Whether people know it or not Temple basketball is very good, and has been very good since the late 1950s. For some reason it seems like they have been overlooked as one of the best programs in the past 50 years. While they have not won the NCAA tournament, which gives Villanova a leg up in the rivalry, Temple is one of six teams to amass 1800 wins. On top of that, since 1944 they have reached the NCAA tournament 31 times. A lot of this success is credited towards former Hall of Fame head coach John Chaney. Though Chaney provided some highly controversial moments during his tenure, he is most known for winning a total of 741 games and having the Owls ranked #1 going into the 1988 NCAA tournament.
From 2001-02 to the 2006-2007 season, Temple basketball had hit a low point. During these years they did not reach the tournament, and were subjugated to the NIT four times. In 2005 Chaney intentionally sent in a Temple player to commit hard fouls against St. Joseph’s. After admitting this in the postgame press conference, Chaney was suspended for the entire year and A-10 tournament. The next season would be his last and retired. It ended up working out well for Temple because they did not have to fire their iconic coach, but could still bring new blood in the program. That new blood would be longtime Philly-native Fran Dunphy. Dunphy graduated from La Salle and was the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania from 1989 until he took the Temple job in 2006. This was a great move for Temple given his strong roots in the Philly area. Success was not immediate for Dunphy and the Owls right away. In his first season Temple finished 12-18 (6-10). Since then Temple has not missed the tournament and reached the second round on two different occasions.
While there has been a significant amount of success for the Owls over the past 6 years, the upcoming season could be the toughest challenge they have faced since Dunphy’s first season. Temple lost four of their top five scorers to graduation. Khalif Wyatt who averaged a team-high 20.5 PPG and 4.0 APG will be sorely missed. Second leading scorer and rebounder Scootie Randall is gone as well. The amount of scoring, playmaking, and rebounding that left the team is going to be tough to replace. The Owls are really hoping incoming 6’9 junior Anthony Lee will step up and replace some of that production. Lee was the third leading scorer on last year’s team with 9.8 PPG and leading rebounder at 6.8 RPG. He did this while only averaging 23.9 minutes per game. With Wyatt and Randall gone, Lee is going to have opportunities to shine this year. He has proved in some capacity that he can be “the guy.” Lee shot 53.7% from the field last year showing he has an accurate shot, but only attempted two three pointers last year, so that part is not in his repertoire. He also scored 20 points twice, one being against Syracuse in an absolute upset win for the Owls. At the end of the day, for Temple to have any shot this year Lee has got to score the basketball.
Dunphy did a nice job recruiting, bringing in some good players to compliment the roster. 6’3 G Josh Brown from St. Anthony High School looks to make an impact right away. He is not known for being much of a passer, but averaged 13 PPG. ESPN says, “He is explosive with his dribble in the open court but equally dependable with his first step in the quarter court.” One thing that you know for sure with anyone that comes out of St. Anthony’s, they are going to come out well coached by head coach Bob Hurley. Another player Temple picked up was 6’8 PF Mark Williams. During his senior year at Montrose Christian he averaged 16 PPG and 11 RPG, while leading his team in 3-point percentage. The ESPN scouting report on Williams is, “He has solid hands inside and is already a good rebounder and finisher in the paint. He has solid and improving skills. He can score in the low post and can step out to 17-footer.” With Williams on the court it opens the possibility for sophomore forward, Daniel Dingle a chance to play some minutes on the wing, and knock down some shots away from the basket. Without Williams size, Dingle would have had to focus entirely playing as a PF. Ultimately it would give Temple the ability to score more and utilize Dingle’s speed and power, rather than having him bruising against the big guys.
Temple has been overshadowed throughout the years; mostly because of the success of Villanova and that they played in the Atlantic-10. This year Temple is moving to the newly formed American Athletic Conference, which will have teams like UCONN, Memphis, and Louisville who will move to the ACC after this season. While some believe Temple’s run might be over, the Owls always find ways to remain competitive. The change to a new conference means tougher competition, but given Dunphy’s success and impressive wins in the past, Temple is ready for this next challenge.