Props to the Temple Owls. Left for dead in the early part of the season, and still in a rebuilding process after longtime coach John Chaney's retirement, they put up some good wins against Xavier, U Mass, and St. Joseph's in the regular season to garner second place in an Atlantic 10 (+4) that spent February beating itself out of NCAA Tournament bids.
And last night, they won the championship over the St. Joseph's Hawks for their first NCAA Tournament berth in 6 years. Illadelph is proud of its basketball teams; both teams should hear heir names tonight during the selection show, and that's two more teams from Philly than are going to the tourney from the New York City area. I am sure the announcers will make mention of this banner day and mix in references to Temple Owls' star Dionte Christmas.
Dunphy won 10 Ivy League championships and reached nine NCAA tournaments during his 17 seasons at Penn, yet in going from 12-18 last season to 21-12, this Temple turnaround might be his finest coaching hour.
"He went to a program and started a program," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "That's not knocking John Chaney. John Chaney's entity at Temple ended, and then Fran Dunphy came in, and he changed the mindset. John Chaney's program is in the Hall of Fame with John Chaney. This is a new setting, and what Fran Dunphy has done over two years is extraordinary."
In a way, last night's win was the Owls' season distilled down to 40 minutes — a rough start, a lightbulb flickering on, a fine finish.