No. 21: Temple Owls

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Midnight Madness is Friday. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 26-8 (14-2), second in Atlantic 10
Lost in NCAA tournament second round

Coach: Fran Dunphy, 110-57, 6th year (420-210 overall)

Last NCAA miss: 2007

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: That backcourt. Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez will team for roughly their 27th season together, so expect more of the same from the Owls: No turnovers, a pesky man-to-man defense and solid shooting. Hey, when you win 26, 29 and 22 games with that format, you stick with what works.

Add wings Scottie Randall and Khalif Wyatt – Temple’s two most efficient scorers – and it’s a solid, if slightly undersized foursome Dunphy can lean on. Freshman Will Cummings will fight for playing time, but that’s a tall order in this group.

And in the “media must find a new angle” department, the Owls won an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 2001, ending a long skid for the school and for Dunphy, who’d been on an even longer skid since he was at Penn. Don’t discount that relief factor.

The bad: Temple’s perimeter defense went from one of the best in 2009-2010 to one of the weakest last season. It didn’t apply to their defensive field-goal percentage overall – they rarely gave teams an easy 2-pointer – but that dropoff isn’t something Dunphy will allow again.

Also an issue? The Owls settled for jumpers far too often last season, which is understandable given their shooters, but made them one-dimensional. The defense can only do so much when the offense struggles.

Oh, and there’s no Lavoy Allen. That’s bad. Which leads me to …

The unknown: The frontcourt. Without Allen, their most consistent player and best rebounder, the post demands fall to 6-11 senior Michael Eric and 6-9 redshirt freshman Anthony Lee. Eric played spot minutes last season, while Lee didn’t play at all due to back surgery.

Then there’s freshman Jimmy McDonnell, all 190 pounds of him. At 6-10, Dunphy knows McDonnell could step in if injuries occur, but he’d rather he added some bulk first.

So yeah, there’ll be a learning curve for that frontcourt.

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