All American

The last few seasons Temple men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy expressed going 10-6 in the Atlantic 10 Conference would constitute a good year, and 11-5 would be outstanding. Typically, the Owls would hit or exceed Dunphy's goal. But this year Dunphy and the Owls (5-5) are making the step up to the American Athletic Conference. So what would be a quality year in the American?

The last few seasons Temple men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy expressed going 10-6 in the Atlantic 10 Conference would constitute a good year, and 11-5 would be outstanding.

Typically, the Owls would hit or exceed Dunphy's goal for a successful season in the league and carry the momentum into the NCAA Tournament.

They finished 11-5, 13-3, 14-2, 14-2, 11-5 in league play the last five seasons.

But this year Dunphy and the Owls (5-5) are making the step up to the American Athletic Conference. League play begins for Temple on Jan. 1 at former Atlantic 10 rival Rutgers (5-6), which is the only other team in the American without a winning record.

So what would be a quality year in the American? With two more games than they played in the A-10, the same number of wins - 10-11 – would appear to be a sound result for the Owls.

Because of their struggles in non-conference play – Big 5 rivals La Salle and Villanova are still on the schedule – a 10-8 or 11-7 season probably won't be enough for the Owls to continue their string of six straight NCAA Tournament appearances without winning the conference championship.

Fortunately the Owls have a chance to get out of the blocks strong by facing what is likely the weakest team in the league. They then travel to 8-3 Central Florida and host 9-4 South Florida for what appears to be toss-up games.

But then they welcome No. 17 Memphis to the Liacouras Center, before embarking on a tough three-game road trip to Cincinnati, La Salle and No. 15 Connecticut.

There are also two games with No. 6 and defending national champion Louisville on the schedule as it would seem to be difficult to put together any kind of long winning streak in this league.

Much like the Owls' football team, which made the move to what was then the Big East two seasons ago after graduating a strong senior class that won a bowl game, the men's basketball team is taking a step up in a rebuilding year. The football team won its first two conference games in 2012 but finished 2-6.

Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean noted last year's Owls could have contended for the Big Ten title after the Hoosiers barely survived in the NCAA Tournament against a Temple team that included five senior contributors – tops amongst them standout guard Khalif Wyatt.

But this young Owls squad has just one senior in Dalton Pepper and a number of players in significant roles for the first time.

When the league undergoes changes next year – Rutgers and Louisville will be out, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa in – the Owls should be better situated to put together a 12-6 or 13-5 mark in the new league.

But as much as the A-10 might not have received the respect nationally it deserved as a league, the American is definitely a step up. And with the youth on the Owls, it is quite a big step.

Certainly there aren't as many games against the league's bottom feeders the Owls should win and with three ranked teams at the top, the elite are even stronger.

The new challenge begins on New Year's Day.

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