Since the Owls begin conference play tomorrow night when they travel to the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., to face the Fordham Rams I figured now would be a good time to review the season so far.
For all intents and purposes the out of conference portion of Temple's schedule is finished. There are just two non-league games remaining, a Big 5 clash with Penn on Jan. 19 and a visit to Durham to face Duke on Feb. 23.
It is safe to assume that Temple will split those two games. Jerome Allen has done a lot to erase the sins of the Quakers' recent past but they should not present too much of a challenge for the Owls.
Duke is, well, Duke. A win, while not likely, would certainly put the national spotlight on the Owls program but that outcome sounds like a longshot to me - with or without Kyrie Irving.
So, barring a catastrophe, the Owls, who currently stand at 9-3, should finish their out of conference schedule 10-4. Sounds good, right? As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"
First off, five of those nine wins came against Mid-American Conference Squads due to Temple's wonderful football only affiliation with the league.. The five MAC programs (Toledo, Central Michigan, Akron, Northern Illinois and Ohio) have a combined Kenpom rating of 221. Only one of those teams owns a winning record (Akron).
Simply put, those teams are not very good. People like to complain about the damage that A10 games do to the Owls' resume but by my math the average rating of Atlantic 10 conference schools is roughly 132 - not great but not terrible either.
Still, those were five games that Temple should have won - and they did. Two blowouts and three double digit victories really do not indicate just what kind of team Temple is so let's focus on the seven major conference foes that the Owls have played against so far this year:
Four wins - Seton Hall, Georgia, Maryland and Georgetown - and three losses - California, Texas A&M and Villanova. Of the three losses, only the California game jumps out as potentially damaging. Texas A&M is now ranked, due largely to their victory over a then-ranked Temple squad in Orlando. Villanova is currently ranked seventh in the nation so while the loss was disappointing it is not shameful.
While Temple has claimed the scalps of some "name" programs those wins may not end up being as impressive as they look at first glance. Seton Hall started the season off with a lot of promise but they probably won't be much more than a mid-tier Big East team this year.
Georgia currently stands at 11-2 but the Bulldogs will most likely fall back to earth once their SEC season commences on Jan. 8 against Kentucky. Maryland certainly has the potential to do some damage in the ACC this year but that league is so tumultuous that the Terrapins could end up 10-6 or 6-10.
The victory over Georgetown is the crowning achievement of Temple's young season as the Hoyas look to be a serious threat in the Big East despite last night's setback against St. John's. This looks to be a win that will keep on giving as every time Georgetown knocks off a top ranked team their RPI will rise which means Temple's will as well.
I do not want to take away from the accomplishments of the team as the name of the game is winning and they have been doing just that. It does not matter if they played the top 14 teams RPI wise or the bottom 14 because it is all about the W's. It is just that in this era of highly complicated math equations it comes down to who you beat and who they beat and who they beat etcetera etcetera etcetera.
The Owls face a little bit of an uphill challenge due to their conference affiliation. While the A10 gets love nationally as the premier non-power conference most years there still seems to be a glass ceiling in place. Temple has been given some questionable seeds in the NCAA tournament the past few years - an 11 seed after a 22-11 campaign in 2008-09 and a 5 seed last year after winning 29 games.
As of press time, Temple's metrics are pretty good right now as their RPI is 15 and their strength of schedule is 19. The SOS will go drop as they get into the meat of conference play (playing St. Joseph's and Fordham twice really hurts) but they can keep their RPI up as long as they keep on winning.
Looking forward to next year and beyond, the possibility of those MAC games coming off the schedule and getting replaced with more mid-to-high tier power conference teams is intriguing. An 8-6 out of conference record against power conference schools (and Penn) would probably be more beneficial to the Owls in March than an inflated record full of cupcakes.