– Jan 13, 2021 7:01 p.m. PST
The Temple Owls (1-3, 0-3 AAC) will attempt to recover from a 79-68 loss to SMU in their first game in nearly two weeks recover from hosting the Central Florida Knights (3-3, 1-2 AAC). Thursday January 14th in Philadelphia. Tipping is set at noon ET at the Liacouras Center.
Between Monday’s loss to the Mustangs for the Owls and the UCF’s 68:61 loss to South Florida on January 2, these two programs have had different programs in the New Year due to Coronavirus-related issues only played two games.
With just four games (two against SMU) in the 2020-21 campaign, it’s hard to know what to think of Aaron McKie’s Temple team.
Meanwhile, Johnny Dawkins’ team have only played six games in this already cut season, but it’s easier to tell where the Knights are based on their past performances. UCF knocked out Auburn and the state of Florida and suffered a nine-point loss with the pre-season conference favorite, Houston.
Given the volume and performance of each team, it is not surprising that UCF is on the move preferred.
You have to feel a bit like McKie in his sophomore year at the helm of the Owl program after taking on Fran Dunphy. The 14-year-old NBA veteran and Philly native led his alma mater to a 14-17 record last season – a far cry from Dunphy’s 13-year run which included eight appearances in NCAA tournaments.
This season started with a 24-day delay due to COVID-19 shutdowns, and the Owls have played a total of three teams: the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Houston, and SMU (twice).
Temple managed the America East program NJIT with ease and was blown out by then. 6 Houston and lost both games to the Mustangs. The 2020-21 session brought back two starters from last year’s group – JP Moorman II and Jake Forrester – neither of whom are currently leading the team in the standings. That honor would go to 6-foot-5 security guard Damion Dunn, who averages 14.3 points per game.
Temple came into the season with low expectations after losing four of his top five goalscorers a year ago would have. And as KenPom’s second-lowest AAC squad (# 149), it’s no surprise the Owls are underdogs on Thursday.
It may be hard to believe, but this is UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins’ fifth season in the school. After a disappointing turnaround at Stanford (only one course in eight seasons on The Farm), the former long-time Duke assistant and Blue Devil standout player has apparently found his place as the leader of the Knights.
UCF is in the preseason poll ranked eighth at the American Athletic Conference and is currently the seventh best AAC team in 91st place overall. But the Knights have done well so far considering they’ve played the fourth toughest schedule in the country.
Senior Guard Brandon Mahan is making the way for UCF averaging 17.5 points a night. The previous Texas transfer A&M hit a career high of 32 points in the season win in Central Florida, an 86-74 win over then No. 15 Florida State in Tallahassee that started the Seminoles’ home winning streak in 27 games.
Mahan and the knights have only played three games since their victory on December 19, and have played 1-2 since then. But rest assured, Dawkins will have Mahan and the rest of his knights ready by Thursday.
After Houston, second place in the AAC is up for grabs. Central Florida is certainly part of that mix.
The Knights are part of a series of programs rated between 55 and 91 by KenPom. This means that every conference game counts all the more, especially if UCF has only played six games so far.
With victories over an SEC team (which also played in the last Final Four) and an ACC team (which last year one A deep run and had similar hopes in the year 21) the Knights build a nice big dance to continue. A win on Thursday only strengthens the case.
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and sports content developer. He has written and produced content for as long as he can remember, with names such as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo! Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.
Blair Johnson is a seasoned journalist and sports content developer. He has written and produced content for as long as he can remember, with names such as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo! Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.
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