Written By Tom Hanslin @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA– After falling to nationally ranked Southern Methodist in the American Athletic Conference semifinals Saturday afternoon, the Temple Owls returned home to Philadelphia in hopes of a bid to the NCAA Tournament Sunday evening. Unfortunately for the Owls, their name was not called by the NCAA committee for the national sixty-eight team bracket for the second consecutive season.
However, Temple will participate in postseason play, earning one of four No.1 seeds in the National Invitational Tournament. The thirty-two team bracket begins play Wednesday evening, as the Owls will host No.8 Bucknell at the Liacouras Center in the first round of action.
If the Owls come out victorious against Bucknell, Temple would then face the winner of No.4 Pittsburgh or No.5 George Washington in the second round of play. In order for Temple to receive the NIT title, they will have to win five consecutive games, three which will take place on N. Broad Street, and two that will occur at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Temple finished the 2014-15 regular season with a record of 23-10, flipping the script entirely after an abysmal 9-22 season in 2013. Coach Fran Dunphy was disappointed with the NCAA committee’s decision, but remains eager to begin the road to an NIT championship.
“We’re disappointed,” said Dunphy. “I would have liked to be in the Tournament, but we can only control what we can control. The committee has a job, and we all have to live with it.”
Saturday marked the Owls’ third loss against Southern Methodist this year, and Dunphy believes that one more win would have convinced the NCAA brass to invite Temple to the big dance.
“We were probably one win short, and that’s the fragile nature of winning and losing in college basketball,” Dunphy said. “It’s an agonizing situation to wonder what will happen all throughout the day, but the angst is over, disappointment reigns, but hope is still out there to win another tournament.”
Senior guard Will Cummings was also disheartened by Sunday evening’s news, but insists that the team’s next opportunity will not be taken lightly.
“I thought we had a good resume,” said Cummings. “We worked so hard this year, and to not hear our name called was certainly a disappointment. Our conference needs more respect.”
The American Athletic Conference received only two bids for the NCAA Tournament, one being represented by nationally ranked and AAC Champion Southern Methodist, and the other by Cincinnati, a team that finished tied for third place with Temple in the AAC season standings.
Guards Cummings and Jesse Morgan remain as the only starting seniors, and with their final collegiate games on the horizon, the drive and determination to finish on top is still fresh in their minds.
“I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder, that anger just knowing that we didn’t get in to the Tournament,” Cummings said. “But we need to regroup, refocus, and get our sights on the NIT.”
Regardless of the postseason results, Dunphy stands proud of his players’ efforts throughout the entire season, and hopes that there are five more games left to be played.
“We won 23 games, and if you had told me before the season that we would win 23, I probably wouldn’t have signed those papers,” Dunphy implied. “I’m proud of our team and university. I wish we were included, but we’ll be in the NIT, and we’ll see what we can do in that.”