I'm very skeptical how good of a team Minnesota really is after the Green Bay game. I feel like they are very one dimensional with Peterson, and ATL is 1st in the league in YPG against the run(against fairly easy rushing opponents). As long as Atlanta clamps down vs the run, they should win this game. They will still have a balanced offense with Coleman at rb. With Harrison Smith out, Julio should have a huge game vs Rhodes without Smith over top. Minnesota will obviously try anything to stop Julio, but he is so damn good. Minnesota has the advantage in that Atlanta is so unreliable to bet on as of late which is scary. Also, Minnesota has the x-factor in their special teams.
G: Juan Fernandez (Sr)/T.J. DiLeo (Jr)/Will Cummings (Fr)
Gone: PF-Lavoy Allen, C-Dutch Gaitley
The top spot in the Atlantic-10 figures to once again be a battle between Temple and Xavier. Fran Dunphy returns all but one of his key contributors from last year and will feature an experienced backcourt.
The strength of the Owls will be on the wing where they return four players who averaged more than 10 points per game last season. The quartet of Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore, Scootie Randall, and Khalif Wyatt bring a lot of versatility to the starting lineup.
All four guys are capable of handling the ball, shooting it from deep, and getting to the basket. Moore is the most talented of the bunch and can score in a variety of ways. Fernandez has good size for a point guard and can post up smaller defenders. He brings a lot of poise to the floor when running the show.
Scootie Randall was named the Atlantic-10 Most Improved Player, making a huge jump from his sophomore season to his junior campaign. He brings more size to the wing and will probably even see some minutes at the four when Dunphy decides to use a smaller, four-guard lineup.
Wyatt worked his way into the starting lineup late in the year when Randall went down with injury, and made the most of the opportunity. He averaged more than ten points per game despite playing less than 21 minutes a night and will be the team's sixth man.
T.J. Dileo and Aaron Brown were each roles players a year ago and will be used in that same role when Moore, Fernandez, or Wyatt need to rest. Freshman point guard Will Cummings will likely be the odd man out in the rotation.
The concern for Temple comes in the frontcourt where they must replace Lavoy Allen. Michael Eric started the first 24 games of last season but missed the remainder of the year due to a fractured right patella. Eric's return will give the Owls with a legitimate center and shot blocking presence. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson is an undersized power forward who brings hustle and defense to the floor but is not very polished on the offensive end. Jimmy McDonnell and Anthony Lee both redshirted last season but will be relied upon to provide depth inside behind Eric since they are the only other players on the roster who stand taller than 6-6.
The Owls also picked up a key transfer in Dalton Pepper of West Virginia. The physical wing can shoot it from deep but must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Temple will once again try to control the tempo and force teams to play at their pace. They are a very solid half-court team on both ends and are difficult to beat when they play their game. Dunphy knows the high level of production he will get out of his wing players, but the frontcourt play will likely determine whether this is just a NCAA Tournament team or whether the Owls are capable of making a deep run come March.
Player to Watch: Ramone Moore, SG
Moore briefly flirted with leaving school and entering the NBA Draft, but he wisely chose to return to Temple for his senior season. Moore has a complete offensive game whether he is attacking the basket, pulling-up and hit mid-range jumpers, or stroking it from three. For a team that likes to use a lot of shot clock, the Owls will rely on Moore to make things happen when time is running down.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/17 vs. Western Michigan (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/18 vs. Purdue/Iona (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
11/20 vs. Alabama/Maryland/Wichita State/Colorado (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)