One of the unique parts of the NCAA Tournament from the player perspective is the opportunity to play schools that typically they might not otherwise get to. That can be taken in a lot of different ways, ranging from region, to conference, to style. For the Temple Owls, their match-up with the San Diego State Aztecs tonight is most definitely a case of seeing a new style of basketball.
SDSU likes to get up and down on offense and are a stifling defensive unit, continually proving dangerous at both ends of the court. The Owls are about patience and control, characteristics that have served them very well this season on the way to 25 wins and counting.
Neither program has had much success in the NCAA Tournament in recent memory (pretty much none at all for the Aztecs) but one will emerge later today with a ticket punched to the Sweet 16. Follow along after the jump for a full breakdown of this unique matching of styles.
Temple Owls, 7-seed West Region
The Owls build around a balanced, controlled game at both ends of the court. Offensively they don't typically roll up massive scoring totals due to the slower pace that they operate at, but their efficiency is definitely in the upper echelon nationally due in large part to their impressively low turnover rate (11th in the country). They are an average shooting team in general, but rank as one of the better mid-range shooting programs in the tournament field, due in large part to the size advantage the Owls typically have in the backcourt, meaning their guards can elevate over defenders better than most.
Ironically enough for a team that doesn't usually get into foot races with the opposition, Temple is an excellent transition team, proving to be more efficient scoring the basketball in this particular setting than any other. Ramone Moore is the most dangerous weapon here as the junior guard gets a good percentage of his team leading 15.2 points per game on the break. As a whole, the Owls shoot nearly 63% in this setting, so despite only utilizing 13% of their total possessions here, the team absolutely makes the most of these chances. They also have proven to be a strong iso offensive team with a variety of players stepping up here. Juan Fernandez scores with excellent efficiency when he can operate 1-on-1 against a defender, and despite not getting the chance to often, forward Lavoy Allen is among the most efficient isolation scorers in the country at over 1.2 points per possession this season.
Not surprisingly for a Fran Dunphy coaches team, the Owls will often hang their hat on their defense. Temple has the countries 39th best adjusted defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy, limit second chances, don't send shooters to the line often and do a tremendous job of defending shots inside the arc. Overall they defend jumpers well, (struggling from the perimeter somewhat), but are devastatingly efficient the closer opponents get to the basket. On shot attempts inside of 17-feet Temple has held opposing teams to 23% shooting which is the 8th lowest mark in the country, undoubtedly this will be a major factor in tonight's game.
San Diego State Aztecs, 2-seed West Region
We've talked about the Aztecs recently and the scouting report remains the same on the Mountain West Conference power: transition offense is dangerous and their overall defense is outstanding.
As has been the case when they've matched up with BYU, SDSU had some issues chasing after a big time scorer in Devon Beitzel during their opening win over Northern Colorado, so it's possible that may be the case against the Owls, especially given the size they'll be giving up at these spots. With that said, the Aztecs have been so good at keeping shooters in check this season overall, that it's a safe bet Temple's usually reliable mid-range game may suffer at least to a degree.
Expect to see San Diego State try to take advantage of their excellence in the transition game, perhaps pushing the tempo a bit more than we've seen from them in the past. Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley get the most touches here, but the trio of Billy White, Malcolm Thomas and James Rahon all make up better than 10% of the shot attempts here and all rank in the top 10% nationally in scoring efficiency in this setting. It's rare for a team to have this many weapons on the break, but the Aztecs have utilized this luxury all season long, don't expect that to suddenly change. Also expect SDSU to have some degree of success on the offensive glass given the struggles Temple has had this season preventing interior players from scoring once securing the loose ball.
Again, the single biggest concern has to be the size San Diego State gives up in the backcourt and how Temple utilizes this in the mid-range game. The Aztecs are among the best teams in the country defending perimeter and short jumpers, but are noticeably less apt at prevent shots in that 15-18 foot range. Is this enough of a weak spot to result in a loss? Not by itself, but certainly it is a factor that will make this a competitive game throughout.