Temple's 2014-2015 season featured its highs and lows as the Owls fell just short of an NCAA Tournament appearance. After getting off to a slow start that included losses to UNLV and Saint Joseph's, the Owls began to find a bit of a groove.
Once Jesse Morgan became eligible, the Owls appeared to be a much more complete team, rattling off six straight wins, including a 77-52 rout of #10 Kansas. Unfortunately for the Owls, they would follow that streak with a three game losing streak.
They would put together a seven-game win streak after that, but would end their conference tournament hopes with a loss to #20 SMU, keeping the Owls out of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
As the #1 seed in the NIT Tournament, the Owls would reach the semifinals before bowing out to Miami. Now Temple looks to retool a bit and reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years.
Replacing All-AAC point guard Will Cummings will be no small feat for the Owls this season, especially coupled with the loss of Morgan.
Morgan was a solid threat from beyond the arc, but could be streaky at times. Cummings is definitely the loss that hurts the most.
Cummings was the Owls' leader in 2014-2015, not just in stats, but on and off the court as well. The senior point guard suffered an ankle injury early in the season, and the Owls' play at the time suffered as a result. Cummings would return from injury and lead the Owls to the brink of an NCAA Tournament berth, but would fall just short.
While the Owls may be able to combine to make up for Cummings' numbers, they will certainly miss his leadership and his ability to knock down free throws down the stretch (80.8 percent from the line).
Key Returning Players: Quenton DeCosey (12.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.2 APG); Jaylen Bond (7.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG); Josh Brown (6.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 APG)
With Temple's leading scorer from a year ago (Cummings) having graduated, DeCosey is likely to step into the spotlight and lead the way in the scoring column for the Owls. The senior saw his points per game in 2014-2015 decline a bit from the 15.4 points he averaged the year before, largely in part to being surrounded by a more talented and balanced team. DeCosey has the ability to put up big numbers and in 2015-2016 will be relied on a bit more as a leader.
Bond finally saw the court for the Owls in 2014-2015 after sitting out the year before due to transfer rules. The 6-foot-8 Texas transfer was a bit inconsistent in his first season with the Owls, but has the ability to dominate the boards. If Bond can be a bit more consistent for the Owls this season, he will provide a serious threat in the paint for Temple.
Brown should be a key cog in Temple's success this season. The 6-foot-3 junior will be tasked with taking the reins at point guard after Cummings graduated. Brown may not be quite the scorer that Cummings was, but is a very strong defender and has improved year-over-year during his time at Temple.
Key Additions: G Levan Alston, Jr. (Fr., The Haverford School); G Trey Lowe (Fr., Ewing); C Ernest Aflakpui (Fr., Archbishop Carroll)
Alston, the son of former Temple guard Levan Alston Sr., comes to Temple after being named 2015 Gatorade Pennsylvania State Player of the Year and being ranked #81 in the Class of 2015 by ESPN. A First Team All-State player for The Haverford School as a senior, Alston averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
Lowe, a First Team All-State Selection out of Ewing, NJ, averaged 24.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.9 steals per game for Ewing as a senior. A 6-foot-6 guard, Lowe has great shooting range and finished his high school career with 2,492 points.
Aflakpui opened his senior season for Archbishop Carroll with three straight 16-point performances before suffering a season-ending knee injury in practice. As a junior, Aflakpui was a Second Team All-State selection and averaged 10.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Aflakpui will likely be eased into things after coming off such a big injury, but could be a nice addition down low for the Owls.
The Owls have a lot of production to replace after losing Cummings and Morgan. If DeCosey, Bond and Brown can all make improvements from a year ago, and the Owls get decent contributions from elsewhere, Temple could find itself in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Brown will definitely be vital for Temple's success, so it will be interesting to see how he performs with the spotlight now on him.
Another player to keep an eye on this season is sophomore forward Obi Enechionyia. As a freshman, Enechionyia showed great athleticism, leading the team in blocks with 45. If the Owls can get improved production from Enechionyia, they should be one step closer to returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years.
By: Kyle Babcock
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