Four seasons ago, Khalif Wyatt scored 31 points to help lead Temple to a win against North Carolina State University in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
After two years out of the tournament, Temple finally returned last season, although the Owls’ first tournament win in three years eluded them. Quenton DeCosey did his best to channel Wyatt’s level of play, scoring 26 points, but the University of Iowa’s Adam Woodbury ended the team’s season with a putback layup at the buzzer.
DeCosey graduated in the spring, leaving Temple without a “go-to-guy” as it tries to get back to the postseason and earn its first NCAA tournament win since Wyatt left four years ago.
Junior forward Obi Enechionyia, redshirt-senior guard Daniel Dingle, senior forward Mark Williams and sophomore guard Shizz Alston, Jr. will be asked to carry the offense.
“We don’t have that bona fide scorer,” Williams said. “There’s going to be nights when I have to pick up the scoring load, Obi has to pick up the scoring load, Dan, Josh and [Alston] and so forth. But I think that’s a positive for our team because any night, it could be the next guy.”
Wyatt shot more than 500 times and averaged more than 20 points per game when he led Temple to a 24-10 record in 2012-13. The Owls averaged 72.2 points per game, which ranked No. 59 in Division I.
Temple’s offense has struggled over its past two seasons. Temple ranked No. 211 in scoring offense for the 2014-15 season and No. 266 last year.
Last season, coach Fran Dunphy said he liked to give his team a lot of freedom out on the floor. He hopes improved decision making can lead to better shots this year.
“We have to pass the ball a little bit more than we have in the past,” Dunphy said. “Make that extra pass and act like we’re a really good basketball team.”
Enechionyia is the Owls’ highest returning scorer. He finished second on the team in scoring at 11 points per game last season.
Senior guard Josh Brown will be out to start the season as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Sophomore guard Trey Lowe is taking a redshirt year after he was injured in a car accident in February.
Dingle, Williams and Alston are the team’s next three top returning scorers. Dingle led that group in scoring at 4.4 points per game last season, but they’ve all shown flashes of offensive potential.
Williams had 16 points against Central Florida and 11 points against South Florida last season. Dingle had his best games in marquee wins against Cincinnati, Southern Methodist and Connecticut, scoring 14, 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Alston scored 12 points against the University of North Carolina and 11 points against the University of Wisconsin, which both finished the season ranked in the Top 25 of the USA Today Coaches Poll.
“They have so many guys that you really don’t gameplan for that hurt you,” East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. “Williams will get you eight points. Dingle will get six, eight points. Collectively, as a group, that’s where they really hurt you. … They’ve got great balance.”
Dunphy said he will most likely stick to an eight-man rotation this year. Freshman guards Alani Moore and Quinton Rose will likely be involved and could offer some scoring.
The key to his team’s success this year, Dunphy said, will be finding someone to replace guard Devin Coleman, who played the role of sixth man last season.
After starting the team’s first 12 games of the season, Coleman came off the bench in 19 of Temple’s last 21 games. He averaged 9.2 points per game and led the team in made 3-point shots, like when he made all seven attempts in the Owls’ win against then-undefeated Southern Methodist.
“We’re going to have to get this year’s Devin Coleman for us, who bought in, probably was a starter, but bought in to coming off the bench to give us a little bit of a spark,” Dunphy said. “That guy, this year’s Devin Coleman, he’s probably not going to start a lot of games, but he’s going to finish just about every one.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.