It’s hard to know what to make of these Owls. They beat Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, when star Khalif Wyatt erupted for 33 points. They played Kansas tough in Lawrence, losing 62-69, and they nabbed a number of quality wins in the Atlantic 10. However, they also gave Duquesne their only conference win (at home, too), lost at home to Canisius, and went down in their first conference tourney game to UMass.
They have all of the hallmarks of a team that plays to the level of their competition. And, well, that’s not great news for the Hoosiers. The Owls can cause the Hoosiers problems if they are able to use their passing and penetration to get IU’s starters into foul trouble. It’s rather imperative for the Hoosiers hold onto the ball on offense, and on defense to make Temple a jump-shooting team. And I'm actually most worried about Yogi Ferrell looking to shoot or do a little too much, coming off of such a good game. I believe that the Hoosiers need to establish Zeller inside in this one, much like the final Michigan game.
Statistically, the main thing that jumps off the page about Temple is that they just don’t shoot very well. While they are mediocre at rebounding as a team, they are slightly sub-par nationally both from the field and from the three-point line, but they’ve maintained a decent offense by hitting their free throws (for example, Wyatt went 15-for-15 from the stripe against Syracuse) and never, ever turning the ball over. They’re 15th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, and there’s only a handful of teams that turn the ball over less. Four players average 2 or more assists a game.
Defensively, although they don’t rebound or block shots exceptionally well as a team, they do get a lot of steals, and do so without putting their opponents on the line. Three players average 6 or more rebounds, and four players average 1+ steals/game and TJ DiLeo almost joins them as a fifth player to crack that mark. Rahir Hollis-Jefferson is the only player to block at least one shot/game, though.
Personnel-wise, the Owls are not very deep, playing just 7 players in their win over North Carolina State. Perhaps that had something to do with the Wolfpack’s ability to rally? Aside from the afore-mentioned star (and Atlantic City nightlife enthusiast) Wyatt, Hoosier fans might remember 6-9 Jake O’Brien from his freshman season. He torched Tom Pritchard and Christian Watford inside and outside to the tune of 14 points and 13 rebounds in Indiana’s 67-71 loss to Boston University. O’Brien has utilized the graduate transfer rule to join the Owls this season, and is the Owls best three-point shooter. He has taken over starting at center over team-leading rebounder Anthony Lee, who has been coming bench since an injury sidelined him briefly . Fifth year senior TJ DiLeo is the only other reliable outside threat (36.8% from three), and averages about 19 minutes off the bench. 6-6 forwards Scootie Randall and Rahir Hollis-Jefferson start up front, and Randall has come back nicely after missing all of last season due to injury. Despite not being very tall or hefty, both players rack up rebounds and assists, and Hollis-Jefferson makes a lot of defensive stops with blocks and steals. Sophomore Will Cummings is currently the youngest starter, and while solid defensively, doesn’t add much except a little passing. Finally, reserve Dalton Pepper only sees about 10 minutes/game, but has Final Four experience from his 2011 run with West Virginia. It’s unlikely 6-5 frosh wing Quenton DeCosey will see much time against the Hoosiers.
As John mentioned earlier, the Hoosiers have not played Temple in the NCAA tourney since Pat Graham was warming up in the candy-striped pants. In fact, I believe that was the final win of Graham and Damon Bailey’s careers. The Owls are coached by Fran Dunphy, best known for dominating the Ivy League with his Penn teams (winning over 300 games there over a 17 year span), has lost the mustache but maintained excellence for last six years. He has guided Temple to three Atlantic Ten championships and five straight NCAA tournament appearances.
I think the Hoosiers, possessing a little more depth and a little more balance on offense, will be able to gut out this one late in the second half, but look for a tight battle where each team tries to get the other in foul trouble early. Temple is capable of springing an upset, but the margin for error for the Owls is fairly small.