Game Preview: NCAA First Round- No. 10 Temple vs. No. 7 Iowa

WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin



Veteran head coaches Fran Dunphy and Fran McCaffery have a few things in common.

Not only do they share the same first name, but also a Philadelphia connection, and an upcoming matchup in New York City.

For on Friday afternoon in Brooklyn, the No. 10 Temple Owls and No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes will meet in the South Region’s first round of the NCAA Tournament, with both coaches bringing a taste of Philadelphia to the Big Apple.

“Well, we go back very, very far,” Dunphy said. “I remember watching [McCaffery] as a high school basketball player. Very, very impressed with how good of a player he was. He went away to college for a year and then came back to the University of Pennsylvania.”

Dunphy, who is 11 years older than McCaffery, won over 300 games at Penn, the school where McCaffery both played and coached.

“I played against teams that he coached in high school,” said McCaffery. “He coached at my alma mater. Obviously, his legacy there is to the point where they could put his name on the court. I was happy to see him get the opportunity to move over and coach Temple. It’s been a great experience for him.”

Temple (21-11), who received an at-large tournament bid for the first time since 2013, made the dance for the 32nd time in program history on Sunday, but realizes that the season can end as soon as Friday.

“After we found out we were in the tournament, all that is behind you,” said Owls’ guard Quenton DeCosey. “You’ve got to prepare for the first opponent that we’re going to play, which is Iowa. So the past several days, that’s what we’ve been doing, just preparing for them and trying to get ready for Friday.”

The Hawkeyes (21-10), who were ranked as high as No. 3 in AP Top-25 rankings this season, struggled of late, losers in six of their last eight games, including a loss to Illinois in the Big Ten quarterfinals last Friday.

“A season is a series of peaks and valleys,” said Hawkeyes’ forward Jarrod Uthoff, who averages 18.9 points per game. “You peak at times, and at times you go through rough patches, and you learn from each experience. I think we’re primed and ready to go.”

Along with Uthoff as Iowa’s key perimeter shooter, junior guard Peter Jok averages 16.2 points per game, while seven-foot senior Adam Woodbury tallies 8.5 rebounds on average, making the Hawkeyes dynamic across the floor.

“They’re good players, and it’s going to be a challenge to stop them,” said Owls’ sixth man Devin Coleman. “With Jok, we’ve got to make sure we chase him around all of those screens, make sure we limit the amount of good looks that he gets. And Uthoff, he’s a good all-around player. So we’ve just got to try to limit him in any way possible.”

Temple will be led by seniors, beginning with forward Jaylen Bond, who scored 34 points in two games last weekend in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. For Decosey, who averaged a team-high 15.6 points per game, the hope is for him to find his shooting stroke, which he lost last Saturday against Connecticut shooting 4 for 17.

“Well, [DeCosey] is critically important to any success that we would have, whether that is making shots at the right time, making plays at the right time for his teammates, because he can do both of those things,” said Dunphy. “I think he’s got that capability. So he’s critical.”

While the spotlight may shine bright for an inexperienced team like Temple, 19 of the Owls’ 32 regular season games were decided within single digits, and with Temple known to thrive and rally in crunchtime situations, the scenario brings only confidence and comfort to its leaders.

“We lost a couple of close games earlier in the season,” said Bond. “So we went back to the drawing board and tried to focus on the team concepts, playing hard to help motivate us toward the end of the season.”

For Uthoff, he too is impressed with how Temple has kept composure.

“I’ve been impressed with the tempo and how they try to dictate the tempo,” said Uthoff. “They don’t panic. They play within themselves. They try to — they don’t let — they make you beat them.”

In the eyes of Iowa, the goal is not only to claim a victory in the first round, but also to advance deep in the tournament with senior leadership and experience, knowing that opportunity is soon coming to a close.

“I think the biggest thing is there’s no tomorrow,” said Woodbury. “It’s a do or die situation. We all want to go out on top in our careers and leave a lasting legacy at the University of Iowa. This is our last chance to do so.”

For Dunphy, the 2015-16 season has entailed several mood swings and nail-biting finishes, but pride and accomplishment has made the year a success.

“Every year brings a different challenge,” said Dunphy. “Every team brings a different set of dynamics with it. So this particular group seems to have enjoyed living on the edge, and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

The Owls and Hawkeyes will tipoff inside the Barclays Center at 3:10 p.m. on truTV.

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at thanslin@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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