Full Court Press: Temple Set for Early Season Test Against UNC
It’s here, finally!
The NCAA basketball season gets started in earnest today, Friday 13th, with a ton of non-conference games filling the cable TV air waves.
Some teams may find the day to be a stroke of good fortune, but some, like the Temple Owls, may find their final destination and opponent to be downright bad luck.
The Owls, under Coach Fran Dunphy, open their 2015/16 regular season this evening against the Carolina Tar Heels.
The Heels are a consensus No. 1 pick in most of the preseason polls and loaded with all kinds of talent that seem destined for a trip to the Final Four. The game is the first time the Owls will be facing a No. 1 team in their season opener.
Perhaps the only good news for Dunphy’s Owls, is that the game is part of a Veterans Classic double header held at a neutral site (rather than the Dean Dome), the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.
Temple is coming off a better-than-expected 26-win season (26-11), with the Owls advancing to the NIT semifinals but must replace their outstanding backcourt of Will Cummings (14.8 ppg) and Jesse Morgan (11.9 ppg).
Temple returns three starters from last year’s team, including senior forward and captain, Jaylen Bond, who led the American Athletic Conference in rebounding last year with 7.9 rpg.
Senior guard Quenton DeCosey is the Owls’ leading returning scorer with 12.3 ppg last season.
The third starter is 6-foot 11-inch senior Devontae Watson (2.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg).
Junior guard Josh Brown is penciled in at the point guard and Daniel Dingle and Obi Enechionyia should provide depth in the paint.
For the second year in a row, Temple has been picked to finish sixth in the American Athletic Conference Preseason Poll. Last year, the Owls finished three spots higher and if their highly-touted freshmen class of Levan Alston, Trey Lowe and Ernest Aflakpui can deliver the Owls may be able to surprise again this year.
The opening game also pits two of the most winningest active coaches in the Division ranks between Dunphy and Carolina’s Roy Williams.
Williams has accumulated 750 wins in a 27 year career while Dunphy has 503 wins over 26 years.
Dunphy, with another solid season, will surpass the great John Chaney (516) and other icons like Princeton’s Pete Carril (525) and St. John’s Louie Carnesseca (526).
The Owls may struggle in some of their early non-conference games but should be ready to roll come January when they go head-to-head in the AAC.
One never knows about the outcome of these early season games but Carolina has way too much talent depth for the Owls, so it should be the Tar Heels in a breeze.
Realistically fans, I am thinking Temple is NIT material.
Huskies feelin’ Frisky
Coach Kevin Ollie and the UConn Huskies promise to be a legit NCAA tourney team.
Although the Huskies will miss Ryan Boatwright at guard, Seton Hall transfer Sterling Gibbs should more than make up for Boatwright’s departure.
Another transfer to watch, power forward Shonn Miller (Cornell), should add depth and defensive strength to the Huskies front court.
Along with the two transfers, Ollie can count on 7-footer Amida Brimah, guard Rodney Purvis and swing Daniel Hamilton.
Freshman Jalen Adams comes to Storrs with a lot of skill and should have an at point guard.
UConn will ease into the regular season with games against Maine, New Hampshire and Furman, before facing No. 25 Michigan (11/25) and No. 3 Maryland (12/8).
Ollie has reloaded and the Huskies should be in the AAC title chase when January rolls around along with Mick Cronin’s Cincy Bearcats.
Are you kidding me!
Siena opens the regular season this evening (11/13) in Durham, NC and the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Coach K and the defending national champs. Jimmy Patsos Saints follow that one up with a date against national runner-up Wisconsin.
I guess Patsos doesn’t believe in cupcakes!
Coach King Rice and the Monmouth Hawks head to the West Coast and Pauley Pavillion for their red-eye opener with Steve Alford and UCLA Bruins.
On Sunday (11/14), Fairfield University pays a visit to the Dean Dome and a shot at No. 1 North Carolina.
Good luck Chris
Former St. John’s All American, NBA All Star and Hall of Fame member Chris Mullin kicks off his inaugural coaching season as the Red Storm faces Wagner this evening at Carnesecca Arena (6 p.m.).
Be patient Red Storm fans, it’s going to take Mullin a few years to restore the Johnnies image, but when he does look out!
So what else is new
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies are headed for another national championship. Auriemma has everyone back, plus the nation’s top recruit, Katie Lou Samuelson.
Breanna Stewart unanimous choice for POY!!! Nothing more to say….
Keep your eye on Maryland’s top recruit, Kiah Gillespie, from Hartford Prep (Hartford, Ct). Gillespie is the real deal who should flourish in the Brenda Frese up-tempo system.
Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic
One of the hidden early gems of local college basketball season is the annual Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic held November 21 and 22 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT.
The field includes; Purdue, Old Dominion, Florida, St. Joseph’s, Vermont, Niagara, Buffalo and North Carolina A&t will compete on Saturday (11/21) with consolation and championship games played on Sunday (11/22).
The Mohegan Sun Arena offers a great venue with not a bad seat in the house. Food is great, parking plentiful and you can even hit the slots afterwards….
Next week I’ll review some of the better games played during the first week of the season…. keep shooting….
Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob
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