Temple happy with NCAA seeding

Ramone Moore is stripped of the ball by UMass defenders.
Ramone Moore is stripped of the ball by UMass defenders. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: March 12, 2012

TEMPLE WAS scared.

The 21st-ranked Owls believed they blew a potentially high NCAA Tournament seed after an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal loss on Friday.

"Coach [Fran] Dunphy didn't even think we were going to get in after the tournament," Temple center Micheal Eric said.

Of course, Dunphy wasn't serious.

His Owls were a lock to reach the tourney, with an RPI of 20 and the 54th-ranked strength of schedule.

"But we were scared a little bit and thought about those things," Eric said.

So the uneasy Owls nervously gathered to learn their fate in the NCAA in the Fox-Gittis room of the Liacouras Center, amid university adminstrators, cheerleaders and fans last night.

Thirty-nine minutes into the event, Temple's name came up on the three monitors displaying the televised NCAA selection show.

And the seeding was better than the Owls (24-6) expected.

Temple drew the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Regional and will open with a second-round game at the Bridgestone Arena at 9:50 p.m. Friday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Owls will face the winner of Wednesday's first-round game between California and South Florida, the winner emerging as a 12th seed.

"I had my game face on the whole time, just hoping we would go somewhere," Eric said of watching brackets go by during the selection show. "I kind of listened to [coach Dunphy] with his 'Oh, we might not get picked.'

"But after I saw the fifth seed, I was pretty excited about it."

Dunphy was glad that his team was fearful.

"It worked out," Dunphy said. "You know, we didn't play our best on Friday. So I wanted that fresh in their minds."

After winning the outright Atlantic 10 regular-season title, Temple was expected to win its fourth conference tourney title in five seasons.

But following a first-round bye, the Owls suffered a 77-71 quarterfinal loss to Massachusetts. Temple committed 22 turnovers that game and shot 4-for-13 during the final 8 minutes.

"We have 22 written on our foreheads for the number of turnovers we had against UMass," Dunphy said. "There's no reason to forget about it.

"We need to remember it and move on. But never forget it."

Last season, Temple posted its first victory in four consecutive tournament appearances by defeating Penn State, 66-64, in a second-round West Regional game.

The Owls followed with a heartbreaking, 71-64, double-overtime loss to San Diego State in the third round.

"I was surprised" with the fifth seed, Eric said. "But I will take it, and I think my teammates are excited about it.

"We are just going to go back to work."

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939, kpompey@phillynews.com, or @pompeysgridlock on Twitter. Read his blog "Owls Inq," at www.philly.com/owlsinq