Saturday, September 6, 2008

Temple: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 21-13, 11-5 A-10 (2nd)

Key Losses: Mark Tyndale (15.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.2 apg), Chris Clark (7.5ppg)

Key Returnees: Dionte Christmas (19.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Lavoy Allen (8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Ryan Brooks (8.6 ppg)

Newcomers: TJ DiLeo, Andrew "Scootie" Randall, Juan Fernandez, Michael Eric (RS), Ramone Moore (RS)

Early on last season, the A-10 looked like it was going to get as many as five teams into the NCAA tournament, but Temple was not one of them. Then conference play started, injuries and losses started to pile up for teams like Dayton and UMass, and thanks to a late push by the Owls, including an upset of Xavier on the way to the A-10 tournament championship, they ended their six-year tournament drought. That Temple team was led by Mark Tyndale and Dionte Christmas, who combined to score 36 ppg last year. Tyndale has graduated, but Christmas is will be back on campus for his senior season.

Christmas is probably the preseason A-10 player of the year, thanks to his fantastic scoring ability. He has excellent range on his jump shot, and he is tall enough (6'5" shooting guard) that he can get it off against most perimeter defenders. He can also get to the rim (he is good at trying to get to the basket when his shots aren't falling), but is not overly quick, meaning he relies a lot of pump fakes and hesitation moves. Christmas will be joined in the backcourt by Ryan Brooks, a junior two-guard (from Kobe Bryant's high school), who hasn't been a starter (tough when you play behind Christmas and Tyndale) but was the Owls third leading scorer last year. He should slide into a starting spot on the wing. Senior Luis Guzman and sophomore Martavis Kee, who was a fairly big-time recruit but struggled to see the court (six games played), should battle it out for the starting point guard spot. Also, keep an eye on red-shirt freshman Ramone Moore, who was a big-time scorer coming out of Philly.

One of the keys to this years team will be how well Lavoy Allen develops. The 6'9", 225 lb Allen was one of only two top 100 recruits to head to the A-10 last year, and he had a pretty good year, averaging 8.1 ppg and 5.7 rpg and playing very good post defense. He is joined up front by Sergio Olmos, a 7-foot senior who finally seemed to fulfill some of his potential mid-way through he junior season. Michael Eric, another red-shirt freshman, will be counted on to play a lot of minutes off the bench.

Outlook: Any Temple fan should know what they are going to get out of Christmas. Regardless of who is defending him, he is going to find a way to put up 18-20 points, and has the ability to go for 30 against anyone (Florida last year, for one). But how good Temple is this year will depend on how well last year's role players progress, and whether or not they can fill some of the production and leadership lost with Tyndale's graduation. If Brooks, who has a tendency to be inconsistent, and Allen can both develop into all-conference caliber players, Temple seems poised to give Xavier a run for their money atop the A-10.

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