Temple looks to earn AAC bye and boost NCAA resume in final week of regular season
The Owls will close their regular season by visiting UConn on Thursday and hosting UCF on Saturday.
With two games to go in the regular season, Temple still has plenty of work to do to clinch a first-round bye in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, in addition to enhancing its NCAA resume.
The Owls (21-8, 11-5) need to win one game to clinch a first-round bye. They would also earn a bye if Memphis loses its final game against Tulsa. The top four AAC teams earn byes. Houston (14-2), Cincinnati (14-2), and Central Florida (12-4) have already clinched them.
This week, Temple will visit UConn (14-15, 5-11) on Thursday and then host Central Florida (22-6, 12-4) on Saturday. The Owls can still move past UCF for third place. Before facing Temple, UCF will host Cincinnati on Thursday.
The only other team that can catch Temple for a bye is Memphis (18-12, 10-7).
If Temple loses its two games this week and Memphis wins its final game, Saturday against visiting Tulsa (18-12, 8-9), Temple and Memphis would finish tied for fourth place at 11-7. The teams split their regular-season games, but Memphis would win the next tiebreaker, which is a win over the highest-seeded team.
Even though Temple went 1-1 against Houston, among the highest-seeded teams, that doesn’t count because Memphis played the Cougars only once (and lost). In a scenario such as this, the AAC moves to the next highest seed, since the teams didn’t play an opponent an equal number of times.
Neither Temple nor Memphis beat Cincinnati, but it wouldn’t have mattered since the Tigers played two games against Cincinnati and Temple played only one game.
That would make Central Florida the next highest team, and if Temple loses to UCF, the Owls would be 0-2 against the Knights; Memphis is 1-1 against UCF, so in this instance, the Tigers would earn the fourth seed and the bye.
Being the fifth seed would be the worst-case scenario for Temple. Not only would the Owls have to play the No. 12 seed in the opener, but if they won, they also would have to face the No. 4 seed (Memphis) next. The tournament is held in Memphis, so Temple would have to beat the Tigers on their home court.
As for the Owls’ next opponent, UConn started a six-game losing streak with an 81-63 loss at Temple on Feb. 6. Yet that is a bit deceiving, since four of those losses were by eight points or fewer. The Huskies have continued to play hard under first-year-coach Dan Hurley, whose team ended the skid Sunday with a 60-58 home win over South Florida.
Through Sunday’s action, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had Temple as among the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament. So with no margin for error, the Owls’ best hope is to win both remaining regular-season games and move on from there.