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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 7:00 PM

If we told you that one of the hottest teams in the nation was taking the floor Thursday Night in one of their most important conference games of the season…it might take awhile for you to figure out exactly who we mean. We’re not talking about a ranked superpower…or even a team that’s on the short list of media types for a Cinderella run. It’s a team that’s won and covered seven straight while largely staying off the national radar.

In Philadelphia they know who we’re talking about. And, folks in Dallas may be wary about this team too. The Temple Owls have stormed into contention in the American Athletic Conference with a three-week blitzkrieg, and face league leading SMU Thursday in a game you can watch on ESPN2.

The most recent Bracketology report from Joe Lunardi has Temple as a #10 seed. That means they’re off the bubble (for now), and positioned to rise even higher if they can keep playing well. They’re certainly playing better than a #10 seed of late. It’s possible to pad your record in a league that has a lot of weaklings (like the AAC), but that seven-game stretch includes a road upset of Memphis, and a blowout of Cincinnati as a small favorite. Temple is a legitimate threat to avenge an earlier loss to projected conference champ SMU, and to make a run at first place in the AAC (SMU is 12-2, Temple 10-3…so a Temple upset creates a tie in the loss column).

Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicators stats say about the matchup…


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Temple: 101.0 per 100 possessions (#187 in the nation)

SMU: 110.5 per 100 possessions (#40 in the nation)

A huge question mark right off the bat for the Owls. How can an offense that bad be any sort of threat to a good team? First of all…they’re playing better than that ranking would suggest lately. Secondly, you’ll see in a moment that this is a team that wins with defense…which is something that doesn’t slump! Big edge to the host Mustangs in this category…but some concerns about how dangerous SMU can be in the Dance without truly scary weaponry. They’re currently projected as a #6 seed. That’s a range that’s in danger of a first round upset at the hands of a talented #11…but one that can shock an overconfident #3 in the second round.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Temple 89.7 per 100 possessions (#8 in the nation)

SMU: 93.8 per 100 possessions (#39 in the nation)

Temple has been stellar all season at getting stops. That’s hidden from the media because they play at an above average pace…and because the media stopped paying attention to the Owls after some disappointing early season results. Defense gives you a chance to hang with anybody. SMU’s also about 40-ish here. You have to respect the team’s balance, while also being skeptical of any team who’s balanced that far out of the top 25 in either category. Nice team. Scary team? Edge here to the Owls.


Pace Ranking

Temple: #118

SMU: #252

We’re not dealing with extremes here over a sampling of 300+ teams in college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy’s database. But, we definitely have “faster than average” visiting “slower than average,” which really plays into the hands of the home team. SMU will try to keep Temple out of its comfort zone. Temple will have to find ways to score with its sluggish offense in a halfcourt game. A really big test for whether or not the Owls should be taken seriously as a Dance darkhorse.


Against the Spread

Temple: 13-10 (6-13 to the Under)

SMU: 11-9-3

We included the Over/Under mark for the Owls because that combination of “horrible offense/great defense” often leads to Unders. You can deduce that they were an awful 6-10 ATS before that hot 7-0 ATS streak began. They really did flip a switch. Which version of the team will show up Thursday night?

JIM HURLEY has some ideas about that. But, he doesn’t lock himself into playing TV games. Clients only get BEST BETS! You can purchase the final word from the Thursday slate right here at the website with your credit card. There are a lot of intriguing matchups from a variety of off-the-radar conferences this evening. Oddsmakers will be overmatched! If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 any time during normal business hours.

Marquee basketball coverage continues tomorrow…as we continue to travel the nation to highlight important games for handicappers to study. Here’s what’s ahead over the next seven days in the NOTEBOOK…

Friday: Early Look…Iowa State at Texas in the Big 12

Saturday: College Basketball GameDay…UCLA at Arizona in the Pac 12

Sunday: College Basketball…Evansville at Wichita State in the Missouri Valley

Monday: College Basketball…Louisville at Georgia Tech in the ACC

Tuesday: College Basketball…Wisconsin at Maryland in the Big 10

Wednesday: College Basketball…Baylor at Iowa State in the Big 12

Thursday: NBA Special…Golden State at Cleveland on TNT

Hey, we can’t pass up the Warriors facing LeBron James and the Cavaliers next week! It will be mostly college basketball leading up to the Dance…without occasional reminders about money-making opportunities in the NBA.

Wall-to-wall basketball means day-by-day dollars when you hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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