Detroit Titans vs. Temple Owls: Preview, Breakdown and Prediction
Tonight’s game features two teams that are firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. According to Joe Lunardi of ESPN, the Temple Owls are currently one of the last four teams in the tourney, however, he does not have the Detroit Titans projected in the field of 68. The Owls come into tonight's game riding a three-game winning streak after losing four of their previous eight games. On the other side, Detroit has lost two of its last three road games, and will be looking to build momentum heading into the Horizon League tournament.
While Detroit and Temple are two of the most prolific scoring teams in the mid-major ranks, both have really struggled on the defensive end of the floor. In Detroit's last three games, it has given up an average of 81 points, including a season-high 94 to Wichita State last Saturday. In Temple's last six games, opponents have averaged 74.8 points per game, and the Owls have yielded 80 points or more on three different occasions. Tonight's game is set to be an offensive showcase, and should break the 150-point threshold.
For Detroit, tonight's game is a must win. The Titans went 8-5 in non-conference play, and desperately need a victory tonight to strengthen their resume. While a win against the Owls isn't going to get them in, Detroit simply can't afford to lose. The Titans will need a victory tonight, and will have to run the table to warrant consideration as an at-large bid. With a loss, Detroit will be forced to play its way in during the Horizon League Tournament.
Check out the breakdown of each team, and the major themes that will decide this game:
Detroit Titans (19-10, 11-4 Horizon)
Last season, head coach Ray McCallum and his son/star point guard, Ray McCallum Jr., teamed up to bring the Titans to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999. The McCallums have continued their success this season, and have Detroit at 19-10 behind one of the most prolific offenses in the mid-major ranks. Since the start of Horizon Leagueplay, the Titans have averaged 80.5 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting from the floor.
Detroit utilizes a remarkably fast pace of play, and are averaging 70 possessions per game, highest in the Horizon League. In tonight’s matchup with the Owls, Detroit will be looking to walk away with the W, and build on its impressive season. Earlier in the season, the Titans best the Akron Zips (currently riding an NCAA-best 19-game winning streak) and Valparaiso (1st in the Horizon League standings). A win against Temple tonight could go a long way towards Detroit's Tournament hopes.
Star Player: PG Ray McCallum
PG - #3 Ray McCallum - 6’3’’ 190 - Junior
Stat Line: 36.3 MPG, 19.1 PPG, 50.1 FG%, 34.2 3P%, 5.1 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.9 SPG
Scouting Report: Ray McCallum is a true coach’s son. He is a very cerebral player with a high basketball IQ and rarely makes a wrong decision. McCallum has a great handle, and has the ability to get to the rim at will. He is a knockdown shooter from mid-range and utilizes his crossover to create space for a pull up jumper in the lane. The overall development of McCallum’s game throughout his college career is impressive. He is currently averaging 4.6 assists per game and 4.9 rebounds per game while serving as the primary ball handler for the Titans.
Throughout his career, McCallum has struggled in Detroit’s biggest games. In McCallum’s five career games against ranked opponents he has been average at best. He has gone a combined 20 for 54 from the field (37 percent) and averaged 11 points per contest.
Strengths: Basketball IQ, Lethal Scorer, All-Around Game
Weaknesses: Performance in Big Games
Temple Owls (19-8, 8-5 A-10)
In the first two months of the season, the Owls established themselves as one of the premier teams in the mid-major ranks. Temple burst out to a 10-2 start, which included a victory against then-#3 Syracuse. Since the start of 2013, the Owls' season has been a different story, as Temple has gone just 9-6. The Owls utilize an efficient, high-scoring offense led by star point guard Khalif Wyatt. Temple turns the ball over an average of 10.6 times and have the highest assist-to-turnover ratio in the Atlantic 10.
The major reason for the Owls' recent struggles has been their inability to get stops on the defensive end. Temple is currently surrendering an average of 70.2 points per game, and has allowed opponents to shoot 37.4% from behind the arc. Recently, the Owls have shown signs of turning it around, and have won their last three games after going 4-4 over their previous eight. In tonight's mid-major matchup, the Owls will be looking to build momentum going into the tourney.
Star Player: PG Khalif Wyatt
PG - #1 Khalif Wyatt - 6'4'' 210 - Senior
Stat Line: 32.9 MPG, 19.4 PPG, 43 FG%, 34.5 3P%, 4.1 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG
Scouting Report: Simply put, Khalif Wyatt is a shot-taker, and a shot-maker. He will hoist from anywhere on the court, and make some of the most bizarre looking shots you have ever seen. Wyatt is an exceptional scorer, and uses his strength to get anywhere on the court. While he has struggled with his efficiency throughout the season, he is currently leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring with an average of 19.4 points per game. Wyatt is primarily a three-point marksman, as 46% of his shot attempts come from behind the arc. The biggest weakness in Wyatt's game is his ball security. He is currently No.8 in the A-10 in turnovers with an average of 3.1 turnovers per game.
Strengths: Prolific Scorer, Excellent Shooter with Deep Range
Weaknesses: Ball Security, Inefficeincy
3 Keys to the Game: #1 - Who Will Win the Point Guard Matchup?
They key to tonight’s game will be the matchup between Khalif Wyatt and Ray McCallum at the point guard position. Both players are lethal scorers and excellent on-ball defenders. For Wyatt and Temple, the key will be limiting the penetration opportunities of McCallum. McCallum is a relentless attacker, and 42 percent of his shot attempts have come at the rim. The defensive rotation of Temple is vital. The Owls need to provide constant help defense and not allow McCallum to turn the corner and get into the lane. While he is remarkably effective in either role, Temple needs to force McCallum to be a facilitator, not a scorer.
For McCallum, his scouting report for Wyatt is very simple: force him to take bad shots. Khalif Wyatt is currently using 30.3 percent of Temple's possessions, but is shooting only 43 percent on the year. Wyatt consistently settles for long two-pointers and contested threes, and he is converting just 35 percent of his jump shots this season. McCallum is a great defender, and uses his acceleration and quick hands to turn defense into offense. This is what gives him the advantage in this positional matchup. With Wyatt's turnover issue and inefficiency from the field, McCallum will be able to limit his production, and force Temple's auxiliary scorers to step up.
3 Keys to the Game: #2 - Which Team Can Set the Pace?
Tonight’s game is set to be one of the higher scoring games of the week. Both Detroit and Temple possess excellent scoring offenses, but are below-average on the defensive end. They have been successful this year simply because they outscore their competition. In Detroit's last three games, it has given up an average of 81 points, including a season-high 94 to Wichita State last Saturday. In Temple's last six games, opponents have averaged 74.8 points per game, and the Owls have yielded 80 points or more on three occasions. Overall, tonight's game is set to be a shoot-out, and the winner will be the first team to get to 80 points.
3 Keys to the Game: #3 - Can the Owls Stop Nick Minnerath?
For Temple, the major matchup issue is its ability to defend Detroit forward Nick Minnerath. Minnerath is a stretch-four with range out to the perimeter, and he has been absolutely on fire over the last two weeks. In his last four games, he has averaged 25.2 points on 54.7 percent shooting, and has gone 11 of 24 from behind the arc. The versatility of Minnerath will force Temple to use a zone defense for parts of the game. Minnerath's combination of size and shooting touch would force a Temple big man to drift out to the perimeter, which would severely hinder its advantage on the boards. The defensive schemes drawn up by Temple head coach Fran Dunphy will be key. If Temple is going to win the game, it simply can't allow Minnerath to get going.
In tonight's matchup, I see Detroit going into the Liacouras Center and coming out with a W. The Titans' offense has been firing on all cylinders lately as a result of the light-out shooting of Minnerath. The most important aspect of the game will be the battle at the point guard spot. Ray McCallum is the perfect matchup for Khalif Wyatt, and will limit the Owls' star offensively by forcing him to take contested jumpers from outside of 15-feet. A win tonight would be a great resume builder for Detroit, and would put the Titans one step closer to an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament
Detroit 84 - Temple 81