Temple shouldn’t be considered a lock for the tournament? Come on. They have one of the most exciting players in the country, have a handful of quality non-conference wins (Syracuse, Villanova who has knocked off three top-5 teams), and when they do suffer a “bad loss” it is always a close game. Their only blowout loss was early in the season vs Duke at a neutral court.
Look at the losses, in order.
12/8- Duke 67-90 (Bad loss #1)
12/19 – Canicius 62-72 (This was one of the three really bad losses, but losses before the New Year shouldn’t be read into too much)
1/6 @ Kansas 62-72 (A game they should have won)
1/10 @ Xavier 52-57 (Acceptable, it happens)
1/19 vs. St. Bonaventure’s (Bad loss #2)
1/26 @ #9 Butler 71-83 (If T.J. Dileo doesn’t get hurt in the first five minutes, they win that game. Once he left, Rotnei Clark went off)
2/2 @ St. Joes 69-70 (Anyone who is familiar with the Big 5 basketball knows anybody can beat anybody on a given day. Parody in the Big 5 is one of college basketball’s longest traditions)
2/14 vs. Duquesne 83-84 (Bad loss #3, but again by one point, a game that could have gone either way)
This team has not lost in nearly a month, and have proven that they are a team that can compete with anybody when playing well. This Temple squad, when clicking on all cylinders, could make a serious run in the tournament.
Khalif Wyatt is a stud; he is the clutch senior scorer that has made a name for himself this season, and fits the prototype of somebody who can win a tournament game on his own. With him on the court, this team is never out of games because he attracts so much attention from opposing defenses. This allows more space and opportunity for guys like Scootie Randall and Anthony Lee to make plays. Ralir Hollis-Jefferson is a defensive presence, rebounding machine and a coaches dream (when he doesn’t insist on getting his on the offensive end). Add the outside shooting of Jake O’Brien, the grittiness of DiLeo and Cummings on the defensive end, and the wild card that is Dalton Pepper (still believe in him), this team has talent.
Regardless of how the A10 tournament plays out, Temple should be a lock for the tournament. They offer something to the NCAA that not many other teams can in a player like Wyatt, and if it comes down to them or a team from a power 6 that went .500 in their league, it should be a no brainer. And I would be saying this even if they didn’t posses solid wins along the way. Not only do they unquestionably deserve to be in the tournament, I think a Sweet 16 run is in the realm of possibilities. They seem to be catching their stride, and when Wyatt doesn’t need to do everything on his own (and, he has proven that he certainly can), Temple is a team some big dogs, without a dominant inside presence, would not like to see.
Hopefully once the bracket comes out and Temple is in there. Justice would be served.