2-1 in the A-10 Conference
The surprising, 78-59, blowout win over visiting No. 20 Xavier last Wednesday. After losing its previous three games against ranked opponents – Tennessee, Villanova and Duke – earlier this season, the Owls finally broke through and toppled the Musketeers behind a 58.6 percent shooting spree in the second half.
Temple had a rough time in Tennessee, and, even though it was held at the Wachovia Center, Duke essentially held the home court advantage when they beat the Owls earlier in the month. However, the Owls shouldn’t have allowed No. 21 Villanova to register an opponent-record 101 points against them on the 10th anniversary of the Liacouras Center last month.
When he gets a hot hand, junior guard Dionte Christmas might be the toughest player to defend in the Atlantic Ten Conference. The 2006-2007 A-10 scoring leader is once again leading the conference, averaging 20.7 points per game and could become only the fourth player in the league’s history to win back-to-back scoring titles.
Most Improved Player
It’s a tie. After receiving limited minutes as freshmen – if they got into the game at all – sophomore guards Luis Guzman and Ryan Brooks are both playing key roles for Temple this season. As a starter, Guzman helps set the table for Christmas and senior guard Mark Tyndale. Brooks is instant offense off the bench and seems to boost the team’s energy when he enters the game.
1. The “One-Two” Punch – The Owls can compete with just about any team when Christmas and Tyndale are playing well. Christmas can score and rebound, while Tyndale can do just about everything, when he decides that he wants to.
2. Lavoy Allen – The freshman forward gives the Owls a legitimate presence on the boards and on defense. Furthermore, he is slowly developing an efficient post-up game despite limited touches on the offensive end.
3. Four Guards – The Owls seem to play their best basketball when they insert Brooks into the game alongside Tyndale, Christmas and Guzman or Clark and let Allen patrol the middle.
1. Over Reliance on Threes – Although the Owls shoot a good percentage from beyond the arch, they fall in love with three-pointers too easily and tend to shoot themselves out of games.
2. Defense – The Owls have shown signs of improvement on the defensive end, but they still have lapses, allowing opponents to shoot a high percentage from the three-point line, for example.
3. Bench Players Not Named Ryan Brooks – It’s bad enough that the Owls lack depth but there’s too much inconsistency from the players who do come off the bench. The Owls are in horrible shape if and when Tyndale, Christmas and/or Allen get into foul trouble.
Despite the win over Xavier, the Owls simply don’t have enough depth to post a strong regular season conference record in the competitive A-10. Don’t expect the Owls to string together three or four wins in the A-10 Tournament to earn an automatic bid, either. The NIT, however, is feasible and would be a nice accomplishment for this squad.