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Outlook considerably brighter for Temple after memorable tournament

NEW YORK - Two weeks ago, the world of Temple's basketball team was collapsing after a 57-52 home defeat to New Hampshire.

NEW YORK - Two weeks ago, the world of Temple's basketball team was collapsing after a 57-52 home defeat to New Hampshire.

Even though New Hampshire is expected to be a contender in the America East, Temple, which was coming off a 97-92 overtime win over La Salle in its opener, was expected to win that game.

At that point, the gloomy preseason predictions that had Temple finishing sixth in the American Athletic Conference seemed optimistic.

What a difference two weeks makes.

When the Owls left for Brooklyn, they were considered nothing more than fodder for some ranked teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Instead, they overcame an 18-point deficit with less than 13 minutes, 30 seconds remaining to stun No. 25 Florida State, 89-86, on Thanksgiving.

The next day, the Owls had to face No. 19 West Virginia, which had crushed New Hampshire, 100-41. The Owls shocked the previously unbeaten Mountaineers, 81-77. Temple led by 20 at halftime but then trailed by one point with less than nine minutes remaining. The Owls somehow found a way to beat a second ranked team in about 28 hours.

So the tournament win at Barclays Center raises the question: Which is the real Temple? The team that stumbled against New Hampshire and lost, 70-67, at Massachusetts, or the one that ruined the holiday for two ranked teams?

The answer is that we probably we don't know yet, but the outlook is considerably brighter today than it was two weeks ago.

When asked how much his team has grown, coach Fran Dunphy was characteristically optimistic and cautious.

"I hope a lot," he said, "but it's not going to mean anything when we play in Philadelphia next week."

Dunphy was referring to games Wednesday at St. Joseph's and Saturday at home against Penn.

Still, it's hard for Temple not to feel optimistic, especially with help potentially on the way. Point guard Josh Brown, recovering from surgery in May for a torn Achilles tendon, has been practicing and indications are he will play in the near future.

That would be huge because Temple (4-2) hasn't had much depth. Only seven players took the court against West Virginia and just eight against Florida State.

Dunphy has said he would like to use more players, but it's hard to experiment when every game is a nail-biter. Five of Temple's six games have been decided by five or fewer points.

Still, there is no doubt that the Owls are feeling much better about things. For now, that loss to New Hampshire seems as if it happened in a different season.