By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Of the three city teams in the Big Dance, Temple is the biggest mystery. They were a mystery this season to Owls’ coach Fran Dunphy, and a mystery to themselves.
The Temple team that beat Virginia Commonwealth a few weeks ago would cause problems for any team in the country. Just like the version of the Owls that lost at home to St. Bonaventure and Duquesne would struggle against anyone.
Temple will play North Carolina State, an ACC at-large bid. Here is how they shape up:
When: Friday, 1:40 p.m., TBS in Dayton, Ohio, NCAA East Region first-round game
Temple: Record 23-9
Anthony Lee, F 6-9, So. (10.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, F 6-6, Sr. (8.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Scootie Randall, G 6-6, Sr. (11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg), ,
Khalif Wyatt, G 6-4, Sr. (19.9 ppg, 4.1 apg)
Will Cummings, G 6-2, So. (6.0 ppg)
Best wins: Syracuse, Saint Louis, VCU.
North Carolina State: Record 24-10
C.J. Leslie, F 6-9, Jr. (14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
Scott Wood, F 6-6, Sr. (12.1 ppg, 91.1 FT%)
T.J. Warren, F 6-8, Fr. (12.2 ppg, 61.3 FG%)
Richard Howell, F 6-8, Sr. (12.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg).
Lorenzo Brown, G 6-5, Jr. (12.5 ppg, 7.0 apg)
Best wins: Duke, North Carolina.
Summary: If we’re talking about enigmatic teams, North Carolina State blows Temple out of the water in that department. The Wolfpack began the season as ACC favorites and were miserable flops. They’re a talented team, featuring the trio of C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown and Richard Howell. But like Temple, one time they look strong, the next they’re not the same team that they were a minute ago.
They can score—N.C. State is one of the most potent offenses in the country. They can’t defend. Or don’t want to. It may depend on the moment with this team.
Temple needs to be smart with the ball and take better shots. If the Owls can play a hint of defense they have a chance. Anthony Lee, who’s scheduled to play, will be crucial to Temple’s success in keeping the 6-foot-9 Leslie and 6-8 Howard off the glass.
Prediction: Temple will not go down quietly—haunted by the putrid showing against South Florida in last year’s first-round ouster. Here’s leaning toward Temple’s senior leadership of A-10 Player of the Year Khalif Wyatt, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Scottie Randall. They won’t let that happen. Temple wins 68-65.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.