Can Temple make fortunate draw count?

The Temple men’s basketball team is in a good spot as it heads to the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Connecticut this week. The No. 4 seed brings with it a matchup with No. 5 Memphis – which just happens to be missing its best player and first-team all-conference player Austin Nichols with an injury. The Tigers have lost the last two without Nichols in the lineup.

The Temple men’s basketball team is in a good spot as it heads to the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Connecticut this week.

The No. 4 seed brings with it a matchup with No. 5 Memphis – which just happens to be missing its best player and first-team all-conference player Austin Nichols with an injury. The Tigers have lost the last two without Nichols in the lineup.

It’s a perfect scenario for the Owls to capture the last win they need to secure an NCAA Tournament berth – if they haven’t done enough to warrant a bid already, which is quite a possible.

Temple (22-9) and Cincinnati tied for third in the conference with 13-5 records. Memphis (18-13 overall) and Connecticut tied for fifth at 10-8, but the Tigers earned the fifth seed based on tiebreaker.

The pairings could have been a break for the Owls, who ended the regular season with a win over Connecticut to sweep the season series. But they had to come from behind in the second half to do so, and with the tournament in Hartford the Huskies – who need to get past a first-round meeting with No. 11 South Florida – could be the more dangerous team.

Temple won at Memphis, 61-60, earlier this season when Josh Brown hit a jumper in transition with two seconds left. Nichols scored 17 for Memphis in the game.

It was one of the better wins of the season for the Owls and helped put them in their current solid position to secure an NCAA berth after a nine-win season a year ago. A victory on Friday would also be the 500th in coach Fran Dunphy’s career, though he’s less concerned with the milestone at this point than winning and moving on.

Should the Owls advance, they would likely take on No. 1 and nationally-ranked SMU which in itself wouldn’t be a terrible matchup. The Owls lost to the Mustangs twice, though led in the second half both times, and a defeat wouldn’t be viewed negatively by the selection committee.

If Temple had been on the same half of the bracket as Tulsa and suffered a third loss to the Golden Hurricane – another American bubble team – that could have negative ramifications.

But the way it looks, if Temple wins this winnable game against Memphis, it has a good chance of seeing its name called on Selection Sunday. And at this point in the season, that’s all you can ask for.

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