Men’s basketball falls off the bubble after two AAC losses

Temple lost a 14-point halftime lead to Wichita State and lost to Houston at home last week against two top-20 Ratings Percentage Index teams.

Assistant coach Aaron McKie (center) and sophomore guard Quinton Rose show their frustration during Temple’s 80-59 loss to Houston on Sunday at the Liacouras Center. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As time wound down on the clock late in the second half, sophomore guard Quinton Rose sat on the bench, but he wasn’t watching the game. Instead, his hands covered his eyes as Houston continued to build its lead.

Sunday night’s 80-59 loss crushed Temple’s chances at gaining a noteworthy NCAA Tournament resume-building victory.

Last week featured opportunities for the Owls (15-12, 7-8 American Athletic Conference) to improve their chances of earning an at-large NCAA Tournament bid in games against Wichita State and Houston. But they lost both games and are now seventh in The American.

Temple fell out of the “Next Four Out” portion of ESPN bracketoligist Joe Lunardi’s projection on Monday after being in the “Next Four Out” on Friday.

“We thought this was going to be a difficult week at Wichita State and against a very good Houston team, and it certainly was,” coach Fran Dunphy said.

“We have to win every game from here on out, so that’s the only thing we can do,” he added.

In order to determine which teams qualify for the NCAA Tournament, the selection committee defines the quality of a win or loss by a tier system. A Quadrant 1 win ranks as the highest quality, and a  Quadrant 1 loss is least penalized. A Quadrant 4 win or loss ranks as the worst.

The tiers are based on the Ratings Percentage Index rankings and account for whether a team played the game at home, a neutral site or on the road.

The selection committee focuses on Quadrant 1 and 2 wins and Quadrant 4 losses to weigh a team’s resume. Temple has three Quadrant 1 victories.

Two of the Owls’ three Quadrant 1 victories came during the Charleston Classic against Auburn University and Clemson University in November. Auburn (23-4, 11-3 Southeastern Conference) leads the SEC, while Clemson (20-6, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) is fourth in the ACC behind the University of Virginia, Duke University and the University of North Carolina. All four of the top ACC teams are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll with Virginia holding the first spot.

Auburn and Clemson are each ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press poll and in the top 10 of the RPI.

The Owls’ other Quadrant 1 victory came against then-No. 16 Wichita State in an 81-79 overtime win on Feb. 1 at the Liacouras Center.

The Owls also have three Quadrant 2 wins — their season-opening victory against Old Dominion University, a win against the University of South Carolina in November and a win against Southern Methodist in January. All three came on the road or at a neutral site.

They have some negative marks on their resume. The Owls’ lone Quadrant 4 loss came against Tulane at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 28, when they started out conference play 0-4.

Temple also has some Quadrant 3 losses, including losses to George Washington University and La Salle that came within the first six games of the season. Each of those teams has losing records and sit in the bottom four of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Three games remain on the Owls’ schedule, but they won’t face another Quadrant 1 opponent during the regular season.

Temple will host Central Florida, a Quadrant 2 opponent, at the Liacouras Center on Sunday for their final home game of the season. The Owls will finish the regular season on the road against Connecticut and Tulsa, which are both Quadrant 2 opponents.

The only way Temple will face another top-quarter opponent is if it makes a run in The American’s conference tournament.

If the current standings hold, the Owls would face Tulane in the first round of the conference tournament. With a win, Temple would advance to play Houston, a Quadrant 1 opponent that is currently second in The American.

During the 2015-16 season, the Owls finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and beat South Florida in the first round of the conference tournament, which helped them earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

In order to play in the postseason, Temple might have to finish this year in a similar fashion.

“I think we’re best when we have our backs against the wall,” Rose said. “So I have no doubt that we can make a good run in the conference tournament.”

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