Admit it. Regardless of what happens during tomorrow's game, being in the NCAA's is way more exciting than winning the NIT. Nittany Nation has been all a buzz since we were selected to face the Temple Owls on Sunday night. Talor Battle deserves this opportunity. Who knows, he might pull a Stephen Curry and play out of his mind for a few rounds.
Temple is a familiar foe. We asked Temple blog, The Owl's Nest to give us some insight on his team. Personally, I like Penn State's chances to get to the Sweet 16, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. We just have to take it one game at a time, one game at a time....everybody into it!
QBsneak12: A lot has been made of the Penn State/Temple scrimmage that took place during preseason this year. By all accounts, Temple was the better team that day. What does Temple need to do to win on Thursday?
Owlified: Everyone knows that both of these teams are completely changed from what they were before the season started. Temple has suffered a number of injuries that have definitely altered the way we approach games. The major example is Micheal Eric, who is our team's biggest guy and the team's second leading rebounder. Coming into the year, we thought that we would have more depth in the frontcourt then what we have. Forward Craig Williams missed this year to foot problems, and Anthony Lee had back surgery right before the year began. That left us with Lavoy Allen and Micheal Eric being the only two bigs on scholarship. A season-ending knee injury to Eric has put much more pressure and responsibility on Lavoy Allen.
Scootie Randall was also injured a few weeks ago and he was another major rebounder. Bottom line, Temple needs to rebound and hold Penn State to one shot opportunities on O.
QBsneak12: What are your thoughts on the game being played in Tuscon? Do you think the selection committee made a mistake?
Owlified: Of course. The fact that Temple and Penn State are relatively close really doesn't mean much at this point. It would have made much more sense if the two teams were playing closer east like in DC. Temple played in Miami last year and had a decent showing. Playing in Arizona makes that much more difficult. I'm sure that Nittany Lion fans will make the trip, but you can throw out any type of "fan advantage".
QBsneak12: How concerned are you that this Temple team didn't win the regular season or conference A-10 Championship?
Owlified: Not at all. This might even be a good thing. All three years that Temple won the A10 Championship they were eliminated in the first round of the tournament. I would trade the 2011 trophy for a tournament win in a heartbeat. I heard the other day (and didn't realize) that there wasn't a single time this season that Temple lost more than one game in a row. Maybe that's a good sign of what is to come on Thursday.
QBsneak12: What are your three keys to the game?
Owlified: Rebound: Lavoy Allen, Scootie Randall, and Rahlir Jefferson will have to out-board Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones. When it comes to the front court, the Nittany Lions definitely have the height advantage. We can't afford to give up second chance points, and that's all determined by whoever is more successful at pulling down the rebounds.
Defend: Everyone knows the quality player that Talor Battle is. We've seen numerous times that he has the ability to just take over a game by himself. I like to think that Temple, who gives up 62 points per game, is a solid defensive team. If this is true, then most of our efforts have to be put toward Battle.
Score: If Juan Fernandez is cold, then Ramone Moore needs to be scoring. If Lavoy Allen's not scoring, someone else needs to be. We cannot shoot cold if we expect to beat Penn State. Khalif Wyatt off the bench cannot be our only source of offense. Having Scootie Randall back, a top five scorer, will hopefully contribute positively.
QBsneak12: Temple will win if...
Owlified: We limit Talor Battle's production and are able to establish ourselves in the rebounding and scoring categories.
QBsneak12: Who is a player Penn State fans should keep an eye out for?
Owlified: Watch out for Juan Fernandez. When he's playing his "A Game", he's tough to stop. Fernandez is an excellent shooter and passer. He's from Argentina and definitely brings a dimension of international basketball to the floor. He's the guy that normally runs our offense, and does a great job distributing the ball to his teammates. If he's able to knock down some shots, it's a good sign for the Owls.
QBsneak12: Temple is dealing with a variety of injuries. Scootie Randall returned to practice yesterday. Any chance he plays on Thursday, and if so how effective will he be?
Owlified: Actually, Scootie's been practicing for the past few weeks. The only thing that is holding him back from playing is that he hasn't been out of the floor for so long. The other day seemed to have impressed Coach Dunphy and the rest of the staff, so there's a good chance that we'll have Randall back for this game.
It's important and very beneficial that Temple has Scootie Randall back in this game. He is arguably the team's best defender, and definitely establishes himself in the paint when it comes to rebounding. Randall is one of the team's best three ball shooters, and when he's knocking down shots there's a good chance that the entire team is playing well.
QBsneak12: Fran Dunphy is 1-12 in NCAA tournament games (losing 11 straight). What makes you think this is the year he will finally earn win number 2?
Owlified: No offense to the Quakers, but in my opinion it's very unlikely that the Ivy League is making it through round one. Since Coach Dunphy arrived at Temple, we've had some extremely tough draws. We played against a Michigan State team back in 2008 that went to the Sweet 16, an Arizona State squad in 2009 that was a difficult game, and a "Cinderella" Cornell squad that knocked off us and #4 Wisconsin to get to the Sweet 16.
I feel like we actually earned a decent draw this time. I believe this is the year that we get to round two.
QBsneak12: Penn State and Temple squared off in the dance during 2001 with Temple getting the upper hand. That was also the last time Penn State was actually in the tournament. Don't you think it is time for a little Blue and White payback?
QBsneak12: Give us your prediction?
Owlified: I'm probably feeling much more confident than other Owls fans, but I do believe we got a very good draw for 2011. I think that this game will never get out of control, and we'll see a number of lead changes. It's going to be a down-to-the-wire defensive battle that I think the Owls can squeak out of. 65-60 TU.
QBsneak12: Bonus Question: Penn State and Temple play football in Philadelphia this season. Do you think Temple has a chance, or did they miss their opportunity last season against a down Penn State squad?
Owlified: I think it's going to be more difficult this year with an new head coach and next system implemented. I think that this past year was the best shot that we had at beating you guys, and it was difficult to see the game slip out when Bernard Pierce went down.
You never know, though.
Thanks again to Owlified from The Owl's Nest for taking time to answer some of our questions. BSD also answered some questions for The Owl's Nest. I'll link to it when they go up.