COACH: Fran Dunphy, four years at Temple, three years in NCAA Tournament
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HOW THEY GOT IN: Automatic bid (Atlantic 10)
MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: The Owls (56.1 points per game allowed) own one of the stingiest defenses in the country, a unit that is ranked in the top-five nationally in both field goal percentage defense (.379) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.281). That suffocating defense will be put to the test by Cornell, a team that features a big-time scorer in Ryan Wittman (17.5 points per game), the son of former NBA player Randy Wittman, and a 7-foot center in Jeff Foote (12.3 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game).
Temple won’t have any secrets in this matchup. Cornell is coached by Steve Donahue, whose mentor is Dunphy. Donahue served as an assistant at Penn on Dunphy’s staff for 10 years before taking the Cornell head coaching job. The teacher vs. pupil aspect of this game between Dunphy and Donahue — plus the fact that it’s a No.5 vs. No. 12 matchup (and we all know that at least one No. 5 beats a No. 12 seed in the Big Dance) — makes this an intriguing matchup.
GO-TO GUYS: Unlike last year, when the Owls were over-reliant on the individual brilliance of Dionte Christmas, Temple runs a more patient, equal-opportunity offense that features a troika of double-figure scorers in Ryan Brooks (14.5 points per game), Juan Fernandez (12.2) and Lavoy Allen (11.7). Brooks and Fernandez both are deadly from behind the 3-point arc, while Allen, a first-team all-league performer and the first Temple player to average a double-double since Ollie Johnson in 1970-71, can score on the low blocks and is a terrific defender near the bucket as well as good high-post passer. Spend too much defensive attention on controlling that threesome and vastly improved sophomores Ramone Moore (7.6 points per game), a slasher, and Micheal Eric (5.8), a 6-foot-11 center, can hurt you.
THEY’LL KEEP WINNING IF: The Owls follow Fran Dunphy’s simple, but effective plan. The Owls spread the wealth on offense with Brooks, Fernandez and Allen pacing the attack. That unselfish offense combines with Temple’s killer "D" to make the Owls tough to beat as the Owls proved by beating fellow 2010 NCAA tourney teams Villanova, Xavier, Siena and Virginia Tech during the regular season.
STRENGTHS: If defense wins championships — and NCAA Tournament games — then Temple is in great shape. During the regular season, Temple led the A-10 in scoring defense (56.8 points allowed) and field-goal percentage defense (.381) and was second in 3-point percentage defense (.278).
WEAKNESSES: While Temple is well-coached, plays great defense, takes care of the ball and gets quality shots, they sometimes experience scoring droughts and that can spell doom in the Big Dance. During the regular season, Temple was 11th among the 14 Atlantic 10 teams in scoring offense, averaging just 65.4 points per game.