Temple Owls Basketball Season Preview

The college hoops season is right around the corner, and Busting Brackets is here to whet your basketball-starved appetite. Over the next five weeks, we are publishing season previews team by team, conference by conference, to offer a glimpse into the upcoming season. Busting Brackets is giving you the lowdown on the biggest storylines, offseason changes and x-factors for each team and each league as we roll into the 2012-13 season. Our complete season preview archive can be accessed here. Buckle up, peeps.

Temple Owls

Last Season 24-8 (13-3 A-10)
Lost to UMass in A-10 quarterfinals
Lost to South Florida in second round of NCAA tournament
Key Returning Players: Khalif Wyatt, G
Scootie Randall, F
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, F
Anthony Lee, F
T.J. DiLeo, G
Will Cummings, G
Key Additions: Dalton Pepper, G (West Virginia Transfer)
Daniel Dingle, F (St. Raymond’s HS)
Quenton DeCosey, G (St. Joseph’s-Metuchen HS)
Key Losses: Ramone Moore, G
Juan Fernandez, G
Michael Eric, C
Aaron Brown, G (Transfer to Southern Miss)
Top Non-Conference Games: Nov. 13 @ Kent State
Nov. 28 @ Buffalo
Dec. 5 @ Villanova
Dec. 8 vs. Duke (Izod Center)
Dec. 22 vs. Syracuse (Madison Square Garden)
Dec. 28 vs. Detroit
Jan. 6 @ Kansas
Jan. 23 vs. Penn
Top Conference Games: Jan. 10 @ Xavier
Jan. 12 vs. Saint Louis
Jan. 26 @ Butler
Feb. 2 @ Saint Joseph’s
Feb. 16 @ UMass
Feb. 21 vs. La Salle
Mar. 10 vs. VCU
Breakout Player: Khalif Wyatt. Wyatt gets an opportunity at redemption following a demoralizing offseason in which the senior guard was busted in an Atlantic City prostitution sting while celebrating his 21st birthday. A judge fined Wyatt $1,000 and sentenced him to community service for his role in the affair, but Wyatt will not serve any jail time or suspensions that would cost him a chunk of the 2012-13 season. Expect the Owls guard to express his gratitude on the court. With Temple’s leading scorer from last season (Ramone Moore) and glue guy (point guard Juan Fernandez) both gone, the backcourt will belong to Wyatt this season. The Norristown (PA) native had a coming out party as a junior, bursting onto the scene with stellar, early-season efforts against brand-name programs Texas (24 points on 8 of 14 shooting) and Duke (22 points on 8 of 12 shooting). Ramone Moore got all the fanfare, but Wyatt was Temple’s best and most dependable player, especially in league play. He was a more efficient and diverse scorer, averaged more points per 40 minutes and was better on defense than the senior Moore. If UMass point guard Chaz Williams doesn’t win A-10 player of the year honors this season, it will be because Khalif Wyatt did instead.
X-Factor: Point Guard Play. As good as Moore was, Temple can loosely replicate his production by giving Wyatt more touches and having Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson shoulder a heavier scoring load. Replacing Juan Fernandez, the do-everything point guard and three-year Temple starter, is a much taller task. Rising sophomore Will Cummings should see a major uptick in playing time this season and the training wheels will be off. The former 3-star prospect didn’t get major burn as a freshman, struggling to crack the Owls backcourt rotation due to a logjam at guard. What kind of production Cummings can offer will go a long way in determining how far Temple falls this season relative to last. The frontcourt will unquestionably be the strength of the Owls, with Scootie Randall back from injury, Hollis-Jefferson prepared to up his game and Anthony Lee returning to the fold as well. How the Owls solve their point guard dilemma, however, is critical, and will ultimately make or break the team’s season. Health will also be an x-factor for Fran Dunphy’s bunch, specifically the effectiveness of Randall post-knee injury.
Best Case: Riding a memorable season, Wyatt outshines Chaz Williams and Fordham’s Chris Gaston en route to the A-10 Player of the Year award. Wyatt’s ability to play the point allows Temple to ease Cummings into the rotation. By year’s end, thanks to a forgiving growth curve, Cummings rounds into a capable starting point guard for the Owls. West Virginia transfer Dalton Pepper is a sparkplug off the bench, serving as a much needed outside shooting threat for a team that loses its top-three 3-point shooters in terms of percentage from last season (Fernandez, Moore and transfer Aaron Brown). Down low, Hollis-Jefferson has a breakout senior season while the sophomore Lee makes big strides from his freshman campaign. Highly prized freshman Daniel Dingle not only contributes valuable minutes in year one, but also portends a bright future for Temple in the future. On the back of Wyatt, the always-tough Owls continue their reign in the A-10, winning the league tournament for a league record tenth time before departing to the Big East in 2013. Temple rights its recent NCAA tournament struggles, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001.
Worst Case: Wyatt alone is not enough to compensate for Moore’s lost production. Charged with leading the team, facing a heavier workload and shouldering the greater expectations that come with it, Wyatt plateaus in gross production while his efficiency regresses. Opposing defenses, no longer having to account for Moore or Fernandez, game-plan against Wyatt and vow to take him out of each game. Cummings, shaky as a starter and unreliable over extended stretches, is not yet ready to assume a leadership role on the team. Pepper is inconsistent from behind the arc, and the losses of three deadly perimeter shooters catch up to Temple. The Owls, no longer as effective from behind the arc, are forced to play inside more, feeding right into the general strength of most other A-10 defenses. The absence of center Michael Eric, one of the unsung quality big men in the league who signed a guaranteed deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer despite not being drafted, proves costly. Lacking a college-ready center, Temple becomes too reliant on wing players and stretch forwards on both ends of the floor. Temple’s gauntlet of a non-conference schedule ultimately buries the team early and shatters any confidence the players may have had otherwise heading into league play. The Owls are then trampled by a throng of hungry A-10 contenders, ultimately finishing seventh in the loaded conference. Temple squeaks out an at-large bid (thanks to a strong schedule), but a familiar NCAA tournament fate awaits Dunphy’s squad. Another early exit in the Big Dance caps off an overall disappointing season.
Projected Finish: 19-11 (9-7 Atlantic-10)
Lose in quarterfinals of A-10 tournament

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