Sports

Owls head to the Big Dance for the first time since 2013

The men’s basketball team will play Iowa in Brooklyn this Friday as a No. 10 seed.

Thinking about his team’s postseason fate, Quenton DeCosey could not sleep on Saturday night.

After agonizing through the night, the senior guard woke up at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, ready to hear his team called on CBS’ Selection Show later that day.

For the first time since his freshman year, DeCosey and the Owls heard their name on Selection Sunday, when the 68 teams in the NCAA tournament are announced. The Owls were selected as the No. 10 seed in the South Region and will travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday to face the University of Iowa, the No. 7 seed.

“There were a lot of nerves, but once we heard our named called, it’s like the monkey came off our back,” junior guard Josh Brown said. “It’s a great feeling.”

After missing the tournament last year following a 23-win season and the 34th best Rating Percentage Index in Division I headed into the National Invitation Tournament, the Owls return to the NCAA Tournament for the 32nd time in school history and the seventh time under coach Fran Dunphy.

“Especially after last year, not knowing if we would have the same feeling again, it was pretty nerve wracking,” sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia said. “To have our named called felt pretty good.”

The Hawkeyes (21-10, 12-6 Big Ten Conference) tied for third in the Big 10 with the University of Maryland, Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin in regular season play and are appearing in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season.

Iowa, the No. 25 team in the AP Top 25 Poll, is led by senior forward Jarrod Uthoff’s 18.9 points per game, second highest in the Big 10.

Uthoff, a unanimous First Team All-Big Ten selection, scored 20 or more points 15 or more times. He’s scored in single digits once this season.

“They are definitely a good offensive team,” Brown said. “They have a good player, Uthoff—a good perimeter shooter who can score inside and out. It’s a good, well-balanced team.”

Senior Devontae Watson cheers in the team’s 72-62 win against Memphis on March 3 at the Liacouras Center. | JENNY KERRIGAN TTN File PHOTO

Senior Devontae Watson cheers in the team’s 72-62 win against Memphis on March 3 at the Liacouras Center. | JENNY KERRIGAN TTN File PHOTO

Along with Uthoff, Peter Jok carries the scoring load for the Hawkeyes. The junior guard averages 16.2 PPG, the only other scorer beside Uthoff to average double-figure scoring.

The Hawkeyes come into Friday’s game losing six of their last eight games, including a 68-66 loss to the University of Illinois in the second round of the Big 10 conference tournament. After starting the year 16-3, the Hawkeyes ascended to No. 3 in the AP Poll, but finished the season with a 5-7 skid.

“I’ve seen them a number of times,” Dunphy said of Iowa. “I know they have good players. … We’ll have our hands full. That was going to happen no matter who we were going to play.”

The Owls head into the NCAA tournament winners of four of their last five games, with the lone loss coming against Connecticut in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship.

After starting the year 6-6, the Owls won 15 of their final 21 games, including wins against NCAA Tournament bound teams Cincinnati, Tulsa and Connecticut.

“It’s kind of like a roller coaster,” senior forward Jaylen Bond said of the team’s season. “We’ve had our ups, we’ve had our downs. But we stuck together, stayed as a team, stayed as a family. These are the times you look forward to.”

Last season, two teams from The American were selected to the field of 68. The four selections this year ties for the most selections in the history of the conference.

“I think that says a lot about our conference,” Dunphy said. “I’m grateful for that. I think our conference is a real good challenging league. To have four us in there is great.”

Michael Guise can be reached at michael.guise@temple.edu.

Julie Christie

can be reached at julie.christie@temple.edu
Or you can follow Julie on Twitter @ChristieJules
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