Today’s NCAA Tournament Underdog: The Temple Owls (Presented by Point 3)

Everyone loves an underdog, right? Especially when it comes to NCAA Tournament time. If you’re not moved by the Butlers of the world, there’s a good chance you’re dead inside.

In that same spirit, we bring you a contest being put on by our friends at Point 3 (in many ways underdogs themselves in the basketball apparel game), that highlights the power of those NCAA Cinderellas. This is a contest that is part of their “Choose Your Underdog” campaign, where picking the right underdog team can get you $10,000.

The contest is simple – you enter the game and pick one team seeded No. 9 or lower in the tournament. For each round they win, you win. And the prizes escalate quickly as the squads move on.

To help you out in your picks, each day this week, we will be highlighting one of our top underdogs in the NCAA field. Today’s team is No. 9 seed in the East Region, the Temple Owls.

The best team in Philly finished the season with an overall record of 23-9 (11-5 in the A-10). They racked up some impressive wins, beating Syracuse (ranked No. 3 in the country at the time), everybody’s Tourney darling St. Louis, their other Tourney darling VCU, and fellow Philly field members Villanova and LaSalle. Their schedule was stacked as they also played Duke, at Kansas and at Butler (all losses for the Owls, but they acquitted themselves well, especially at Kansas).

Temple is battle-tested and is not even remotely awed by games played on the big stage. Fran Dunphy‘s guys are tough and well-coached, and unlike every other Temple team since the Aaron McKie/Eddie Jones days, they have guys who can knock down outside shots. Scootie Randall, Will Cummings, Jake O’Brien and Dalton Pepper can all knock down shots when given looks (and minutes).

Much like my preview of St. Mary’s yesterday, the story and fortunes of the Temple Owls ultimately rest on the shoulders of one player – the cold-blooded Khalif Wyatt.

Like St. Mary’s Matt Delladenova, Khalif’s games are appointment viewing for me. The 6-4 senior guard has this whole mini Paul Pierce thing going on. Wyatt’s not really an explosive athlete, he often looks like he’s moving in slow motion, but he’s crafty as hell and absolutely fearless. Wyatt has put up some massive scoring numbers this season, dropping 33 on the ‘Cuse, 26 on Kansas, 24 on St. Louis, 22 on Butler, 34 on St. Joe’s, 35 on Duquesne, and and 30 on VCU (and has multiple game-winning baskets along the way). The key thread there is that Wyatt performs best in the the biggest games and there are none bigger than the NCAA Tournament.

Temple has issues when they’re forced to go to their bench, specifically along the front line. They have strong, effective bigs in Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson and Anthony Lee, but they get in hot water when those guys – especially Lee – get into foul trouble.

The Owls have a tough first-round game against No. 8-seed N.C. State and then a monumental matchup against Indiana in Round 2. The thing with these Owls though that they have shown time and time again this season is that on any given night, they can beat – or lose to – anybody in the country. On Twitter and Instagram, Wyatt has taken to calling this final run “The Last Stand.” You can be sure he’s of the mindset that he’s going to put this team on his back and carry them as far as he can possibly take them.

Check out this video on Khalif and make sure to CHOOSE YOUR UNDERDOG HERE.

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