Shooter's Chance

The odds may seem long for the Temple men's basketball team to go on a deep NCAA Tournament run. But looking back at a similar Owls' team 12 years ago shows what could be possible.

The 1999-2000 Temple men's basketball team was supposed to contend for a national championship.

Seeded second in its region, it wasn't hard to picture the Owls playing Michigan State on the final Monday of the season.

But Seton Hall and Ty Shine intervened and the Owls were bounced in the second round.

The next season, it took a miracle 10-point comeback in the final three minutes against George Washington in the Atlantic 10 semifinal for the Owls to even make the NCAA tournament, where they were seeded 11th.

But a couple hot shooting nights from Lynn Greer and Quincy Wadley led to three dominating victories and Temple reached the Elite Eight.

There's a moral to the story, and it is that last year's Temple team had a Sweet 16 or Bust mentality from the beginning of the season, veteran guards in Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore and a talented post player in Mike Eric.

But like the 2000 team, the 2012 Owls underachieved in the postseason, losing in the first round to South Florida. This year's team is more flawed than a year ago with less of a defensive acumen and occasionally deficient on the boards. It also comes in with a No. 9 seed – compared to last year's No. 5 – and a tough first-round matchup against North Carolina State.

But Temple has Khalif Wyatt. And Jake O'Brien. And as the Owls did when they made the Elite Eight 12 years ago, they have a Shooter's Chance.

In addition to Wyatt and O'Brien, who are both prolific scorers, Scootie Randall opened the season with 33 points against Kent State and can get hot and forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson – the team's best defensive player – has shown more consistency with his mid-range jumper than at any time in his career.

"I hope a kid like Jake O'Brien, who comes off the bench and makes shots like he does, or Scootie (Randall), who can make shots now and then. … Those are the things we have to do," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "Rahlir was the best player on the court with (UMass point guard) Chaz Williams the other day (in an A-10 Tournament loss). We need them all to be great on Friday."

Wyatt admitted it's been a different team, while also acknowledging the rebounding and defense have to be better than it's been.

"It's a new team, a new attitude and guys have some different things they bring to the table," said Wyatt, who leads the Owls at 19.8 points per game. "Last year we were in a different situation, we were in the Top 25, had like a 14-game winning streak. This year's been a little up-and-down.

"It's a different team, but we have some of the same intangibles.We definitely have been playing more up-tempo. (Point guard) Will (Cummings) is more different than Juan. We just have to execute at the right time."

Hollis-Jefferson is still is a defense-first player, but he acknowledged the Owls have shown they can win with their offense.

"I kind of enjoy it, I don't mind scoring the ball a bit more," said Hollis-Jefferson. "In the past we were primarily a defense-first team who kept teams in the 50s and 60s. This year we just had to go a different route.

"We all can make shots. It's hard to stop us if two or three of us are hitting shots."

Temple has scored in the 80s nine times this season, including in upsets of nationally-ranked Syracuse and Virginia Commonwealth. They've allowed 80 points five times, including upset losses to St. Bonaventure and Duquesne.

"Khalif does that on both ends of the court," said Dunphy. "He makes you a really good offensive team, because not only can he score he can really make plays. He's not a great defender, he doesn't work as hard as he should on the defensive end. He puts you in peril on the defensive end. It makes us not as solid."

Not as solid, but maybe a little more dangerous in the NCAA Tournament.

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