Temple wants to leave final A-10 season as champs

Temple wants to leave final A-10 season as champs

PHILADELPHIA (AP) For all the traditions associated with Temple, the loaded non-conference schedule has been as much a part of the Owls' DNA as their rugged North Philly roots.

Want No. 1 seeds? How about games against Kansas, Duke and Syracuse?

Tough outs from the double-digit underdogs? Detroit is there waiting for one more chance to knock off the Owls.

Those kinds of schedules, which started under Hall of Fame coach John Chaney and continue under to seventh-year coach Fran Dunphy, are always fun for fans, who don't have to suffer through a slate of softies. It's unpleasant for those heavyweights, though. Under Dunphy, the Owls beat No. 8 Tennessee in 2008, No. 3 Villanova in 2009, No. 9 Georgetown in 2010 and No. 5 Duke last season.

Those games are all in danger of leaving Temple's schedule after the Owls bolt the Atlantic 10 for the Big East following this season. Temple's 31st season in the mid-major conference will be its last, swapping games with St. Bonaventure, Fordham and Rhode Island for regular dates with Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown. The Owls will lose all but one of those Mid-American Conference games they were obligated to play because of the football program's former affiliation with the league - but it likely spells the end of boosting their RPI with December games more fitting for late March.

``Our philosophy will change because of the kind of conference we're going into, which is arguably, still, with all the defections, the finest basketball conference in the country,'' Temple Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw said. ``Our major games will be played January, February and the beginning of March more than they were in the Atlantic 10.''

Bradshaw said he'd like to schedule one home-and-home series with an elite program and fill in the rest of the schedule with a preseason tournament and some Big 5 games.

Yes, the Owls (24-8, 13-3 Atlantic 10) are headed toward a new era in hoops next season, and they're bringing along a sparkling $58 million practice facility that blows away anything else like it among the other five city schools.

They'd like to put one final A-10 trophy in the case before they leave the conference. No program has dominated the A-10 like the Owls since they joined in 1982. They made the NCAA tournament 12 times under Chaney and have five straight appearances with Dunphy. The Owls won a record nine Atlantic 10 tournament championships and won the outright regular-season title a year ago for the first time since 1989-90.

Even with Butler and VCU joining the conference this season, don't expect the rest of the teams to feel bad the Owls are flying the coop.

``We're leaving a conference that we have great relationships with, great rivalries over the years,'' Dunphy said. ``It's one of those things that happens in college sports and in life. Change happens and we have to react to that.''

Big changes are in store for the Owls with the losses of Micheal Eric, Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, three pillars in Temple's return to national prominence over the last five years. The Owls, though, can offset the loss of all that scoring with perhaps Dunphy's deepest roster. The Owls will have three veterans in the lineup who didn't play a second last season: swingman Scootie Randall (redshirt/knee), guard Dalton Pepper (transfer, West Virginia) and forward Jake O'Brien (transfer, Boston University). Throw in Khalif Wyatt (17.1 points), forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, forward Anthony Lee and guard Will Cummings, and the Owls, picked to finish fourth in the A-10, could easily be in the hunt for one last championship.

``We just want to make it special,'' Wyatt said. ``We just want to make our mark on the league.''

Wyatt is the most intriguing Owl. His ability to score is a given and his consecutive 3-pointers in Temple's 78-73 win over the Blue Devils rocked the Wells Fargo Center. But he was benched three times because of violations of team rules, including the A-10 tourney loss to Massachusetts, and made national headlines in the summer when he was arrested on prostitution and resisting arrest charges in Atlantic City, N.J.

``I think he's paid a very steep price,'' Dunphy said, of Wyatt's embarrassment.

If Wyatt can get his act together off the court, that could mean bigger production on the court.

Dunphy will find a way to mesh the new faces with the familiar ones and put the Owls in position to clip the nets at the first A-10 tourney at the Barclays Center in New York. It's one reason why Dunphy was voted the most underrated coach in college basketball in a poll of his peers.

His failures in the NCAAs have largely overshadowed his 444 career wins with Penn and Temple.

``He may be underrated because he hasn't had that much success in the tournament,'' Wyatt said. ``But coach Dunphy is one of the best coaches in the country.''

Temple's traditional first-weekend NCAA exit (1-5) under Dunphy continued with a loss to South Florida following a one-and-done in the A-10 tourney.

``Is it helping us motivationally? Yeah, it is, because we finished poorly and we don't ever want to do it again,'' Dunphy said.

One deep run in March could be the perfect way to say goodbye to the A-10.

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Adrian Peterson's impressive day vs. the Panthers wasn't exactly supposed to happen

Adrian Peterson's impressive day vs. the Panthers wasn't exactly supposed to happen

When you don't hear from someone you wanted to hear from, you typically follow up.

But on Sunday during the Redskins' 23-17 win over the Panthers, Jay Gruden actually didn't follow up with Adrian Peterson about a plan the two first discussed leading up to kickoff.

Everyone associated with burgundy and gold should be OK with that, however, after seeing how things played out.

During his weekly, exclusive interview with JP Finlay on the Redskins Talk podcast, Gruden explained how Peterson's injury situation almost prevented the running back from posting his crucial 17-carry, 97-yard stat line. 

"I talked to him before the game, had a sit-down with him," the head coach said. "I told him I was probably only gonna use him on short-yardage and goal line if that, you know? Because I want him to heal, we have a long season ahead of us." 

Heading into Week 6, Peterson was dealing with shoulder, ankle and knee issues. Plus, he's 33 years old at a position where that number is way more common on a player's jersey than in his bio under "age."

So, Gruden's concern made some sense, especially considering how necessary a productive Peterson has been to the 'Skins' success in 2018. Problem is, the two never connected again, so the coach's pitch count was never executed.

"He says, 'Oh, just let me go early, I'll let you know how I'm doing,'" Gruden recalled. "We let him go early and I never heard from him so I just kept him in there. He played great. He's a pro, he's a stud."

For those of you now wondering if this means you should start ignoring emails from your boss or not text your buddy back and still expect success, let's not get too carried away here. In this instance, a lack of communication worked for the future Hall of Famer, but that doesn't mean it's going to work for you.



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The Redskins releasing Ziggy Hood could mean the return of Stacy McGee

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The Redskins releasing Ziggy Hood could mean the return of Stacy McGee

The Redskins released veteran defensive lineman Ziggy Hood on Tuesday, and in a vacuum, that's not major news. 

Hood has been a strong locker room presence for Washington for the last three seasons. He's played mostly out of position at nose tackle during his time with the Redskins, but he didn't complain and worked hard.

Still, Hood is a 31-year-old defensive lineman and was the last man in the Redskins rotation. 

While the Washington coaches and staff will all have plenty of good things to say about Hood, with the vocal emergence of second-year pro Jonathan Allen, Hood's leadership skills became less valuable.

It's probably not a coincidence, however, that 28-year-old Stacy McGee must come off the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list this week. McGee underwent surgery for a groin injury this offseason and was unable to practice throughout preseason.

In turn, the Redskins placed him on the PUP list, which meant he could not practice or play for the first six weeks of the season. 

Well, check the calendar — it's Week 7.

At 6-foot-3 and 339 lbs., McGee is bigger and younger than Hood. McGee is also carrying a $4.8 million cap hit this season, where Hood counted for $1.7 million.

It's the NFL and it'a a cutthroat business. 

McGee is now eligible to return to practice, and if he's ready, the active roster. If he's not ready, the Redskins have three weeks of practice time to let him continue to work back into shape.

Washington could also send McGee to the injured reserve list (ending his season) or release him. But neither of these options are expected.

Throughout the beginning of the season, McGee has been a fixture at Redskins Park, both in the weight room and on the practice fields. 

Last year, McGee played all 16 games for the Redskins and logged 44 tackles. Other players talked up his ability to absorb double team blocks, freeing up linebackers to make tackles.

Pro Football Focus graded McGee as +2.6 for the 2017 season, where Hood graded out at -26.3.

There are other options as well.

Maybe the Redskins want to give Caleb Brantley more opportunities. The team was high on Brantley going into the 2017 NFL Draft before an off-field accusation caused him to slip on draft boards. Washington signed him during roster cuts after he as released from Cleveland, but he's yet to make a gameday 46 for the Redskins. 

It's also possible the Redskins have identified another player, either a free agent or a practice squad player on another team. 

One free agent that seems wildly unlikely to fill Hood's roster spot: Junior Galette. 

While plenty of Redskins fans want to see Galette return to the Burgundy and Gold, remember, Galette plays outside linebacker and his greatest asset is speed of the edge. Whoever replaces Hood needs to be a big body, serving as a space eater along the defensive line. 

Think of it this way: Galette is a Ferrari. Hood is an F-350.

You don't want an F-350 on the race track, or a Ferrari hauling firewood. 

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