The Temple Owls have been lacking depth since starting the season without small forward Scootie Randall. Now they're really in trouble.
After injuring his right patella last Friday in practice, center Michael Eric is expected to miss the next six weeks, taking the Owls through mid-January without two senior starters. Though Randall's injury was difficult blow to a team who relies on his leadership and consistent play, life without him was at least workable. Moving through the rest of their out-of-conference docket without Eric won't be so easy.
They'll begin today when they host the Central Michigan Chippewas in their home opener at the Liacouras Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. and can be heard on 1210 AM.
With Scootie rehabbing from a torn meniscus and Eric working to heal the same right patella that ended his junior season in the month of February, Temple is now badly undermanned and undersized. The responsibly for guarding the basket on D and providing a down low presence on the offensive end now falls to red-shirt freshman Anthony Lee.
Seen fairly or unfairly as the direct successor to Lavoy Allen when recruited, Lee now finds himself in exactly the same position as a first-year player that Allen did as a fourth-year starter. The Owls were forced play the majority of their stretch run and the entirety of the 2011 Atlantic-10 tournament without Eric and Randall last season. For the next six weeks, they'll try to do it again with almost exactly the same roster, save for Lee in the place of Allen.
At 6-9 Lee is now the tallest player in rotation that features height at the guard position, but no one else over 6-6. To provide any height, coach Fran Dunphy may have to at some point turn to another red-shirt freshman in Jimmy McDonnell, who did not figure to be part of the Owls plans for this season just a month ago.
If Lee is the only option underneath, and understandably still has some development ahead of him at both ends of the court when it comes staying on the floor, then the Owls may be forced to play some five guard sets with the 6-6 Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson using his length to make up for the team's lack of size.
Whatever the set, the Owls are going to need a significant contribution from sophomore Aaron Brown. Brown saw some time at the end of last season filling in in exactly this same situation for an injured Owls squad, and showed flashes of very real talent. Dunphy told reporters at the team's media day last month that for Brown to help this incarnation of the Temple Owls, he needs to hit 3's—his particular forte—and not be a good, but a great defender. Unfortunately, Brown has found it a bit difficult to work into the flow at either end given his spotty minutes. Perhaps consistency will show up with an increase in time.
If not, then the Owls are about to find themselves in a very difficult position over the next six weeks. Upcoming meetings with Texas and Duke were daunting enough, and that was before they lost to Bowling Green last weekend. There is no game the team can feel overly confident about until Randall and Eric come back. In the meantime, they have to be careful not to drop so many games as to put due pressure on themselves to need to win the A10 tournament to secure an NCAA tournament berth.
Today's meeting with Central Michigan is the second of three consecutive MAC games for Temple. They typically have a very successful history against their football program's conference rivals. Prior to their defeat at Bowling Green last Sunday, the Owls had won 12-straight against the MAC and have held a 17-6 record against MAC teams since the 2006-2007 season, when their scheduling agreement with the conference (thanks to the football deal) first began.
What's left of the injured Owls will need to ban together to begin a new streak today.