2015-16 College Basketball Previews: Temple Owls

Temple guard Quenton DeCosey is back to lead the Owls as they look to put up another strong season in 2015-16 after recording 26-wins a year ago.
Temple guard Quenton DeCosey is back to lead the Owls as they look to put up another strong season in 2015-16 after recording 26-wins a year ago.

Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls put together one heck of a season in 2014-15, culminating with a trip to Madison Square Gardens in the semi-finals of the NIT Tournament. They were one of the teams “snubbed” of an NCAA Tournament berth, but they made the most of their trip to the NIT.

In 2015-16, the road to repeating their performance from the season prior will be tough. With teams like Connecticut reloading with talent, and the conference getting better as a whole, Temple will see tougher tests on a consistent basis.

How will the Owls fare after last season’s success? How will Dunphy and the coaching staff manage expectations and keep the team focused on the games at hand? Only time will tell how this season plays out for Temple.

Below, you can read about what the team will have to offer in the 2015-16 college basketball season.

Who’s Missing

In 2014-15, the Temple Owls went 26 – 11 overall, 13 – 5 in AAC play, and were one of the more notable snubs from the NCAA Tournament. From last year’s roster, two key contributors have departed, taking a fair share of production with them.

Will Cummings and Jesse Morgan are gone from last season’s team, leaving a pair of holes in the Owls’ lineups this season. They combined for 26.7 points per game, which was over 33% of Temple’s overall production on the offensive end of the floor. They brought more to the team than just points, so their departures will hurt Fran Dunphy’s squad this season.

Senior guard Will Cummings was the leader of last year’s team. The 6’2” guard, who is now in the NBA with the Houston Rockets in the pre-season, made 35 starts last season while appearing in 36 of Temple’s 37 games overall. He averaged a team-best 14.8 points and put up a team-high 151 assists on the season. He was the tea’s floor general, leading the offense from the back end, and he also had the ability to hit jumpers from all over the floor and carry the team in terms of scoring.

Fellow guard Jesse Morgan, the transfer out of Massachusetts, is also gone from last year’s team. The 6’5” guard, who is from Philadelphia, averaged 11.9 points per contest, which was good for the third-best mark on the team. He shot 35.4% from three point range, making a team-best 68 three pointers on the year. The loss of Morgan’s shooting prowess will force Dunphy and the coaching staff to find another deep threat.

Who’s Returning

In 2015-16, the Owls will return a handful of talented players who know what it takes to contend in the American Athletic Conference and make a deep run in the post-season from last year’s run through the NIT. The loss of Cummings and Morgan will hurt, but they have pieces coming back who can help the Owls avoid a down year.

Returning starters Quenton DeCosey and Devontae Watson return to provide veteran leadership, while some key role players from last year’s team should see an increase in playing time. The Owls will rely on a veteran group to lead them on game nights, and rely on their younger players to bring depth and a change of pace to the court as games move along.

The go-to guy will be senior guard Quenton DeCosey. The 6’5” guard out of Union, NJ is the top returning scorer for the Owls, after averaging 12.3 points per game a season ago. He appeared in all 37 games, making 35 starts. DeCosey brings size to the guard position, coming in at 205 pounds and standing at 6’5”, which allows for him to absorb contact when driving to the lane and battling for rebounds (4.6 rpg in ’14-15).

Big man Devontae Watson returns to the starting lineup this season for his senior season, looking to become more of an impact player. Standing at 6’11” and weighing in at 215 pounds, Watson averaged 2.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while appearing in all 37 games. If Watson can come back this season with a heightened level of intensity, and a bit more muscle on his frame, he can become an interior threat for the Owls. He recorded 37 blocks on the year last season, and has quietly turned into a strong defensive presence.

Jaylen Bond, the team’s top rebounder from a year ago, should factor into the starting lineup pretty well every game this season. After making 29 starts last season, and averaging 7.6 points and a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game, The 6’8” forward showed brief flashes of shooting range last season, making him a player who could line up at either the 3- or 4-spots, giving Dunphy possibilities with his lineups.

Sophomore big man Obi Enechionyia (5.3 ppg) and junior guard Josh Brown (6.3 ppg) should also factor into the starting five this season.

The dark horse for the team could very well be freshman guard Levan Aslton. The hometown guard from Philadelphia played his high school basketball at The Haverford School, Alston is a top 100 recruit in ESPN’s Class of 2015, and chose to play at Temple over the likes of Auburn, Marquette, Harvard, Boston College, Georgetown and Virginia Commonwealth, among other programs. He’s a combo guard who has the shooting ability to be an offensive threat, but the ball handling and basketball IQ to be a pass-first point guard. His unique skill set will give the Owls an intriguing option off the bench this season.

Projected Starting Five

Guard: Josh Brown (JR)

Guard: Quenton DeCosey (SR)

Forward: Jaylen Bond (SR)

Forward: Obi Enechionyia (SO)

Forward: Devontae Watson (SR)

Schedule Notes

Last season, the Owls were an impressive 17 – 2 on their home floor, and 9 – 9 away from home, either on the road or on a neutral court. Unfortunately for Temple, their first four games of the season are away from the Liacouras Center.

To open the season, the Owls head to Annapolis, MD and the U.S. Naval Academy to take on North Carolina in the Veterans Classic. From there, they head to San Juan, Puerto Rico to take part in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Owls open up against Minnesota, then will take on either Butler or Missouri State in the next round, depending on the opening round results.

November 29th is when the Owls will have their home opener when they welcome Delaware to town. They welcome Fairleigh Dickinson to town to open up December, and both games the Owls should come away victorious.

From there, it’s back on the road for two more contests. First, they take on the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison, WI. Then, it’s an instate rivalry game with the Penn Quakers, a game that the Owls will want to win to reign supreme in the state.

Two home games stand between the Owls and AAC play, and the first is against another instate rival. The Saint Joseph’s Hawks come to town, followed by Delaware State. These two contests provide the Owls with two perfect opportunities to score victories and build up some positive momentum heading into conference play.

Temple also has two non-conference games scattered amongst their conference schedule. The first is on January 20th against La Salle, and  the second is on their home floor against the high-powered Villanova Wildcats on February 17th. Two more games against Pennsylvania programs give the Owls more opportunities for instate bragging rights.

The goal this season is simple: improve on the road and win the games on your home floor. With a limited number of non-conference games at home this season, each one becomes more important for Fran Dunphy and the Owls.

Following up a season like the Owls had in 2014-15 won’t be an easy feat this year. Coming off a 26-win season and a tie for 3rd in the conference is something that’s tough for any team to duplicate. Temple returns key pieces of the puzzle, and adds a high-profile guard, but that may not be enough to help them climb in the standings.

With the top teams in the conference returning their own fair share of talent, and other teams in the conference also getting better, it’s tough to see the Owls climbing higher than they did last season. They were on the brink of an NCAA Tournament berth last season, but may not get to that level this season. It will take a Herculean effort in AAC play to get past the likes of Connecticut, SMU, and perhaps Tulsa. However, don’t count the Owls out right away. They will still be a tremendously tough team to knock off, and may surprise a few people this season.

– T.B.