By Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - This will be the final year Temple will play in the Atlantic Ten Conference. The Owls are hoping to go out with one more A-10 title.
Temple captured the regular season crown a year ago and is expected to contend again this season before moving to the Big East. Coach Fran Dunphy has tremendous respect for the Atlantic Ten and won’t worry about the Big East until the 2013-14 season.
“We’re leaving a conference that we have great relationships with,” said Dunphy. “We’ve had great rivalries over the years. It’s just one of those things that happens in college sports. When it’s over, we’ll set our sites on the Big East.”
Temple was picked fourth in the Atlantic Ten preseason poll, but the Owls appear to be one of the most talented teams in the conference. Dunphy has the pleasant dilemma of trying to divide up minutes between a host of players who appear ready to make an impact.
“We do have depth,” Dunphy said. This is the deepest we’ve been since I’ve been at Temple. I’m going to have to manage a lot of minutes out there.”
Despite losing several key players to graduation, the cupboard is hardly bare at Temple. Senior Guard Khalif Wyatt (17.1 ppg.) returns along with fellow-senior Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (9.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg). However, the biggest boost may come from the return of forward Scootie Randall, who missed most of last season due to a foot injury. Randall talked about what he learned sitting on the sidelines and expanding his leadership role.
“Being able to sit out and watch every aspect of the game and also help the coaches out,” said Randall. “I think it helped me a lot. Being a leader, I had to take it all in.”
Another player expected to make an impact is junior forward Dalton Pepper. The former West Virginia University standout was forced to sit out last season due to transfer rules. Pepper scored a school-record 2,207 points during his days at Pennsbury High School in Levittown and is hoping to do his part in leading the Owls to another title.
“It’s a good experience,” Pepper said. “It’s especially good playing for a program like Temple University and for a coach like Coach Dunphy.”
Temple opens its season on November 13th at Kent State.