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Temple safely in the NCAA Tournament, two CBS basketball voices predict

“They have a real chance of surprising people ... They're a dangerous team."

The Temple bench celebrates after a Quinton Rose dunk against Central Florida at the Liacouras Center on March 9, 2019.
The Temple bench celebrates after a Quinton Rose dunk against Central Florida at the Liacouras Center on March 9, 2019.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Steve Lappas knows a thing or two about Philadelphia basketball.

Lappas succeeded Rollie Massimino at Villanova as the men’s basketball coach in 1992, where he remained for nine seasons before resigning and taking the head coaching job at the University of Massachusetts (paving the way for Jay Wright’s successful run with the Wildcats).

These days, Lappas is an NCAA men’s basketball analyst for CBS, and with Villanova limping into the NCAA Tournament, his interest has shifted to the high-flying Temple Owls, who he thinks have already punched their March Madness ticket during Fran Dunphy’s final season as head coach.

“I think right now they’re in the tournament after beating Central Florida, and I think they’re in safely,” Lappas said.

Lappas called Temple’s 78-71 win over the University of Connecticut last week, and said he was impressed with the play of Shizz Alston, who was named a first-team all-American Athletic Conference selection earlier this week.

“They have a real chance of surprising people,” Lappas said. “They’ve got two really good wings. Quinton Rose is obviously really good, [Alston] is tremendous, and the other guys all know their role. They’re a dangerous team.”

Temple (23-8, 13-5) entered the American Athletic Conference Tournament as a No. 3 seed and winners of six of its last seven games. The Owls’ first game is Friday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU, where they’ll take on the winner of No. 6 Wichita State and No. 11 East Carolina. They’ll discover if they’ve actually secured their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2016 on Sunday night during the annual NCAA Selection Show, which airs this year on CBS.

“If Temple goes on to beat a team like Cincinnati or Memphis, that would be a real quality win. So I think they can end up anywhere from a nine seed to a 10 or 11 [in the tournament],” Lappas said.

Andrew Catalon has been calling men’s NCAA basketball games for CBS alongside Lappas for the last five seasons, including last week’s Temple-UConn matchup. At this point, Catalon refers the pair as a “married couple,” and like his broadcasting spouse, Catalon said he thinks the Owls have secured themselves a place in the tournament.

“I definitely think the win over Central Florida puts them in for sure,” Catalon said. “And I think there’s space for them to move up into a higher seed depending how they play this weekend in the conference tournament.”

Catalon also praised Alston’s ability to score at any time, and said the Owls have enough young players who can shoot three-pointers that it’s possible they could get hot and surprise some people. Plus, Catalon thinks Dunphy offers the leadership necessary to keep the young team grounded.

With the AAC Tournament airing on ESPNU, Catalon and Lappas won’t get the chance to call another Temple game until March Madness begins. If and when that happens, Lappas has his fingers crossed for one possible matchup.

“I don’t know how things will line up, but how great would it be if Villanova ended up playing Temple?” Lappas asked, smiling.

» READ MORE: Temple’s Shizz Alston has come a long way from a frustrating freshman season

» READ MORE: As Fran Dunphy’s time at Temple runs short, former Owls and Penn players reminisce about their ‘complicated’ coach

» READ MORE: A look at some of Fran Dunphy’s biggest coaching wins