DAYTON, Ohio — One-and-done. Temple knows that’s become its reputation when it comes to the NCAA tournament, leaving the Owls with an overriding goal for their trip to Dayton.
They want to leave town with no clean clothes after a weekend-long stay.
The ninth-seeded Owls (23-9) are in the tournament for the sixth straight season. In four of the last five, they were knocked out in their opening game, including a 58-44 loss to South Florida last year when they had a No. 5 seed.
They’ll play eighth-seeded North Carolina State (24-10) on today, knowing their reputation will be up in the air along with the opening tip.
One-and-done? Or something more?
“We’ve got a little chip on our shoulder this year,” senior guard Khalif Wyatt said. “We want to prove that we can belong here and that we can make a run at this thing.”
The school with a rich basketball tradition hasn’t made a deep run in the tournament since 2001, when the Owls reached the Elite Eight. There was a seven-year gap before they reappeared at the tournament, albeit in those cameo appearances.
They lost their opening games in 2008, 2009 and 2010. They beat Penn State in 2011, finally ending coach Fran Dunphy’s record of 11 straight NCAA tournament losses — and those “One-and-Dunphy” headlines — before falling to San Diego State in double overtime.
Last year, they headed back to Philadelphia again after just 40 minutes on court. Given their expectations and their No. 5 seed, that one really hurt. And the Owls know a lot of folks filling out their brackets this year are expecting another fizzle.
“We’ve been here six straight years, and we only won one first-round game,” Wyatt said. “So the fact that people pick N.C. State is not a surprise. But that’s just added motivation for us and a chance for us to go out there and prove some people wrong.”
The Owls got a bit of good news leading up to the game. Six-foot-nine forward Anthony Lee — their top rebounder — is expected to play after getting checked out for a possible concussion after Temple’s loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament. He’s desperately needed against the Wolfpack’s bigger front line.
“He looks pretty good right now,” Dunphy said. “He practiced a little bit yesterday. We’ll do a little bit more today, and doctors are hopeful.
“We’re planning on Anthony playing. How much?
“I don’t know. He hasn’t played. He hasn’t run that much over the last week, so there’s a question there.”