Less than a year ago, the Temple basketball team was seconds away from knocking off number one seeded Indiana in the NCAA tournament and advancing to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2001.
This year, they sit at (6-13, 1-7) and in the basement of the American Athletic Conference after a home win against Rutgers on Wednesday.
The Owls are full of young talent in Freshmen Mark Williams and Josh Brown along with Sophomores Quenton Decosey and Daniel Dingle. A team with this kind of young talent should not be where they are in the standings.
The issue that really hurt Temple for a long seven game stretch was a really short bench and a lack of scholarship athletes eligible to play. Daniel Dingle tore his meniscus early on and surgery put him out for the season. Mark Williams injured his Achilles and was out for a stretch of games. Then add a Will Cummings concussion to the list of early season injury woes.
Normally three injuries would not be too detrimental to a Division I basketball program, but it was for Temple.
On the bench of Tuesday’s game against Rutgers, Temple had four scholarship athletes in shirts and ties unable to play. Dingle is one, and the other three are transfers from other D1 schools that are ineligible to play until next season.
The Owls have 13 scholarship athletes, four are out this season, and two more being injured gives Temple seven eligible players. That is if you include Nick Pendergast, who Head Coach Fran Dunphy almost refuses to play. There isn’t a team in college basketball that wouldn’t struggle with a six-man rotation.
Fatigue has killed this team late in games. In all but 2 games this season, Temple has held a lead in the 2nd half. If Temple had a way to close out games, this season could look much different.
To add to the list of Temple’s woes this season the Owls lack a player at the end of the game to take over. Dalton Pepper has played well this season, averaging a team high 17.9 points per game, but he is more of a shooter than a team leader. Some fans look to DeCosey to be that guy, but he has not got it done late in games for the Owls.
Defense is another big issue that has haunted the Owls all year. Fatigue may have something to do with the lack of defense, but Temple ranks last in the American Athletic Conference in points allowed per game (76.4) and defensive field goal percentage (.449).
Temple’s rebounding margin this season is -3.9, which is again last in the American Athletic Conference. Anthony Lee is Temple’s true big man, but he doesn’t average double digits in rebounds per game.
Temple is coming off their first conference win against Rutgers, and the team has put their fans through a lot this season. With that said, many Temple fans will be content if the Owls can top #9 Villanova and take a share of the Big 5 title this Saturday at The Liacouras Center.