Life was looking rather sweet for Temple after the Owls concluded 2019 with a road win at Central Florida that improved their record to 9-3 and moved them into contender status for the NCAA Tournament.
However, 2020 hasn’t been so good to the Owls. They were routed at Tulsa, then lost at home to Houston and Tulane, with the latest defeat coming against a team that is well below them in the NCAA Evaluation Tool.
After beginning the new year at No. 35 in the NET, Temple (9-6, 1-3 AAC) has slipped to No. 83 in one of the metrics used to help select and seed NCAA Tournament teams. The Owls can help themselves very much by bouncing back with a victory Wednesday night at home against Wichita State (NET No. 9), but it’s an uphill climb from here.
“Tulane was really a damaging loss,” ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Tuesday. “Under .500 in the league isn’t going to get it done, or even .500. As a bubble team, you can’t ever lose home games to teams below you in the standings. That is just a surefire way to fall off the bubble, and they have.
“It doesn’t mean they can’t get back. They have a game [Wichita State] which is enormous for them. But that’s not a game that’ll put them in the tournament. That’s just a game that gets them back in the conversation.”
The Owls have a combined 2-5 record in Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 games. They have five likely Quadrant 1 games remaining, including the home-and-home with Wichita State, conference contests at Memphis and Cincinnati, and a Big 5 battle Feb. 16 against Villanova at the Liacouras Center.
Speaking of Villanova, which began the week No. 20 in the NET, Lunardi said the Wildcats helped themselves with their victory last week at Creighton, a team that had been above them in the NET. In Tuesday’s latest bracket projections, however, Lunardi kept them as a No. 5 seed.
“They’re knocking on the door of a 4,” he said. “They’re not a 4 yet. I have Seton Hall ahead of them as a 4, but we’ll see. Those guys play twice, though not for a while.”
Saturday’s win over Georgetown was the first of four straight games at home for Villanova. The Wildcats play DePaul on Tuesday night, then have Connecticut on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center and a Big East showdown with No. 5 Butler next Tuesday night at Finneran Pavilion.