Temple men’s basketball NCAA Tournament chances falter with recent AAC losses

After the Owls lost four of their last five games, their chances of making the NCAA Tournament are unlikely.

Junior guard Nate Pierre-Louis attempts to score during the Owls’ game against Wichita State at the Liacouras Center on Jan. 15. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University men’s basketball has not made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances since the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. 

Based on its last five games, Temple ensured that drought will continue this season.

Temple (10-7, 2-4 The American Athletic Conference) has dropped four of its last five conference games, hindering its chances of making consecutive tournament appearances.

After stealing a win in Central Florida Dec. 31, 2019 to start conference play, the Owls dropped three games to teams from The American. They lost to Tulsa by 26 points on Jan. 3 in a game where they shot 27 percent from the field and 20 percent from the three-point line.

Next, the Owls lost to Houston by four at home on Jan. 7 during which the Cougars outrebounded the Owls 54-32 and scored 19 second-chance points to the Owls’ eight.

Temple then lost to Tulane by 14 in another home game on Jan. 11. The Green Wave scored 21 points off turnovers. The Owls struggled to make shots once again as they shot 31.5 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from behind the arc.

Temple seemed to turn things around Wednesday in its upset of then nationally ranked Wichita State. However, the win seems to be more of a reflection on the Shockers’ poor shooting performance than the Owls’ play. 

The Shockers shot 30 percent from the field and 14 percent from the three. Despite the win, the Owls’ shooting woes continued as they shot a poor 25 percent from behind the arc.

The win was a fluke as the Owls lost to Southern Methodist 68-52 on Saturday. The Owls put up another poor shooting performance as they shot 32 percent from the field and three-point shots on a 33 percent clip.

“You can’t make fast breaks all the time,” said senior guard Quinton Rose on Nov. 9, 2019. “Going into conference play, teams are gonna be better, and they’re not gonna turn over the ball like that. We just gotta get our half-court offense together.”

With two months left in the season, the Owls are just one loss away from matching their conference losses from last season. Temple has 14 games left in its schedule, and 12 of those games are against other teams in The American. The other two games are against fellow Big 5 members Villanova and Penn. The Wildcats are nationally ranked and the Quakers are coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2018, so the Owls’ schedule does not get any easier.

Last season, the Owls barely got into the tournament as one of the last four teams in.

One of the biggest questions going into this season for the Owls was how they were going to replace former guard Shizz Alston, Jr. Last season, Alston led the team with 19.7 points per game. Alston was second on the team in three-point percentage last season at 35 percent.

The Owls have not been able to do that. Only three Owls have shot better than 35 percent from behind the arc this season: senior guard Alani Moore II, junior forward De’Vondre Perry and freshman guard Josh Pierre-Louis. 

All three players are averaging fewer than nine points per game. Moore averages 8.2 points on 38.3 percent shooting from three. Perry averages 6.7 points and made 43.5 percent of his threes. Pierre-Louis averages 4.6 points while shooting 37.5 from behind the arc.

The team’s three captains — Rose, junior guard Nate Pierre-Louis and junior forward J.P. Moorman II — have not stepped up to their captain roles this season. They have shot a combined 24.8 percent from the three-point line.

The Owls are 248th out of 350 teams in the NCAA in three-point shooting at 32 percent. Many teams the Owls have faced have employed some form of a zone defense. Zone defenses protect the paint, which forces the offense to shoot from the outside, which is a weakness for Temple.

Temple needs to do a better job of throwing the ball to players inside the zone and passing it out to players for open shots behind the three-point line. 

If the Owls cannot improve in shooting, rebounding and minimizing turnovers, then it will continue the recent Temple trend of not being a consistent force in the NCAA Tournament.

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