The Temple Owls are off to an impressive 6-1 start to the 2018-19 college basketball campaign in coach Fran Dunphy’s final season at the helm.
With NCAA tournament resume-building wins against Georgia, Cal, and Missouri already, the Owls are in a good spot and already receiving votes for the AP top 25 and coaches’ polls.
“It was big for us to get a Power Five win on our schedule for NCAA Tournament time,” Temple guard Shizz Alston Jr. said of Tuesday’s win over Missouri (h/t Philly.com). “The committee can see that we went on the road and beat a pretty good team.”
It’s the Owls best start since 2012-13 (6-0), which is coincidentally the last time they defeated their Big Five rival Villanova and the last time the Owls won a game in the NCAA Tournament.
The next week is going to prove what this Owls team is made of. They face their biggest rival St. Joe’s (4-3) at Hagan Arena on Saturday, before a matchup with the defending national champions and 23rd-ranked Villanova (5-2) at the newly renovated Pavilion on Wednesday.
If Temple can capture those two wins, it would surely stir up the conversation in the Delaware Valley as to which local team has the best chance at a postseason run this year out of the Big Five.
Led by three lethal guards in Alston Jr., Quinton Rose, and Nate Pierre-Louis, the Owls are going to have the best backcourt in the majority, if not all, of their games this season.
Alston Jr. is averaging 17.4 points, 5.7 assists and 1.6 steals to start the year, while Rose matches him in scoring at 17.4 points to go along with 2.4 steals. Pierre-Louis, the more physical of the guards, is averaging 11.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.4 steals.
Along those same lines, Rose and Pierre-Louis are shooting over 40 percent from the field, while Alston Jr. leads the trio in three-point shooting at 38.6 percent.
This week is also a farewell week of sorts to coach Dunphy. From playing at La Salle for four years to coaching at Penn and Temple a combined 30 years, St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli is sad that this will be the 24th and final time he gets to coach against his longtime friend.
“This isn’t going to be easy,” Martelli said. “[Dunphy] is not just an outstanding coach. That’s a great man.”
Before this season began, it was announced that assistant coach and former Sixers great Aaron McKie would take over the head coaching duties following the season.
But for now, the focus is on continuing the hot start and adding more of a case for the selection committee. The Owls know more than any team in recent years how easy it is to get snubbed.
Saturday’s game against St. Joe’s will air at 5:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, while next Wednesday’s game against Villanova will air at 8:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.