Temple, regular season conference champs, still have work to do to earn NCAA Tournament berth

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The 2015-16 season for the Temple Owls marked their 36th 20-win season (20-10, 14-4) in program history and eighth under coach Fran Dunphy.

Dunphy is projected to win the American Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year award for a second straight year after guiding the Owls to the AAC’s best record this season. Picked to finish sixth in the AAC in the preseason, the Owls proved to be battle-tested, going a perfect 5-0 against conference foes Cincinnati, Connecticut and SMU.

They enter the AAC Tournament as an NCAA Tournament bubble team and still have work to do to punch their ticket into March Madness. As the No. 1 seed, the Owls will face the winners of No. 8 seed East Carolina, who they lost to 64-61 on the road back in January, or No. 9 seed South Florida who Temple disposed of twice this season.

The Owls have been led all season in scoring by senior guard Quenton DeCosey, who’s averaging 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists on the year. As a team, the Owls have a 14-1 record this season when DeCosey scores 15 or more points.

Sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia is second on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game. Since January 27, Enechionyia has averaged 15.5 points per game as the Owls finished the season with a 9-3 record.

Getting a couple wins in the AAC Tournament is especially important to the Owls because of the teams they’ll likely have to face if they get past ECU or USF in the quarterfinals. With a win, the Owls will face either No. 4 Cincinnati or No. 5 UConn in the semifinals.

Although the Owls have beaten both teams twice this season, many bracket analysts see that game as somewhat of a play-in game, as all three teams sit firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

“I am sure any of us in this league would say we need to do our best and win games [in the AAC Tournament] to get in the NCAA Tournament,” Dunphy said. “There are a lot of us in the same boat.”

Temple advanced to the AAC Tournament’s semifinal last year before losing to eventual champion SMU. Although having a stellar record (23-10, 13-5) and marquee win (a 77-52 takedown of No. 10 Kansas) the Owls were left just on the outside of the field of 68 as the 69th ranked team. Many attributed their snubbing for not having enough wins against the top teams in the conference. The opposite can be said about this season, which is why advancing in the AAC Tournament is so crucial.

Temple plays the winner of either No.8 ECU or No. 9 USF at Noon on Friday on ESPN2.

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