“I really think that we’re a better team than our record shows and how well we’ve played,” Cardoza said after the Owls were squashed by Dayton, 67-47. “I think we’ve had situations where we don’t know how to win.”
The Owls are in the midst of their worst season since 2002-03, the last time they didn’t make the NCAA tournament or the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. At 12-15 (5-7 Atlantic 10 Conference) they’ve guaranteed a losing record for the first time since that same season.
“I don’t even think [anybody’s] thinking that far into the postseason right now,” sophomore guard Tyonna Williams said. “All we want to do is make it to our conference [tournament], and then we’ll just go forth from there.”
The team has reiterated that it’s only focusing on the final two games, against Butler and Fordham. But the question remains, if this squad makes the A-10 tournament, what sort of chance do the Owls honestly have?
If you ask the players, they’ll say they think they can surprise people.
“To be honest I think, in this conference and these coaches, I don’t think any one of us takes anyone for granted, especially not this year,” Cardoza said. “We know that any given night if you don’t play your ‘A’ game there’s a good chance that you can lose.”
“We know that that’s what we’re capable of doing,” Williams said. “We know that [defense is] our strong point.”
This topic has been beaten to death but the reality is this Owls squad isn’t the same as in years past. For the entirety of Cardoza’s tenure here she’s had her team in position to take the A-10 crown.
Under no circumstances can they be considered a contender this year.
Yes, when they’re up against the best of the best they play like one of the top teams in the conference. They took down then No. 3 Syracuse in the first month of the season for goodness’ sake.
But they’ve also slumped below the level of the competition they’ve faced, dropping games to teams like Virginia Commonwealth University (10-17, 3-9 A-10). If the Owls had won that game on Jan. 16, they’d have a spot in the A-10 tournament locked up already and this column would never have been written.
They’re consistently inconsistent.
So if the season were to end today, how would Temple fare in the postseason? If the Owls make the A-10 Tournament they will have to take on either Butler, George Washington, Richmond, Xavier, Saint Louis or La Salle. VCU is currently on the outside looking in and Duquesne still has a shot at a bye.
Right now the Owls are the ninth seed thanks to their loss at the hands of the Flyers. Since the top four teams – currently Dayton, Charlotte, Fordham and St. Joseph’s University – get a bye, the Owls would face Richmond (15-13, 5-7 A-10).
They knocked off the Spiders 61-48 at home a few weeks ago. So that’s a winnable game.
But then they’d face St. Joe’s in the quarterfinals, and seeing as the Hawks have home-court advantage with the tournament at Hagan Arena, that’s a long shot. Yes, they played St. Joe’s well the last time around, taking them to overtime, but I don’t see the Hawks dropping a playoff match at home to a bitter rival.
But let’s just say for some reason the Owls get past the second round. Then they’d likely face reigning A-10 champion Dayton or Charlotte. Both teams are far superior than Temple and Dayton is simply on a whole other level compared to the rest of the conference. In a winner-takes-all game I just can’t see either team folding to the Owls. Both are far more talented and experienced
Obviously the team’s mindset won’t be that it’s going to lose. Even though the Owls have collapsed at various points this season, Cardoza won’t let this squad go down without a fight in the postseason.
“This program has dominated this conference for the past three or four years, so we definitely don’t want to be that squad that lets everybody down,” Williams said.
“As long as we [play good defense] we will upset some people if we get to the A-10’s,” Williams added. “We will make a run.”
That’s great confidence but the odds are against them.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jakeadams520.