The AAC contains a decent number of solid basketball teams; however, it feels as if this conference was decided before the season, with Houston being as dominant as they have been. That does not mean the importance of these games goes away, as seeding for the conference tournament is important, so we’ll preview the game between Temple and Cincinnati before going over which side I’ll be backing in this one.
After going through a rough patch and losing four straight games, the Temple Owls got back in the win column on Sunday with a 76-53 win over Tulsa. The Owls now sit in 4th place in the conference standings with a 9-6 record, and if they want to move up in the standings, they will need to win their last three games and have Cincinnati lose their remaining games.
In order to win their last three games, the Owls will need to build off their most recent defensive performance. Temple had gone through a stretch of uncharacteristic defensive performances, as they had six straight games where they allowed 70 or more points to be scored. The Owls rank 113th in defensive efficiency rating according to KenPom and managed to hold Houston to 55 points, so the defensive ability is present.
The Owls' offense got back on track against Tulsa, primarily because of Damian Dunn’s 24-point performance in his first game back in the starting line-up. Temple needed Dunn to step up without leading scorer Khalif Battle, who missed the game for personal reasons.
It is unclear whether Battle will suit up tonight, but the Owls could certainly use him, especially since he had 14 points in the last meeting between these two teams while helping Temple beat the Bearcats 70-61. The Bearcats come into tonight with a 2-2 record over their previous four games but playing at a high level on the offensive end.
Cincinnati ranks 70th in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom, and has shot 47% or better from the field in their past three games. Memphis transfer Lander Nolley II has been leading the way on the offensive end recently, averaging 18.5 PPG over the past ten games.
Temple is currently listed as +8 point underdogs, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Owls have won the last three meetings between these teams outright, and in the previous six games between them, the underdog is 6-0 ATS. Road teams have recently had a lot of success in this matchup, as the visitors have gone 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings.
The possibility of not having Battle is not ideal, but the Owls have the pieces on offense to keep this game close. Hysier Miller has been shooting the ball at a high level over the past three games, and Damian Dunn can take over an offense in the absence of Battle.
Defense is where I think the Owls have the advantage tonight, though, as they are holding opponents to a 48.2% effective field goal percentage this season, ranked 78th in the country. In the last matchup between these two teams, the Owls held the Bearcats to a 38% field goal percentage and outrebounded them by 15. Cincinnati has lost the previous two games they were outrebounded, and Temple has the interior presence to do it for a second time this season.
Temple Owls (+8)