The Owls suffered a devastating home loss to Atlantic-10 bottom-dweller Duquesne 10 days ago, and…
The Owls could also be closing in on the requisite number of wins to secure a resume strong enough to be selected as an at-large team in the NCAA Tournament.
Another 2-0 week would help Temple in both regards, starting with a rare late season non-league game against dangerous Detroit (19-10), caused by a weather postponement in December, on Thursday.
Temple (19-8 overall) has moved into a tie for fifth with Xavier – which would win the tiebreaker based on head-to-head competiton – at 8-5 n the A-10 but needs to get into the top four to avoid a first-round game. Butler and La Salle are currently 9-4.
Winning the last three league games against Rhode Island, Fordham and VCU – ironically all Rams - would likely be enough to secure one of those four byes, based on an 11-5 conference record and owning a tiebreaker over La Salle in a head-to-head situation or potentially Butler and La Salle in a three-way tie.
The early-season win over Saint Louis is looming large because the second tiebreaker after head-to-head is record against the top team in the conference. The Billikens are currently leading the way at 10-2.
That means a lot could be riding on the Owls' March 10 Sunday matinee at home against Virginia Commonwealth, which hosts Butler in a big game this Saturday.
Xavier finishes with a tough stretch of Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Butler, so it would be unlikely they would win all three – despite Tuesday night's impressive win over Memphis.
If the Owls do stumble in the finale, they'll likely be facing an uphill battle to push their way into the top five. A 10-6 record might not be enough to break into a group where Saint Louis, VCU, Butler and La Salle would each be favored to get to 11 wins.
Finishing fifth would probably set the Owls up for a first-round game against an opponent like Dayton, which dropped a one-point decision to Temple a few weeks ago. Sixth could net a number of opponents – six teams have records between 7-6 and 6-7.
And it's also probable the Owls would have to win that game to get into the NCAA Tournament.
While 22 has looked like the magic number for NCAA inclusion – and the Owls can reach that by winning three of their last four – a first-round exit would probably put them precariously on the bubble again.
Oddly, it still appears mathematically possible for Temple to wind up the top seed, likely in a scenario where a number of teams would end up tied with an 11-5 record. More than likely, Saint Louis will get to 12, but of the Billikens' last three games, two are on the road.
That the Owls are even in position to be talking byes and top seeds is a bit surprising after the home meltdown against Duquesne, which still stands as the Dukes' lone conference win. Temple has responded with three straight victories, two on the road, to right the ship.
"This was just a very good week for us," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "Any time in this league you can win two games in a week, you are feeling very good about your team. I think we do have a resiliency about us that is pleasing to watch and we have some other inconsistencies you'd rather not watch.
"These guys do not get down on themselves very long or hard. We are getting a bit more consistent in our play."
If the consistency results in a 4-0 mark over the final four games, the Owls can punch their ticket for the A-10 quarterfinals and the NCAA Tournament. But one stumble – particularly if it is to Rhode Island or Fordham – and the Owls could be arriving early to Brooklyn and needing to stay late to reach the NCAA Tournament.
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