Yet again, the ball didn’t bounce Temple University’s way in the NCAA Tournament.
The Owls dropped their third consecutive NCAA Tournament game in an 81-70 loss to Belmont University in Dayton, Ohio, on March 19 in the First Four.
In Fran Dunphy’s final game as Temple’s coach, the Owls displayed another tournament let-down because they could not keep pace with Belmont. Dunphy’s career NCAA Tournament record now stands at 3-17, which includes a 2-8 record at Temple.
Some would argue lack of tournament success will be the ultimate stain on Dunphy’s polished career. Temple had five runs to the Elite Eight and two Final Four appearances to its name prior to Dunphy’s tenure. But Temple has now failed to advance past the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32 in its last eight tries and has gone 18 years without a Sweet 16 appearance.
To restore Temple’s allure as a historic program, incoming head coach Aaron McKie must elevate the Owls’ success beyond the regular season and win NCAA Tournament games.
McKie must recruit talents players to Temple and avoid bad losses in the NCAA Tournament.
In Dunphy’s tenure, the Owls signed just three four-star recruits – Shizz Alston Jr., Lavoy Allen, and Daniel Dingle – Owls Daily reported. Dunphy’s final recruiting class included freshman forward Arashma Parks and junior transfer guard Quentin Jackson. That 2017 incoming class was ranked 135th nationally and 10th out of 12 American Athletic Conference teams.
Also, just two players from Dunphy’s 13 years at Temple made the NBA, and one of them, Dionte Christmas, wasn’t his recruit.
McKie still has to sign more recruits to his first class. Currently, three-star point guard Damian Dunn from Kinston, North Carolina, is the only prospect signed. Dunn’s commitment ranks Temple’s 2019 recruiting class as the 143rd-best in the nation.
In the tournament, Temple suffered a number of tough losses. Under Dunphy, the Owls were upset in 2010 and 2012, years in the which the Owls were nationally ranked, by a No. 12 seed, compiled a 1-5 against higher seeds, and lost their only play-in game.
In 2001, when the Owls made their last Sweet 16 appearance, John Chaney was Temple’s coach and McKie was in his seventh season as a guard in the NBA.
Since then, other Big 5 schools and the Owls’ rejuvenated football program have stolen the spotlight from Temple men’s basketball. Villanova has made the tournament every year but one since 2004 and won two national titles. La Salle made an improbable run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Owls have hit a lull in recent years. Temple recorded double-digit losses in each of the past seven seasons and only made three tournament appearances during that span. Temple hasn’t been ranked since the March 5, 2012, Associated Press Top 25 poll.
McKie is in charge to regather the buzz that once surrounded and filled the Liacouras Center.
Dunphy believes he is leaving McKie in good hands with four “terrific” rising juniors — guard Nate Pierre-Louis and forwards Justyn Hamilton, J.P. Moorman II and De’Vondre Perry.
Pierre-Louis was the Owls’ third-leading scorer and often guarded the opposing team’s best player. Moorman worked his way into the starting lineup late in the year, earning 10 starts.
Plus the Owls have three rising seniors who will be key to their success, Dunphy said. That group includes guard Quinton Rose, who finished the 2018-19 season as the team’s second-leading scorer. He is returning for his senior season, he told OwlScoop.com.
However, it’s going to be a work in progress for the Owls.
Point guard Shizz Alston Jr., who tied for first in the American Athletic Conference in scoring, will graduate and pursue a career in the NBA. Former center Ernest Aflakpui is also graduating, and it is presumed Hamilton will fill his role in the starting lineup.
Senior guard Monty Scott will be key in the effort to replace Alston’s production. Scott, who transferred from Kennesaw State University in Fall 2018, didn’t play last season due to the NCAA’s transfer rules.
Despite winning six regular season and postseason conference championships with the Owls, Dunphy’s tenure will be remembered for the failure to succeed in the Big Dance.
Temple took a positive step by returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Now, McKie has to lead a run the next time the Owls qualify.
“It’s good that we got here, but at the same time, it’s not that good being that we lost in the first round,” Hamilton said. “I just use it as an inspiration to be here the next coming up years.”