2011 NCAA Tournament Previews: Fran Dunphy and Temple Look to Snap Three Game Losing Streak in First Round of March Madness

March 15, 2011 – 9:40 am by Michael Bean

When Fran Dunphy announced he would be leaving my alma mater, Penn, to take the head coaching job at Temple, I was both devastated and happy. Devastated because I knew Penn’s reign of dominance atop the Ivy League would likely come to a screeching halt; and happy that Dunphy would have a better opportunity at building a big-time program befitting of the outstanding coach (and person) that he is. Lo and behold, Penn has quickly gone into the tank since Dunphy’s departure. (Though there’s reason to be optimistic now that one of Dunphy’s former star players is at the controls.) And not surprisingly, Temple is back on the map under Dunphy’s direction. As good as he’s been and as much praise as he deserves, the fact remains that he has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game since taking over in 2006. The Owls went Dancing the past three years, but were sent packing in the opening round all three times. Can they buck that trend in 2011 as the No. 7 seed in the West Regional? I, for one, think they will. Their first round opponent, No. 10 seed Penn State is certainly playing with a lot of confidence right now though. I’m not the only one who thinks Temple will get over the hump this year. CBS Sportsline national columnist Gregg Doyel actually has the Owls making it out of the region and advancing to this year’s Final Four in New Orleans. We’ll see about that. I’d be happy for just a win or two — enough to ensure Dunphy continues getting recognized as one of the few men who truly does embody what’s great about collegiate athletics.

Dunphy joined Harry, Baldy and Bowa on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia to talk about if he had seen where Gregg Doyel had penciled Temple into his Final Four, Temple’s first round opponent Penn State, if he’ll at any point spend any time looking at a potential second round matchup against No. 2 San Diego State, how his senior leader LaVoy Allen is no less juiced for this year’s Big Dance appearance than when Temple started their streak of four straight tournament appearances his freshman year, Penn State’s 1st Team All Big 10 star Taylor Battle, and what lessons Temple’s learned from being bounced out in the opening round for the past three years.

Whether he was aware that Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline has Temple in the Final Four:

“I was not. Was he talking to my mom?”

His thoughts on being back in the Dance, the Owls’ draw, and when they leave for Arizona:

“Well we’re thrilled to be in, no question about it. It’s one of those things where two days ago everybody was saying you guys are in no matter what happens. And it was everybody’s opinion which you obviously can’t trust whatsoever because the committee is going to do what the committee’s going to do. We were thrilled when we were announced. And then you know you’re going to play somebody’s who’s had a good stretch run, and certainly Penn State with their Big 10 Tournament run, they’re playing their best basketball of the year. We know them pretty well in that we’ve scrimmaged them already this year and watched them a lot. Interestingly enough, I was texting with Dan Earl before their game yesterday — he’s an assistant coach at Penn State and former player — so we talk a lot, we see each other a lot, so it will be an interesting contest to try to see what we can do against Taylor Battle and those guys.  And then we leave tomorrow afternoon at some point. I think they tell you when can go in terms of a flight being available and those types of things.”

On if he’ll spend much time looking at and preparing for a likely second round matchup between Temple and No. 2 seeded San Diego State:

“I appreciate the question Larry (Bowa), and what I think as a head coach is you don’t think any further than the game you have in front of you. So for example, we had LaSalle on Friday and we weren’t thinking ahead until the LaSalle game was over. You got a chance to see Richmond play the next game so you could set your sights on that right away. But you can have an assistant coach…well two assistants: one will have San Diego State, and the other will have Northern Colorado, and they’ll just look at them and if it’s decided earlier in the game, then they both might concentrate their efforts on the next team that you play. But you really as a head coach and the players, you just talk about the next game and what you can do to it. Certainly someone on your staff is looking ahead to the next game, it’s just not you.”

On if there’s any less excitement for guys like LaVoy Allen heading in to what will be their four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance than in previous years:

“Brian (Baldinger), I don’t think there’s any question of the excitement of a young athlete getting his opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. It’s what you plan for and hope for each year. And I appreciate you mentioning Lavoy Allen. I will tell you that if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if we would have been there once, let alone four times. He’s just been a rock steady guy in our program. I’ve said it so many times: I don’t know where our program would be without him. He’s just such an anchor for what we’ve been able to do, so I’m very grateful for that. But the kids, they just get juiced about being in this tournament, so I would love to have the opportunity to win a game for them.”

On Penn State star Taylor Battle and all the big shots he’s made all year:

“Well he certainly has and he’s a 1st Team All Big 10 player which is a pretty great accomplishment in anybody’s program. But he’s just one of those guys that has absolutely no fear and would love to have on your team because at the end of the game, there’s no decisions to make — you just give him the ball and everybody else gets out of the way. So as a coach it makes it a whole lot easier. But you’ve guys have all been around those type of athletes — both as athletes and as analysts now. That’s what you want as a coach, and it’s up to these guys to take over the game. So for Taylor Battle it’s easy for him to rise up and shoot a jumper. And you know what? He thinks he’s making everything. And that’s exactly what you want.”

On if there needs to be a different mindset and approach to how he coaches in this year’s tournament following three consecutive first round exits:

“I don’t think in terms of the coaching preparation, or I don’t think in terms of the strategy you might use within the game itself. But I do think there’s a constant reminder to these kids that the tougher team mentally has got the better chance of winning the game. Not only do you have to be tough and every loose ball has got to be yours and give that extra ounce of effort that it counts on the defensive end, and then you’ve got to channel it down on the offensive end and not be too crazed when you’re trying to make a shot let’s say. It’s a constant reminder of that. But certainly there’s different pressure is how it presents itself, I’d say. There is pressure there, and you hope the kids handle it well and enjoy themselves out there because obviously the looser they play the better they’re going to be on offense; and the more they crazed they play and say you no what I can’t let this guy score, I’ve got to get that loose ball, it’s going to help you on the defensive end.”

Listen here to Dunphy with Harry, Baldy and Bowa on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia

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