Sports

Owls await postseason fate

With a loss Sunday, the Owls failed to claim an automatic bid to the NCAA’s.

For the rest of the week, the Owls will resume their normal practice schedule.

During that time, they will wait as their postseason fate lies in the hands of the NCAA selection committee, which will select the 64-team field for the 2016 NCAA Tournament on Monday at 7 p.m.

“I think our body of work speaks for itself,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We have grown over the course of the season, and we actually have an identity.”

The NCAA committee is composed of 10 members assigned from 10 different Division I conferences, including the American Athletic Conference’s representative—DeJuena Chizer Houston’s assistant women’s basketball coach and senior women administrator. Before the tournament is finalized, the members make their case for what teams deserve to be in the field of 64.

After a 64-46 loss to South Florida in Sunday’s conference tournament semifinal, the Owls are on the tournament bubble, hoping to be called for an at-large bid on the NCAA Selection Show. A selection would be their first tournament berth since the 2010-11 season.

“We can’t control it,” Cardoza said. “A few years ago, we thought we did enough.”

This season, Temple has lost four games by three points or fewer, which Cardoza said has put them in an uncertain position.

“We could have been in a situation knowing that we’re in the NCAA Tournament,” Cardoza said. “We had to close out games.”

As of yesterday, ESPN bracketologist Charlie Creme has Temple in the “Last Four In” category in the ESPN women’s basketball bracketology, which would give the Owls one of the final four at-large selections. In his bracket, Temple is projected to be a No. 11 seed.

“Temple’s in a position where their resume is not eye-popping,” Creme told The Temple News. “They picked a good year to do that, because the rest of the perceived bubble is also in a predicament of not having much on their resume and they keep losing.”

If Temple defeated South Florida Sunday, Creme said it would have helped the Owls ease their stress for Selection Monday, when the 64 teams are announced.

“Picking the example of Temple losing to South Florida in the semifinals, it may still be good enough for them to get in,” Creme said. “There’s not a lot of quality wins on their list.”

Temple’s Rating Percentage Index is No. 69 among 349 Division I teams, and the squad owns a 2-6 record against opponents inside the RPI Top 50.

“We’re hoping to accomplish those goals we’ve set in the beginning of the year,” sophomore guard Khadijah Berger said. “And that ends with making the [NCAA Tournament].”

Two of those losses came to Connecticut the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 poll. In the second meeting against the Huskies, the Owls were tied with the defending NCAA Tournament champions 16 minutes into the game. Even though Temple eventually fell in that Feb. 14 contest 85-60, Creme thinks the committee has looked at that game beyond its loss.

“That will merit some attention in a level of competitiveness against the best team,” Creme said. “People watching that game on a national audience may think that Temple could compete at a tournament level, and that’s what they’re looking at.”

Statistically, Temple’s best non-conference win came in a 97-91 win against the University of Florida in the squad’s first game of the season on Nov. 13. As the season has wore on, that win has become more impressive. The Gators are currently No. 21 in RPI.

“The Florida win looms pretty large of the teams,” Creme said. ‘What Florida’s been able to do since then has really been able to help Temple.”

When the NCAA selection committee looks at Temple’s resume, they will notice its biggest blemish is a 69-67 loss Jan. 5 to Southern Methodist, who ranks outside the RPI Top 150.

“We’ve tried to schedule enough high RPI teams so that when the time comes around for the selection committee to decide … we’ve pretty much put ourselves in position to play top-quality teams,” Cardoza said. “People are talking about us as a talented team. Hopefully good things happen for us down the road.”

Mark McCormick can be reached at mark.mccormick or on Twitter @MarkJMcCormick.

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