Damian Dunn
Syndication: The Commercial Appeal

Could Temple make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament?

As a proud Temple University alum it’s only right that heading into March I, like many college basketball fans, have this unbridled optimism about their team making a run in the NCAA tournament.

And while this may come across as more fan fiction, here is a brief recap of Temple’s season, their key players, and their possible path to the Final Four.

Regular Season: 4th in American Athletic Conference
Record: 17-11 (10-7 in the American)

Key Games:

  • Win 72-68 @ Vanderbilt (Dec. 7)
  • Loss 66-61 vs Houston (Jan. 2)
  • Win 78-75 vs ECU (Jan. 8)
  • Win 64-57 vs SMU (Feb. 16)
  • Win 75-71 @ Cincinnati (Feb. 20)

Key Players

Damian Dunn has stepped up big time in the absence of Temple’s leading scorer Khalif Battle this season. Dunn led the Owls in scoring this year (sans Battle) at 15.2 points per game with some big-time performances including a 33-point game against ECU and a 27-point outing against Penn.

Freshmen Zach Hicks, Nick Jourdain, and Jeremiah Williams have also played key roles for the Owls all season as well as redshirt sophomore Tai Strickland. Hicks in particular has been one of the biggest bright spots for Temple’s offense.

A sharpshooter who also has the ability to hit some tough shots, Hicks has turned the tide of games with his marksmen-like shooting. He’s capable of going off on any given night as evident by his 10 three-pointers made in a game against Delaware State this year.


Path to Final Four

The path for Temple to make the Final Four would be something out of a folk tale. Heck, their path just to make the NCAA tournament, in general, would be quite the feat.

Temple will have to go through the gauntlet in order to make the big dance starting with the AAC tournament. They face Tulane in the first round and will most likely have to get through two of either Houston, SMU, or Memphis.

If Temple is to have their own Cinderella run it’ll be due to a few things. First off, the team is going to need guys like Dunn, Hicks, and even Tai Strickland to absolutely go off. I’m talking Hicks raining threes like he’s Steph Curry at Davidson. Dunn channeling his inner CJ McCollum at Lehigh. Perhaps some Juan Fernandez-type heroics get sprinkled in there as well.

Although improbable it’s not impossible. Just look at how close the 15-seed Oral Roberts came last year. It’s March and as we’ve seen, crazy things do happen.

Justin Thomas is a graduate of Temple University. While there, he was an on-air sports talk host for W.H.I.P as well as sports reporter for the Temple yearbook. Over the past few years, Justin has written for a few publications including Sports Illustrated. On top of writing for ESNY, Justin is also a Senior Writer for NetsRepublic.com and has had work featured on Bleacher Report.