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October 12, 2011

Preseason Top 32: No. 25 Temple

STRENGTHS: Temple is a veteran team with only one starter gone (F Lavoy Allen). With four returning players who averaged in double digits last season, the Owls won't lack for offense, especially in the backcourt. The guard tandem of Juan Fernandez (11.2 points per game) and Ramone Moore (15.2 ppg) is one of the best in the country. Fernandez is a true point guard, but both topped 100 assists. Moore is continuing to develop as a go-to scorer. Off the bench, Khalif Wyatt was the A-10's sixth man of the year. He could be a starter this season if Temple opts for a smaller lineup. All of Temple's guards, plus F Scootie Randall, are comfortable stepping out to shoot the 3. Randall was just heating up when he suffered a season-ending foot injury in February. He'll look to pick up where he left off. With perimeter players Aaron Brown and T.J. DiLeo and freshman PG Will Cummings, Temple is blessed with guard depth.

C/F Michael Eric (6-11/240, Sr.)
F Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (6-6/200, Jr.)
F Scootie Randall (6-6/205, Sr.)
G Juan Fernandez (6-4/180, Sr.)
G Ramone Moore (6-4/180, Jr.)
F Anthony Lee (6-9/205, R-Fr.)
G Aaron Brown (6-5/195, Soph.)
G T.J. DiLeo (6-3/195, Jr.)
G Khalif Wyatt (6-4/205, Soph.)

Coach: Fran Dunphy (6th season at Temple)
Last season's record: 26-8 overall, 14-2 in Atlantic 10 (2nd in league)
Postseason: Lost to San Diego State in OT in second round of NCAA tournament
Final regular-season RPI: 30th
Last time didn't make NCAA field: 2007
WEAKNESSES: The one major loss for Temple is a big one. Allen led Temple in rebounding in each of the past three seasons. He averaged 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in his career. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson is poised to take his spot in the starting lineup; Hollis-Jefferson averaged 5.6 rebounds off the bench last season. Two key frontcourt players will return from injuries. F/C Michael Eric can score around the basket and defend well in the low post, but he's returning from a knee injury that cost him the final nine games. Meanwhile, Anthony Lee redshirted last season after back surgery. Eric and Lee are the only regulars taller than 6 feet 6.

OVERVIEW: Temple has to wonder what could have been in the NCAA tournament last season had injuries not been a factor. Despite losing Randall and Eric during the stretch run, Temple still ended two dubious streaks. By defeating Penn State, Temple won its first tournament game since 2001, and coach Fran Dunphy ended a personal 10-game NCAA tournament losing streak dating to 1995. With everyone healthy, Temple -which has won 20 games in four consecutive seasons - should be in its normal spot: contending for the Atlantic 10 title. This is a veteran group that should be hungry for a banner season.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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