Temple University men’s basketball head coach Aaron McKie is ready to put the 2020-21 season behind him.
After finishing last season 5-11 overall and 4-10 in conference play, the Owls believe they are a different group this season and have what they need to be successful, said sophomore guard Khalif Battle.
The team will open its season on Nov. 10 against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m at the Liacouras Center.
The Temple News’ sports editors predicted Temple’s statistical leaders, starting lineup and final American Athletic Conference record.
What will the starting lineup look like at the beginning of the 2021-22 season?
ID: Jeremiah Williams, Khalif Battle, Jake Forrester, Nick Jourdain, Jahlil White
Looking back on last season, the usual lineup was Williams, Forrester, Damian Dunn, J.P. Moorman II and De’Vondre Perry. With two vacant spots open due to Moorman II and Perry entering the transfer portal this offseason, McKie could use his young players to fill gaps they left behind. Battle, who recovered from an injury mid-season last year, will definitely be a vital starter at the guard position with his three-point shooting. Some new faces who could see starts this season are White and Jourdain. White missed the 2020-21 season due to a meniscus tear in his left knee, but now he’ll be another guy the team can look to for shooting. Having both of them start could create more shooting opportunities, which the Owls struggled to find last season. Plus, Jourdain will be a solid player in the post for the Owls and will push for defensive rebounds.
NG: Jeremiah Williams, Khalif Battle, Damian Dunn, Jahlil White, Jake Forrester
Temple’s lineup last season was generic, utilizing two guards, two forwards and a center. This season, the team is very guard-centric, making a small-ball or dynamic backcourt lineup possible. Forrester and Williams both started in all 16 games for the Owls last season, while Dunn started in 12 out of the 13 he played in. Those three players set the tone for last season’s team and will each return to their integral roles. That leaves two positions open, which will be filled by the proven sophomore guard Battle and the highly-regarded freshman guard White. Battle led the team in points-per-game last season, averaging 15.0. Though White missed last season due to injury, he has gotten lots of praise this offseason and the expectations for him are high. A lineup with four guards and Forrester in the paint will create many scoring opportunities. Plus with White’s size and the other three guards, the defense should improve.
VA: Jahlil White, Damian Dunn, Jeremiah Williams, Khalif Battle, Jake Forrester
This year, three of five Temple starters, including Williams, Forrester and Dunn, return to the lineup after their former teammates Moorman ll and Perry entered the transfer portal. With two starting spots open, it’s likely they’ll be filled by freshman guard Jahlil White and sophomore guard Khalif Battle. With White back from his season-ending knee injury last season, he’s expected to return to the court and showcase his abilities as a 6-foot-7-inch guard. Battle, who led the team in scoring and ranked second in rebounding last season, should see a starting spot after the numbers he put up during the 2020-21 season. With Battle and White joining the starting lineup, the Owls should be able to capitalize on offensive opportunities and turn this year into a winning season.
Who will lead the Owls in rebounds per game?
ID: Jake Forrester
Forrester is definitely one of the leaders on this team, which is why he could make a big impact this season and probably start every game. Last season, Forrester led the team with 102 rebounds and was a huge help on defense, where he had 73 rebounds. If Forrester can stay away from foul trouble and bring down clean offensive and defensive rebounds, he should maintain his lead in rebounds this season.
NG: Jake Forrester
Forrester is 6-foot-9-inches and 225-pounds with a great motor in the paint. Whether it’s crashing the offensive glass or boxing out on the defensive end, he will be the key big man on the floor this season. Last season, Forrester tied with Battle by recording 6.4 rebounds per game. But with Battle taking over more ball-handling duties and Forrester having to size-up the opponent’s centers, his rebounding role only expands. Forrester has marked his toughness as the key improvement to his game this offseason. With the addition of Emmanuel Okpomo, a 6-foot-10-inch Wake Forest transfer center, to the Owls, Forrester has been pushed day-in and day-out, working for every board in the air. This will translate into the regular season, and Forrester will be the team’s rebounding leader.
VA: Jake Forrester
Forrester led the team in total rebounds during the 2020-21 season and there’s no doubt he’ll hit that mark again in his third season with the Owls. Last season, he started in all 16 games he played and was a huge help on the defensive end. With the rest of the starting lineup helping him out on the court, including Williams and Dunn who he had major playing time with last season, Forrester should have no problem leading the team in rebounds again.
Who will lead the Owls in points per game?
ID: Jahlil White
Despite White missing the 2020-21 season due to a meniscus tear in his left knee, he has been the talk of the offseason making for high expectations this season. During his time at Wildwood Catholic High School in North Wildwood, New Jersey, White earned Third Team All-State and averaged 16.6 points per game during his senior season. While Battle averages 15 points per game, White could match his level of scoring this season.
NG: Khalif Battle
This one may be trickier than it looks on paper. Through stats alone, one would assume Battle is far and away the best scorer on the team. While that may be true, this team has more scorers available than last year’s team did in general. The additions of White and freshman forward Zach Hicks to the rotation provide two very capable shooters to throw into the mix with Temple’s numerous playmakers. Battle only shot 31.5 percent from three-point territory and 34.9 percent from the field last season, meaning while he put up the most shots, he was not always the most efficient scorer. Battle gets the nod from me for the sole reason he will get more floor time than Hicks and White, though this could change later in the year.
VA: Khalif Battle
There’s no question here Battle has proven himself to be a capable scorer on the court. Even though he missed the first five games of the season last year due to a hamstring injury, Battle still managed to come out on top, leading the team in scoring with 15.0 points per game. Though there have been some additions to the roster that also have the skills to put on a show when it comes to shooting. With Battle as a starter, he’ll hit that mark again and may significantly improve on his points-per-game average with the advantage of more playing time.
What conference record will the Owls finish the season with?
Last season, Temple finished 4-10 in the conference. Now that the Owls had a normal offseason filled with scrimmages and summer practices, Temple should be a completely different team this season. With key guys returning from injuries and younger players having time for development, I don’t see why the Owls wouldn’t do well in the conference this season. McKie is entering his third season as head coach, with this group of players being truly his own recruits. I expect a solid performance from the Owls this season.
Temple’s 4-10 conference record last season comes with several asterisks next to it. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted most teams, but Temple truly struggled with it. Whether it was arriving at games with only six players in uniform or skipping consecutive practices, the Owls were unable to find their rhythm during the shortened season. This year, Temple’s young team will have the opportunity to prove they can not only outscore, but outperform the opposition. By spending extra hours in the gym and spending extra days back on campus, this team has united under McKie and will try to run circles around teams. The question is: can they shoot? The answer: we will have to wait and see, but the potential is there. The Owls face Wichita State University and the University of Memphis, two of the conference’s three best teams only once, and get to play Tulane University and East Carolina University, two of the conference’s worst teams, twice. Temple will need to avoid any sort of slump and remain healthy to reach this record, but I think it is safe to say they will be above .500 by season’s end.
With the Owls finishing 5-11 overall and 4-10 in the conference last season, one might be skeptical about their performance this year. However, with three of their five starters returning to the lineup and White back from injury, a lot could improve this season. With ample training time and a normal preseason under their belt, Temple is already in a much better position than it was last year. They have a full season ahead of them and have things set on the defensive end of the ball. The offense would be the only issue, more specifically, their ability to shoot. With a few additions to the roster and a lot of practice, there’s a lot of potential for this team to improve significantly. The chemistry built up previously between the starting lineup will also be a big factor this season. Though Temple is set to finish eighth in preseason polls, the team should overcome this and finish out with a winning season this year.