In Atlantic City at 6:30 this evening the Temple Owls begin their run at an A-10 final berth and an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, as they face off against city rival the La Salle Explorers. The Owls come into today’s quarterfinal game after having the luxury of a first round bye. The Explorers are fresh off there thrilling 82-79 win over Duquesne yesterday after senior guard Darnell Harris drilled a 27 foot three-pointer to give the Explorers a two point lead. After a defensive stop and a made free throw La Salle advanced with the three point victory, setting up the Big 5 rivalry match.
There is no distinct advantages in having a quarterfinal bye besides gaining a day of rest and preparation. The team playing on back to back days doesn’t necessarily have the tired legs yet from tournament play, and they also have had a chance to play in the arena and adjust and settle in with the surroundings. They are already in game mode and pumped about yesterday’s thrilling victory. The team coming off the bye, Temple, has all this working against them as we head into tonights game.
With that said, Fran Dunphy seems to have his squad’s focus in the right place, and after coming off a solid finish to their season, the Owls now realize the opportunity is there for a tourney birth with a good showing in AC. Look for the Explorers to keep it tight through the first half, with Temple pulling away to a double digit win in the second half to move into the semifinals Friday night where they will play the winner of the Charlotte-UMass quarterfinal game.