When the NCAA shot down Jesse Morgan's request to be eligible to play his senior year at Temple this season, it didn't merely prematurely end the high-scoring ex-UMass guard's college career.
It also called into question whether Temple has enough talent to contend in the American Athletic Conference in its first year in the new league.
Morgan averaged 13.4 points for UMass before a season-ending knee injury last January, suggesting he could have made an instant impact at Temple, especially if he regained his explosiveness and managed to raise his anemic 35.9 percent shooting. Without Morgan, Temple may struggle to replace the offensive production lost when four of last season's five leading scorers graduated including star guard Khalif Wyatt and fellow perimeter threats Scootie Randall and T.J. DiLeo.
Though returning standout Anthony Lee should emerge as Temple's centerpiece in the paint after averaging 9.8 points and 6.8 rebounds last year, he'll see plenty of defensive attention unless the Owls backcourt can complement him. Junior guard Will Cummings has breakout potential and wings Daniel Dingle, Dalton Pepper and Quenton DeCosey were once well regarded recruits but Cummings has only scored in double figures six times in his Temple career and the latter three averaged less than three points per game last season.
It will be imperative for Temple that Cummings emerges as a go-to perimeter scorer and that Dingle, Pepper and DeCosey take advantage of an opportunity for increased playing time. Otherwise even an Owls program known for squeezing the most production out of second-tier talent may still struggle to keep pace with the likes of Louisville, Memphis, UConn and Cincinnati in league play or to return to the NCAA tournament.
Morgan was worth a gamble for Temple since his playmaking would have helped, but the NCAA's ruling should not have come as a huge surprise.
The basis for Morgan's appeal was that UMass did not have sufficient reason to dismiss him from school after the 2012-13 season and thus he should not have to sit out the 2013-14 season as a transfer. The NCAA did not see it that way, which means Morgan's five-year clock will expire after next season and Temple will have to find a way to generate perimeter scoring from other sources.
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