NCAA Tournament Preview West Region - First Round (10) Penn State vs. (7) Temple

Thursday, March 17 - 2:10 PM ET

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One decade later, Penn State and Temple bring an all-Pennsylvania flavor to the NCAA Tournament.

For the first time since 2001, Penn State is making its way to the NCAAs. That year, the Nittany Lions were a seven seed and won two games (including a shocking takedown of second-seeded North Carolina in the second round) - only to fall to then-11th-seeded Temple in the Sweet Sixteen in Atlanta. This time around the Lions are the 10 seed, and they get Temple in the first round. The Owls and Lions are no strangers to each other - both are located in the Keystone State, and they've matched up as recently as a home-and-home in 2008 and 2009. Both of those games were won by Temple; the last time Penn State beat the Owls was in 2000, when John Chaney roamed the Temple bench. This year, though, the Lions are hoping for something different – namely, that this encounter in Arizona will be the difference they need to pull off the upset. Many 7-10 games aren’t upsets, but this one would be; Temple easily could have been a 5 seed while Penn State could have been a 12.

While Nittany Lion coach Ed DeChellis prepares for his first NCAA trip since 2003, when he coached at East Tennessee State, the Lions will look to bounce back from a Big Ten Tournament championship game loss to Ohio State. The Nittany Lions went 9-9 in conference play and 19-14 overall, raising questions about their resume for the Big Dance, especially given their non-conference schedule's lack of big name opponents. In need of tournament wins, they did just that - beating Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State to make the final. That proved to be enough, landing them a bid. The Lions are subpar offensively, ranking 297th in points per game at 63.0. However, they rank 40th in points per game allowed and can win the low scoring games, as evidenced by their 36-33 win over Wisconsin in the Big 10 Tournament quarterfinals. The team is paced by guard Talor Battle, who scores 20 points per game and launches over 8 deep balls per game. Forward Jeff Brooks also hits double digits in the scoring column, averaging just over 13 points per game. The Lions don't get many rebounds, but they're also good at keeping opponents off the boards.

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On the other end of the floor stand the Temple Owls, holding up Philadelphia’s end in this in-state showdown. Coached by Fran Dunphy, who leads the Owls to their fourth straight NCAA tournament, the Owls are looking for something that hasn't happened since that 2001 run: advancing to the second round of the tournament. It’s been a long period of struggle in March Madness since then. Temple was upset as a 5 seed in the first round by Cornell last year. The last time Dunphy advanced past the first round was in 1994, when he was coaching Pennsylvania.

Dunphy's recipe is simple: solid defense is the first ingredient. Temple ranks in the top 70 in the nation in points allowed, assists allowed and field goal percentage. The second ingredient is unselfish play - the team ranks 33rd nationally in assists. Temple’s recipe for success also includes balanced scoring - seven players average at least five points and five players score in the double figures, led by Ramone Moore's 14.9 points per game. One of these players is forward Scootie Randall, who has missed the last seven games with injury but is looking to return for the tournament. Randall is also one of the Owls' better defenders; having him back will give the Owls some more room to work with, even against a Nittany Lion squad that struggles to score. The Owls went 25-7 on the season, finishing second in the Atlantic 10 Conference during the regular season before falling to eventual champion Richmond in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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