difficulty adjusting to the new distance, but Christmas has demonstrated his ability to shoot from pro range in the past. That being said, Christmas is the only proven player on the team who can put up 20+ a game, besides possibly Brooks, and if the depth of the team can't contribute numbers to replace Tyndale, a great burden will be placed on Christmas. He has not done well in the past when teams focused their defense on him.

There are a few negatives to this team as well. The first, as you may have guessed, is the loss of Mark Tyndale. Tyndale was the most valuable player for the team last year, as his stat sheet-filling, play making, hardworking style last year was often overshadowed by Christmas' numbers. Many of the good looks Christmas, Brooks, and graduate sniper Chris Clark got last year were only created by Tyndale driving the lane and drawing defenders. As previously stated, his production will only be replaced by a collective effort of the new depth to the team.

Another big question mark is at the guard position, which is what many of the sports junkies and pundits have been hitting Temple with. The starting guard is still a question mark between Junior Luis Guzman and Senior Semaj Inge. Both players have shown ability, especially with ball handling and defense, but both lacked consistency and shooting. Odds are that if neither can solidify themselves as a consistent, effective guard by mid-season, coach Dunphy will use freshman Juan Fernandez after he arrives over the holidays.

Fernandez is one of the best players to come out of Argentina and South America this past year. Argentina, for those who don't know, is one of the best international basketball countries. He played on their under-18 national team this past year, and they put a hurting on the U.S. team in the finals. Yes, that means Fernandez was driving around, shooting over, and generally kicking ass against guys who are now going to the likes of Duke, UNC, Kansas, etc. He is also a 6'4" guard, and is described as Pepé Sanchez with a jump shot. An exciting recruit to say the least. Besides giving Sergio Olmos somebody to talk to in Spanish, Fernandez also offers the chance for a true, skilled point guard. However, Argentina graduates students in October, so he won't be enrolled at Temple until the second semester, causing him to miss half the season. Dunphy has to decide whether to potentially forfeit a redshirt season for half a year of playing. As stated, this will probably hinge on whether or not Temple is successful with the guards they have. Fernandez, if he lives to his potential, might not be here for four years anyways.

Temple's schedule offers a number of interesting points. First of all, they won't be playing at home very much. Temple's schedule shows 19 away games to 11 at home, not including post season play. The home schedule is highlighted by Tennessee on December 13 and Saint Joe's on March 5th. Their away schedule is highlighted by a trip to Penn State and Kansas. They also play a number of away games in the city, including St Joe's, Nova, La Salle, and UPenn. Their non-conference schedule is pretty weak, playing against a number of MAC opponents and other schmucks, including Lafayette and Long Beach State.

While this is weak sauce compared to their gauntlet non conference schedules of the past, it gives Temple the ability to run up their record. Temple would have a pretty good at large chance if they went 11-3 in non conference with a win over one or more of Clemson, Tennessee, and Kansas, and were a number of games over .500 in the conference with a top 3 finish.( 11-3 NC) +(11-5 C)= 22-8 with a shitload of away wins and a win(s) over Clemson/Tennessee/Kansas/St Joes/Xavier going into A-10. Not a lock, but not too shabby.

That being said, if Temple coughs up too many games early against poor teams, which they've been prone to do, and doesn't pull out a big win against a tough non-conference opponent, which they have not been prone to do, they're going to need to kick ass in the A-10 again to have a shot at the dance.

We shall see. Go Owls!

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