When the Texas Longhorns showed up on the big-screen television in the basement of the Liacouras Center last Sunday, everyone in attendance new that Temple’s name would be next.
The sixth-seeded Longhorns were the 64th team displayed out of a possible 65, and because the Owls took care of business the night before, there wasn’t a worry in sight.
“It’s a great feeling because if we did not win the [Atlantic-10] tournament, I’m not sure if we would have gotten in at all,” senior guard Quincy Wadley said after the brackets were released. “Even when we were the last team to come up on the screen, we knew we were there.”
Now that the 11th seeded Owls know they are headed to New Orleans this weekend, the worrying can officially begin. Unlike last year, the Owls knew they were in for a tough draw in the first round, and that is exactly what they got in Texas.
Up until about 3:45pm on Sunday, Texas (25-8) was one of the hottest teams in the nation. The Longhorns scored the first six points of the second half to take an 18-point lead over Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. But from there, Oklahoma outscored them 40–13 en route to a 54-45 Sooner victory.
So just how do these Longhorns match-up against Temple?
The teams’ styles couldn’t be more different, and that is what makes this one of the most exciting games of the first round.
The bad news for Temple
The Longhorns like to run you out the gym.
They are the prototypical defense-creates-offense team. They play defense on the ball as well as any team in the country, and they live off creating turnovers, which makes for easy baskets. They keep their players fresh by running about nine or ten players deep, and they are all very strong and athletic.
Like Temple, Longhorn coach Rick Barnes plays one of the toughest schedules (14th nationally) in the nation year in and year out. Texas’ two biggest wins of the season include home victories over Illinois and Iowa State.
The good news for Temple
The Longhorns’ two Achilles’ heels are poor shooting and inconsistency at the point guard position. That plays perfectly into the hands of the match-up zone defense.
St. Joe’s proved twice this season that you can defeat the zone with a phenomenal point guard (Jameer Nelson), and a pure three-point shooter (Marvin O’Connor). But the Longhorns have nothing close to resembling those two players.
Texas runs a committee of three point guards, none of whom averages more than four points or two assists per game. The starter, freshman Royal Ivey, averages a measly 2.9 points and 1.8 assists per game.
The game is a clash of styles in every sense of the word.
Both coaches were probably smiling when they saw the brackets, because each team thrives on playing this type of opponent. When successful, Texas usually presses and outruns slower, less athletic teams, while the Owls’ methodical style often frustrates speedy clubs, especially when opponents don’t shoot the ball particularly well.
This game could result in a one-point nail-biter or a twenty-point victory in either direction, depending on who controls the tempo.
Overall, John Chaney was satisfied with the draw.
“As long as I didn’t see Duke in the bracket, I’m happy,” Chaney said jokingly. “How would you like to lose to Duke three times in one year? That’s a sin.”
Have no fear Owl fans, the only possible way you will see Duke again would be in Minneapolis in the national championship game, and that is a tradeoff I’m sure all Temple fans would welcome.
Speaking of brackets, the South Region is loaded from its top seed, Michigan State, to lower seeds like Gonzaga (13th) and Providence (10th). In between you have ACC regular season champion North Carolina (second seed) and local rival Penn State (seventh seed).
If Temple defeats the Longhorns in the opening round, the Owls will likely face third-seeded Florida, last year’s national runner up.
After several of the top teams slipped during championship week, Illinois was granted the top seed in the Midwest Region.
The Illini could be challenged in the Sweet Sixteen by fourth-seeded Kansas, a one seed in disguise that had an injury-plagued year.
Talented 11th seed Xavier barely squeaked into the tournament, but the Musketeers expect to make some noise playing in their home state of Ohio. They will face Notre Dame, the sixth seed, at Dayton Arena.
Red-hot Arizona also looks to make a substantial run to the Final Four from the two-seed position.
Duke heads the brutal East Region as its top seed. The bracket boasts seven conference tournament champions, including SEC title holder Kentucky (second seed) and the Big East champion, third-seeded Boston College.
Georgia is a surprising eight seed, despite going 16-14 and losing in the first round of the SEC tournament. Seventh-seeded Iowa will look to stay hot with or without leading scorer Luke Recker.
If form holds, Philadelphia could be in for a treat with a potential regional doubleheader of Duke versus UCLA and Boston College versus Kentucky at the First Union Center. Moreover, you could have a Duke-Kentucky rematch across the parking lot from the Spectrum, where Duke’s Christian Laettner hit his miraculous buzzer-beater back in 1992.
In the West, Stanford received the expected top seed, but will be tested early by the Georgia Tech-St. Joe’s winner.
Coach Lefty Driesell’s lightning-quick Georgia State Panthers (11th seed) will face their opposite this weekend when they meet a bruising, sixth-seeded Wisconsin squad.
The winner will most likely face third-seeded Maryland, one of Driesell’s former schools.
Finally, watch out for the 10th seeded Georgetown Hoyas. After finishing at No. 20 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll, head coach Craig Esherick has been openly vocal this week about the unfairness of his team’s seeding. G-Town’s opening-round game against seventh-seeded Arkansas, and their “40 Minutes of Hell” press, will be a must-see.