The college basketball season is on the cusp of madness, approaching March’s conference tournaments.
Not coincidentally, Temple is starting to click as it typically does in February.
Heading into last night’s matchup with Massachusetts, the Owls had won three in a row and five of their last six.
Temple’s 10th win of the season, a 99-77 romp over Fordham last Sunday, was more than just another routine victory. It was the program’s 1600th win.
The Owls are just the sixth NCAA basketball program to reach such a milestone.
Head coach John Chaney can credit 460 of those wins to his name in his 21 seasons on North Broad Street.
“We’re in the top six,” Chaney said.
“That’s amazing for a school that’s never mentioned in the class with the Kentuckys and North Carolinas and the UCLAs.”
The first win in the history of the Temple program was a 3-1 triumph over the Purple Crescent Athletic Club.
Really, little has changed.
The Owls have maintained their legacy of gutting out wins in low-scoring fashion.
But in beating Fordham (2-22, 1-12), the Owls used a fast-paced attack, led by juniors Brian Polk and David Hawkins.
Each set new career-highs in points.
Polk netted 30 and Hawkins had 29, as both shot an identical 11-for-17 from the floor.
The Owls drilled 16 three-pointers, capitalized on 15 steals and scored 38 points off turnovers against the lowly Rams.
Temple’s all-time record is now 1,600-871.
Sunday’s win also moved the Owls into second place in the Atlantic 10 East, trailing only St. Joseph’s.
Temple has now won seven of its last nine with just four games remaining in the regular season.
If Temple finishes the regular season in second place in the A-10 East, it will have a first-round bye in the conference tournament in Dayton next month.
But the Owls will have to run the table in the A-10 tournament if they hope to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after a one-year hiatus.
A few weeks ago, it might have seemed inconceivable to imagine Temple winning the A-10 tournament.
Now, it just might be able to do so with the recent growth of freshman point guard Maurice Collins, the hot shooting of Polk and the steady performances of Hawkins and Alex Wesby, both of whom have been to the Big Dance before.
Freshman center Keith Butler has been an emerging factor, and the hustle and rebounding of sophomore forward Hawley Smith off the bench would certainly help the Owls advance in the conference tournament.
“They’ve been improving, everyone’s been seeing that,” Smith said of Temple’s emerging freshmen. “When they play well, we do well.”
Temple will close out the regular season with three games in eight days, with home games against St. Bonaventure and La Salle and the finale at Xavier before heading to the conference tournament two days later.
The 1,600 wins are a wonderful testament to the school and its basketball program.
Just as important are the ones still up for grabs in the coming weeks.
Jason Haslam can be reached at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org and Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com