Temple Basketball Preview: #27
Overall Rank: #27
Conference Rank: #1 Atlantic 10
2007-08: 21-13, 11-5, 2nd
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
The years of suffering for the once proud Temple program came to an end last year. Picked to finish, at best, in the middle of the pack, the Owls came out of nowhere to post an 11-5 conference record and win the A-10 tournament to earn an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. Once there, they did not hang around very long, losing to Michigan State in the first round, but make no mistake, Temple is back and ready to build off last year’s success.
But Coach Fran Dunphy’s squad will have to do it without Mark Tyndale. The 6-5 wing led the team with 7.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest. He also added 15.9 points per game. The Owls will have to find a scorer who can consistently reach double figures to help replace Tyndale’s scoring prowess. Chris Clark, one of two shooters off the bench, has also run out of eligibility. The diminutive guard was a great shooter and averaged 7.5 points during his senior campaign. The only other departure is little used forward Orlando Miller.
Coach Dunphy does need not much production out of his newcomers, but Ramone Moore and T.J. DiLeo will give the backcourt a couple more options. DiLeo has the outside shooting ability to be a quality three-point marksman right away and Moore could emerge as a solid contributor sooner or later. In the frontcourt, Andrew Randall and Michael Eric will provide depth. Randall is a talented 6-5 forward who can do a little bit of everything and Eric, a Lagos, Nigeria native, is surprisingly quick for a 6-9 forward and should at least be able to block some shots as a freshman.
Who to Watch:
Dionte Christmas has led the A-10 in scoring each of the last two seasons. As a junior he put up 19.7 points per game. Christmas spends a lot of time beyond the three-point line, but he can use his 6-5, 205 pound frame to get to the basket. Without Tyndale, this is Christmas’ team and his ability to hit the glass from the wing will be very important for this team. Ryan Brooks is the likely candidate to step into the starting role vacated by Tyndale. Brooks was third on the team in scoring last year despite never starting a game. Occasionally Brooks was more than just a three-pointer shooter, but he will need to show that he can score in other ways more consistently if he wants to be the other scorer on the team. Semaj Inge will not be that scorer either, but he does give the team a versatile and experienced option off the bench and will battle with Luis Guzman for minutes at the point. It will be Guzman’s job, again, to get Christmas the ball. The 6-3 junior made too many mistakes, but with a year of significant playing time under his belt, Guzman should emerge as a better floor general.
The player who could improve the most heading into the 2008-2009 season is Lavoy Allen. The 6-9 sophomore had a tremendous freshman campaign, averaging 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. His solid defense in the paint was not a surprise, but he turned into a pretty good scorer as well. If Allen can give the team a scoring threat under the basket, the opposition will not be able to key in on Christmas. And if they do try and stop Christmas, Allen and Brooks will make them pay. Sergio Olmos is also back in the frontcourt after starting last season. Olmos, a seven-footer, will never put up great numbers, but he has gotten better every season. The key for this Owls squad is finding more scorers. If the opposition can just concentrate on stopping Christmas it will be a disappointing season in Philadelphia. If Brooks, Allen or others can step up and score 12 to 15 points per game, the Owls will be back in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Luis Guzman, Junior, Guard, 3.9 points per game
Ryan Brooks, Junior, Guard, 8.6 points per game
Dionte Christmas, Senior, Guard, 19.7 points per game
Lavoy Allen, Sophomore, Forward, 8.1 points per game
Sergio Olmos, Senior, Center, 5.8 points per game