Top 50 Team Previews: #41 Cornell
Ryan Wittman and the Big Red will try to repeat as Ivy League champs. (USA Today)
By Ryan Feldman
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Last Season: 21-13 (11-5)
Key Losses: Mark Tyndale
Head Coach: Fran Dunphy
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Luis Guzman 6-3 Jr.
SG: Dionte Christmas 6-5 Sr.
SF: Ryan Brooks 6-4 Jr.
PF: Lavoy Allen 6-9 So.
C: Sergio Olmos 7-0 Sr.
Key Reserves: Michael Eric 6-9 Fr. PF, Semaj Inge 6-4 Sr. PG, Martavis Kee 6-2 So. PG, Ramone Moore 6-4 Fr. SG
Six years of frustration finally ended in 2008 for a school with rich basketball tradition. The Temple Owls were a perennial NCAA tournament team until 2001, but the end of the John Chaney era and the beginning of the Fran Dunphy era resulted in six straight seasons without an NCAA tournament berth. Finally, the Owls knocked off rival St. Joseph's in the 2008 Atlantic 10 Tournament championship game before losing to Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Despite the loss to the Spartans, Temple fans are happy and optimistic about Dunphy and the future of Temple basketball now that they know they are back at the top of the A-10.
For the past two seasons, the Owls have been led primarily by two players. Dionte Christmas returns for his senior year while Mark Tyndale is gone. Tyndale was a do-it-all slasher/leader/gritty player who Temple will now have to replace in the lineup. Christmas has averaged 20 points per game the past two years and relies heavily on knocking down perimeter jumpers. At times, an excellent defender can lock down Christmas and stop him from getting high quality shots. It has happened, but usually Christmas still finds a way to score 20 or more points. In a handful of games last season, Christmas was shut down in the first half but still ended up scoring 20 or more points in the second half. He is especially dangerous down the stretch, as he has that killer instinct to hit the big shot and sink his opponents.
The starting point guard for most of last season was junior Luis Guzman, who seems to be the favorite to be the point guard once again this season, but it really depends who impresses Dunphy the most in practices. Guzman and senior Semaj Inge both have experience as the starting point guard for the Owls, but Martavis Kee, a sophomore who barely got any playing time as a freshman but was a big recruit, could challenge for that spot.
Sophomore Lavoy Allen and senior 7-footer Sergio Olmos started in the frontcourt last season and are likely to start again this season. Allen showed lots of promise as a freshman, especially on the defensive end. Olmos has been a project, but finally came together as a junior and was one of the main reasons the Owls made a run at the end of the season and reached their first NCAA tournament in seven years.
The top candidates to replace Tyndale on the wing are junior Ryan Brooks and redshirt freshman Ramone Moore. Brooks has been inconsistent in his first two years but has been very effective off the bench when he is on. Brooks is capable of nailing 3-pointer after 3-pointer and locking down opposing players on defense. Moore was a big time scorer in Philadelphia's Public League in high school, but he redshirted last season as a freshman. Now, the 6-foot-4 guard will be needed either in the starting lineup or as one of the first players off the bench to provide an offensive spark for the Owls.
Michael Eric, a 6-foot-9 athletic big man who redshirted last season as a freshman, will be needed to backup Allen and Olmos and play significant minutes off the bench. Eric still needs to work on his offensive skills but he can certainly grab rebounds and block shots.
Temple will add three true freshmen to the squad, but it is unknown whether or not they will get significant playing time this season. Dunphy tends to let his freshmen guards sit out as freshmen to learn the system. This hasn't always been the case, dating back to his years at Penn, but it is a strong possibility with the depth the Owls will have this season. The three freshmen are T.J. DiLeo, an athletic 6-foot-3 guard who is the son of Philadelphia 76ers assistant GM Tony DiLeo, Juan Manuel Fernandez, a 6-foot-4 late signee from Argentina, and Scootie Randall, a 6-foot-6 wing player from Philadelphia. Temple fans hope that Fernandez will be as good as a former Owl from Argentina named Juan -- Juan "Pepe" Sanchez.
One thing is certain for the 2008-09 Temple Owls. They definitely have a lot of depth. There is no reason the reigning Atlantic 10 champions shouldn't be much improved and back in the NCAA tournament once again. Last year, they lacked big men. Allen and Olmos are much better than they were a year ago, and now add Eric into the mix. Last year, they didn't have a great point guard. Guzman is better than he was a year ago and now Kee should challenge for the starting spot as well. The Owls lost Tyndale, but Brooks and Moore should combine to replace the offensive void left by Tyndale. This team is confident and ready to cruise through a much easier Atlantic 10 this season.