Temple awaits NCAA seeding after upset loss in A-10 tournament

Temple's Khalif Wyatt reacts as UMass takes the lead late in the Owls' loss. Wyatt was benched at the start.
Temple's Khalif Wyatt reacts as UMass takes the lead late in the Owls' loss. Wyatt was benched at the start. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 11, 2012

ATLANTIC CITY - From the day Temple was ousted from last year's NCAA tournament, fans wondered if the 2011-12 Owls would fare better.

Until Friday, the stars were aligned for a longer NCAA run this time around, perhaps a No. 4 seed and a trip to the Sweet 16.

But after Friday's loss to Massachusetts in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Ten tournament, the NCAA tournament committee must try to answer a tough question: Just how high a seed do the 21st-ranked Owls (24-7) merit?

Temple, the A-10's regular-season champion and tournament top seed, will get the answer Sunday evening when players and coaches gather to watch the NCAA tourney's selection show.

"It's going to be a tough two days," Owls guard Ramone Moore said after Friday's loss. "I'm not even sure if we make it to the NCAA tournament.

"If we do, that will be great."

The fifth-year senior won't have to worry about being left out of the dance. Temple's Rating Percentage Index (RPI) is 18. And its body of work is too impressive, including solid nonconference wins over No. 6 Duke and No. 16 Wichita State.

Before Saturday's games, ESPN college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi had the Owls as the No. 6 seed in the East on his Bracketology blog. He projected Temple would open the tourney against 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth in a second-round game in Columbus, Ohio.

"We will see where we are at [in the NCAA tournament] and just refocus," guard Khalif Wyatt said. "We still got a chance to do something special."


But the Owls need to play much better than they did against UMass if they expect to advance past the first weekend.

After holding a four-point lead with 8 minutes, 3 seconds remaining, the Owls made just four of their final 13 shots and committed four turnovers. Temple finished the game with 22 turnovers.

"We've just got to bring the guys together," Moore said. "I'm not sure how many days we will have to prepare if we get [in the NCAA tourney]. But we have to have great preparation, and you know, put this behind us and try to move forward."

Friday's loss was Temple's second in a four-game stretch. Both came to teams that won't make the NCAA tourney.

The 10-point setback to St. Joseph's on Feb. 25 was chalked up as just a bad game against a motivated rival. But after falling to UMass, a case can be made that the Owls lost some of their edge.

Contact Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939 or kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @pompeysgridlock. Read his blog at www.philly.com/OwlsInq

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