Nov 28, 2022 - Sports

How to fake it: Can the Temple Owls end their NCAA dry spell?

Temple's Khalif Battle walks downcourt at the Barclays Center.

Temple's Khalif Battle. Photo courtesy of Isaiah Vazquez/The Newhouse

The late great Temple head coach John Chaney once greeted an overzealous fan with a hilarious response when asked whether his team would make a run that season.

  • "No, man, we ain't gonna do nothing. They gonna fail me again," he said.

State of play: One can't help but feel that way about the 2022-23 Owls men's basketball team, which plays La Salle on Wednesday in a Big 5 doubleheader at The Palestra.

  • They've got potential to make you look like a mastermind if you pick them as your bracket's dark horse.
  • Yes, but: Temple hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2019, so you risk looking like the North Philly fool if they don't.

Why it matters: Despite recent struggles, Temple is historically one of the nation's best basketball programs.

  • If you find yourself sitting next to engrossed fans in what is often a mostly empty Liacouras Center, here's how not to dribble it off your foot.

Be smart: Those super fans in the student section are known as the Cherry Crusade.

Play up the old: Hit on good-old-days talking points like reminiscing about Chaney, a Hall of Fame legend who guided the Owls to five Elite Eight appearances between 1988 and 2001.

Name drop: Alums Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie are the big two who went on to play in the NBA.

  • Jones, who spent time with the Lakers and Hornets, was a sharpshooting guard who drew praise from Michael Jordan for being a "savvy defender."
  • McKie played alongside Allen Iverson with the Sixers and was Sixth Man of the Year when Philly made the NBA Finals in 2001. He took over as Temple head coach in 2019.

🔑 McKies to success: McKie told the Inquirer last year's squad resembled a high school varsity team, but he's billing this year as NCAA tournament or bust for the Owls.

  • Guards Damian Dunn and Khalif Battle are prodigious scorers.
  • Battle averaged nearly 22 points in seven games for Temple last season before a broken metatarsal sidelined him the rest of the year. He's not afraid to take game-defining shots, like when he set a career high with six 3-pointers in a Nov. 22 loss to Richmond. But he sometimes forces shots when teammates might have a better chance of scoring.
  • Jamille Reynolds, who teammates call a "generational talent," has averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game.

The bottom line: The Owls are either a hoot or kaput.

  • They stumbled in a shocking, season-opening overtime loss to Wagner. Then Temple looked plucky in a razor-close win over No. 16 Villanova and on Sunday, they defeated Philly neighbor Drexel 73-61.

Thought bubble: Three of Temple's losses are by a combined 11 points — two in overtime. The Owls could easily be 6-1 rather than 3-4, making me more comfortable penciling them in for the tourney.


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