Temple Owls

NCAA Tournament: Temple makes the field, will face Belmont in Fran Dunphy's final dance

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NCAA Tournament: Temple makes the field, will face Belmont in Fran Dunphy's final dance

East Region | West Region | Midwest Region | South Region

Printable bracket with game times

WASHINGTON — Zion's path to the Final Four goes through the nation's capital.

Zion Williamson and Duke are headed to DC after they were awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils sit atop the East Region, and their road to Minneapolis could include matchups with ACC rival Virginia Tech — which beat Duke without Zion — and Big Ten champion Michigan State.

But with Williamson and fellow freshman R.J. Barrett on their games, it's worth wondering who will be able to keep up with the ACC Tournament champions.

"It's tough to determine what our potential is," coach Mike Krzyzewski said Saturday. "I just want to have us play as good as we possibly can play right now. ... I hope we're in this tournament for a long time — that will make us even better."

Fifth-ranked Duke's top competition in the East comes from second-seeded Michigan State — which lost forward Kyle Ahrens to a left leg injury in the Big Ten title game Sunday — third-seeded LSU and fourth-seeded Virginia Tech. The Hokies beat Duke 77-72 on Feb. 26 after Williamson's foot injury against North Carolina.

The Blue Devils (29-5) haven't lost since Williamson returned, rolling through the ACC tourney by beating Syracuse, North Carolina and Florida State.

Krzyzewski hopes center Marques Bolden returns at some point in the tournament, which would give his team even more post depth to handle the likes of Michigan State if it came to that in the Elite Eight.

Duke opens the NCAA Tournament in Columbia, South Carolina, against the 16th-seeded winner of the First Four game between North Carolina Central and North Dakota State. A year after UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed when it beat Virginia, Krzyzewski knows not to overlook anyone.

"What I've learned along the way is not to be satisfied, not to rationalize," he said, "Because in these tough moments, rationalization can be the biggest opponent that you have at times."

Assuming Duke gets through the first round, eighth-seeded VCU or ninth-seeded UCF will be waiting. VCU star point guard Marcus Evans injured his left knee in the Atlantic 10 Tournament but is expected to return for the NCAA Tournament.

Here are some things to watch in the East Region:

Spartans' pride 

Michigan State held off rival Michigan to win the Big Ten Tournament and rolls into a matchup with 15th-seeded Bradley unsure of Ahrens' status. Guard Joshua Langford is already lost for the season, but the Spartans can still lean on Cassius Winston and strong rebounding. Michigan State has won 10 of its past 11 games and is one of the hottest teams in the country.

More injuries

Virginia Tech's Justin Robinson tweeted Sunday he's ready to return after missing the past 12 games with a left foot injury. Virginia Tech opens the tournament against Saint Louis, which won the Atlantic 10 Tournament to secure an automatic bid.

Bubble in

Temple was squarely on the bubble after losing to Wichita State in its first American Athletic Conference Tournament game Friday. But Fran Dunphy's Owls — four years after being the first team on the outside looking in — didn't have their bubble burst by Saint Louis' run or Oregon's Pac-12 Tournament championship. They will face Belmont on Tuesday for the right to be the 11th seed in the East and face sixth-seeded Maryland.

"I felt like we did enough to get in, but you never know in these situations, so we're just sitting and watching and hoping," Temple guard Shizz Alston Jr. said after losing in the AAC Tournament.

LSU without Wade 

LSU goes into the NCAA Tournament having won nine of 11, but coach Will Wade remains under an indefinite suspension after a report he had been caught on a wiretap talking with a person convicted of funneling money to the families of basketball recruits. LSU opens against 14th-seeded Yale, which beat Harvard to win the Ivy League Tournament.

Maryland, my Maryland 

If Maryland gets through Temple or Belmont and then LSU or Yale, it'll be playing a home game in the Sweet 16. Capital One Arena is just 12 miles from College Park and could be the site of rival factions of Duke and Maryland fans if the former ACC rivals both reach the third round.

Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

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Celebrating Temple upset Kansas and a sad friend was The Best Game I Ever Saw Live

I don’t go to a lot of games. I never did. I can’t even think of the last postseason game I saw live, which accounts for many of these strolls down memory lane. 

So while reading some of my colleagues write about the best game they’ve ever been to, I couldn’t really relate. I remember where I was when DeSean Jackson returned that punt or when Vince Carter’s baseline jumper bounced off the rim, but it wasn’t in the building to witness it.

So here it is. The best game I ever saw live was in December of 2014. I was a couple years out of college and my alma mater Temple University was hosting Kansas. A friend of mine is a gigantic Kansas fan and got tickets to see his beloved Jayhawks make light work of the Owls. He invited me and, with extremely low expectations, I joined him. 

Kansas, like always, was a top-10 team at the time. The Owls were 7-4. No. 4 Duke and No. 7 Villanova had housed Temple earlier in the season, each loss by 20 points. My friend, along with more than half of the crowd wearing blue, was treating this like an exhibition game. It was a chance to see Frank Mason and Kelly Oubre and Perry Ellis (in what I believe was his seventh season at Kansas) put on a show.

They did not.

Temple scored the first basket and never looked back. A Will Cummings three-pointer made it 12-2 before we could take off our coats. Midway through the first half, Devin Coleman came up with a steal leading to a Jaylen Bond dunk and it was 22-10. Timeout Kansas. Basketball is a game of runs and the tide can turn quickly, especially at the college level, so the Kansas crowd remained calm.  My friend was annoyed by his team’s start but panic had yet to set in.

I was all smiles. This was fun.

Temple took a 10-point lead into the half. That was nothing for a blue-blooded squad like KU. In the second half, the better team will emerge, my friend mumbled to himself.

But the second half was much more of the same. Temple was hitting everything and by the under-12 timeout the lead had swelled to 17. The Owls shot 58 percent from the field, compared to an abysmal 32 percent by Kansas. A few minutes later, Jesse Morgan knocked down a three and it was Temple, yes Temple, who held a 20-point lead. Timeout Kansas.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the game. I spent most of the night watching the joy evaporate from my friend’s face and taunting the surrounding Kansas fans looking on in disgust. The final seconds ticked away on a 77-52 blowout and the student section stormed the court. Did I join it? You bet I did. I remember being on the court, surrounded by kids acting like it was time to cut down the nets. And I remember looking to the section where we were sitting and seeing my poor friend who just wanted to go home, standing alone looking so very sad. It was the best.

Maybe my behavior was petty at the time and maybe reliving it now is too. But hey, I don’t go to a lot of games.

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Turnovers, poor 3-point shooting hurt Temple in loss to Missouri

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Turnovers, poor 3-point shooting hurt Temple in loss to Missouri

BOX SCORE 

PHILADELPHIA — For Dru Smith and Missouri, it’s been hard not to dwell on a stunning home loss to Charleston Southern earlier this week.

Only thing to do was take it out on the next team on the schedule.

Javon Pickett scored a season-high 16 points off the bench and Missouri snapped a three-game losing streak, beating Temple 64-54 on Saturday night.

Smith added 12 points and six rebounds for the visiting Tigers (5-4), whose loss to Charleston Southern on Tuesday was one of the worst of coach Cuonzo Martin’s tenure.

“Obviously it’s been on our minds,” Smith said. “It’s something we had to learn from. We had to move on. There’s a lot of season left in front of us. I think we did a good job today using that as fuel and coming out and playing much better.”

Quinton Rose led the way for Temple (6-2) with 16 points, 10 of which came in the first half. The Owls committed a season-high 19 turnovers, including an overthrown pass in transition with a minute to go to dash any comeback hopes. They also shot 2 for 21 from 3-point range.

“They didn’t really pressure us; we were just careless with the ball,” Rose said. “Maybe it is a lack of focus. We’ll figure it out.”

Trailing by six early in the second half, the Owls reeled off the next 12 points to take their first lead since they were up 4-2. The run began with a Monty Scott 3-pointer and included a Jake Forrester dunk that electrified a previously frustrated Liacouras Center crowd.

Forrester, an Indiana transfer who had to sit out the first four games until getting cleared to play by the NCAA, finished with 11 points in his first home game for the Owls.

Pickett helped Missouri fight back to tie the game at 47-47 with eight minutes remaining, and the Tigers took the lead 53-52 on a Jeremiah Tillman transition dunk with four minutes to go. Mark Smith’s 3-pointer put the Tigers ahead 57-52 with 2:53 left, and Xavier Pinson helped close out the win with a driving layup in the final minute.

The Tigers outscored the Owls 15-2 over the final six-and-a-half minutes.

“I think we’re as good as any team in the SEC,” Martin said. “But you have to do it on the floor every night. It’s one thing for me to believe it. They have to understand and believe it. And this was a great win for us against a very talented team.”

Temple had more turnovers (11) than made field goals (eight) in the first half to fall behind 33-27 at halftime. No one on the Owls besides Rose scored until Forrester hit a free throw more than eight minutes into the contest.

Can't open the Pickett fence 

Martin credited Pickett for putting the defensive clamps on Rose, Temple’s top scorer, in the second half.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if he spends 10 years in the NBA,” the Missouri coach said of Rose. “And I thought Javon really embraced that challenge. He’s not an easy guy to defend.”

Martin also praised the energy Pickett brings off the bench, which is a role the sophomore says has helped him.

“I feel more relaxed,” said Pickett, who started 31 games as a freshman last season. “Coach all the time is telling me to be myself. I feel like I’m starting to be myself more.”

Big picture

Missouri: The Tigers avoided the slow starts that had been plaguing them, leading for most of the first half before staging their winning rally midway through the second half. They also scored a measure of revenge on an Owls squad that beat them in a thriller last year at Mizzou Arena, 79-77.

Temple: Despite Saturday’s setback, the Owls are showing promise under first-year coach Aaron McKie, who replaced Fran Dunphy. Their only losses have come to power conference teams, No. 3 Maryland and now Missouri, while they’ve beaten another Southeastern Conference squad, Texas A&M, and also Southern California on the road.

Up next 

Missouri: The Tigers return home to face Southern Illinois on Dec. 15.

Temple: The Owls host Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday in one of Philadelphia’s most intense rivalry games.