Temple had the biggest turnover of schools in the Big Five. The Owls lost four of their top five scorers from last season. Only three of the Owls’ top 10 scorers are back. Temple ranks 296th in the nation in returning minutes.
With that turnover comes a level of unknown that could be good or bad. Either the young Owls group will buy in and make some surprises in the American Athletic Conference, or it’ll be a season of growing pains.
This year’s roster is more of Aaron McKie’s players, so the Owls’ identity should be clearer in Year 2.
“We’re going to have some inexperienced guys out there, but it’s OK,” McKie said. “They get the chance to learn on the fly. This is what you sign up for.”
Expected starting lineup
The only thing certain about Temple’s lineup is that McKie will rely on his older players. J.P. Moorman, De’Vondre Perry and Jake Forrester are the only returnees who averaged more than three points per game.
The big hole is at point guard. Tai Strickland has been recovering from shoulder surgery, Brendan Barry signed in November, Jahlil White is recovering from a meniscus tear suffered in October, and Jeremiah Williams hasn’t played a minute in college.
Barry’s shooting is something Temple needs. McKie also values experience, so he has a lot of what Temple is looking for, but that position battle won’t be decided until shortly before tipoff.
“Those guys will decide,” McKie said. “It’s a comforting feeling to know that you have some versatility.”
Khalif Battle’s waiver to play in 2020 was approved on Nov. 25. Battle averaged 23.7 points as a senior in high school and was a top 100 recruit in the class of 2019. If he lives up to that billing after transferring from Butler, Battle should be starting.
“The way the game is going now, you want to have as many offensive threats out on the floor as you possibly can have,” McKie said. “It creates more spacing and driving lanes for you. [Khalif’s] a guy that can provide those things for us.”
The losers of the point guard battle will still get minutes. McKie believes that the guard positions are more interchangeable now than when he played, so players like Barry and Williams could see time on and off the ball.
A foot injury caused Damian Dunn to redshirt after playing one game. That one game makes him one of the more experienced players. Arashma Parks could also have a larger role than last season.
Freshman Nick Jourdain has rebounding ability that can translate right away, and the same can be said for Quincy Ademokoya as a spot-up shooter.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” McKie said. “We have to continue to develop these guys and get their minds and bodies ready to be elite college basketball players.”
Temple’s schedule has already been drastically altered after a 14-day COVID-19 pause. The Owls won’t get many favors.
After opening against NJIT, Temple jumps straight into conference play on Dec. 22. Not only that, but the Owls’ first three American Athletic Conference games are against the preseason top three in the AAC. Houston is the first matchup, and the Cougars are currently ranked No. 6 in the country.
Playing one game before AAC play with a completely overhauled roster isn’t ideal, but it’s the hand Temple is dealt this season.