The newest Associated Press Top 25 rankings were released on Tuesday. And the women’s basketball team was snubbed. Again.
At 13-3, the Owls either match or better the records of 12 ranked teams.
The Owls even have quality wins to their credit. This season they stole a road win against Big 5 rival Villanova, which proceeded to knock off then-No. 4 Notre Dame.
Even more impressive was Temple’s win over Rutgers on Dec. 13, coach Dawn Staley’s first victory over a ranked opponent. At the time, Rutgers was on the brink of falling out of the rankings. Then the Scarlet Knights defeated three top-10 teams in an eight-day span, including the likes of Tennessee and LSU.
The success Villanova and Rutgers have had since their losses to the Owls have subsequently bolstered the value of those wins. So why isn’t Staley’s squad ranked?
Though the team has shown bright spots during its current 10-game win streak, it is rather obvious that the Owls still can’t get over the hump against the nation’s elite teams. Temple’s three losses this season were to ranked or previously ranked opponents, and two of the losses could have very easily been wins. The Owls put a scare into top-ranked Tennessee in Knoxville but couldn’t step on the throats of the Lady Vols, blowing a 10-point lead.
They came as close as six points late in the second half in a home matchup with No. 2 LSU, but couldn’t pull any closer, eventually losing by 13. They were never in the game against Florida in Gainesville.
The road ahead is tough for Temple. Because the program has had short-lived stints of success, national recognition will be hard to come by. The Owls have won the Atlantic Ten Championship only twice in the school’s history, but both titles were won in the past three seasons. They’ve appeared in the NCAA Tournament in three seasons, twice under fifth-year coach Staley.
And wins like those against Villanova and Rutgers definitely don’t hurt.
“We’ve come close against ranked teams a lot of times,” senior point guard Cynthia Jordan said. “That we beat a ranked team and that it’s only a sign of what’s to come is important.”
Building a strong team for years to come is important, especially for a program that has never found its way into the top 25. Pulling in 31 votes toward a spot in the rankings this week is a start. But Temple still does not have the experience or depth to compete with some of the nation’s top contenders.
The team lost three senior leaders to graduation last season. Those spots on the roster were plugged by five freshmen with absolutely no experience playing at this level.
Getting thrown into Staley’s program still wet behind the ears has set the team back. With just one reliable scorer off the bench in freshman Ashley Morris, there is plenty of pressure on the starting lineup.
Even so, Temple fans, there is reason to believe your women’s basketball team has a shot at the big time, but not yet.
When asked whether this year’s team has all the elements to be ranked at some point, Staley was decisive.
“I know what it is and what it takes to be a ranked team,” she said. “I know what it is to be a part of something special. They haven’t even come close.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.