The daunting schedule ahead of the callow men’s basketball team is actually a result of coach John Chaney’s struggling to get major schools to play against his perplexing matchup zone defense and possession controlled offense.
Even Chaney admits that opponents are “catching me a little bit naked right now” with an inexperienced team.
After opening up their season at home against Rutgers, the Owls play seven of their next eight on the road against Top 25 material.
Within that stretch, they visit Wake Forest, South Carolina, and Charlotte in a grueling three games in four days.
The next triumvirate is against city rival Penn, followed by Big Ten squads Penn State and Illinois.
Returning home to the friendly confines of the Liacouras Center, national runner up Indiana visits and then it’s back on the road to play a vastly improved Villanova team.
“You’ve got to make sacrifices,” said Chaney on the difficulty of scheduling quality opponents.
“Just day after day begging teams to play us, and now by me doing that they come back to me next year.”
What Chaney is talking about is the pact that schools agree to in order for scheduling their upcoming seasons.
He added that “Nowadays the coaches of the big teams, they do not want to come to you first, they won’t come to you.”
Chaney’s longstanding modus operandi has been a willingness to play any team, anywhere.
This usually means going into some of the nation’s toughest arenas, like, Duke’s Cameron Indoor Center, or Indiana’s Assembly Hall.
And in Chaney’s case he must lobby and delegate to other schools just so his team is facing formidable opponents.
In the politics of scheduling, Chaney used to agree to contracts with other schools that were generally unfavorable to Temple.
In essence he would appease schools wary of facing the morass that is the signature of Temple basketball, by playing them twice on their home court, but just once here.
He doesn’t do that anymore and his steadfast approach for scheduling tough non-conference games is based on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, who factor a portion of their evaluation by strength of schedule.
“We could have played three or four teams that have no power rating at all in place of Indiana, and we fought for months, held our schedule up, for Indiana to come to us,” Chaney admitted.
“And of course the coach [Mike Davis] was nice enough to fight people in his area, who wanted us to come to them first.”
By devising an arduous itinerary Chaney also expects his team to grow up quickly, hoping they can become stronger as individuals and more importantly as a unit.
If they can overcome some early season pitfalls, they will be in good shape heading into the Atlantic 10 Conference schedule.
“We just know what it’s like to play in that kind of setting, so it’s more just excitement to play instead of a little bit of nervousness,” said sophomore guard
Hawley Smith on visiting hostile environments.
Though not flawless, Chaney’s strategy has high rates of success.
In the last 11 seasons he’s taken eight teams with double-digit losses to the tournament, and half of those teams advanced to the regional finals.
Moreover, Temple remains a caveat to any team that crosses its path during tournament time with a reputation as a coach’s worst nightmare.
The advantages for this type of scheduling have had effects tantamount off the court as much as on the court.
Recruiting benefits immensely.
Top high school prospects want to be in the limelight and Temple’s scheduling is always loaded against Top 25 teams.
National exposure is another mechanism for recruiting, so prospective players see that Temple faces teams with future stars, thus peaking their interest to come here.
Furthermore, the A-10 conference isn’t considered as powerful as the, ACC, SEC, or Pac-10, generally making Temple’s conference schedule less taxing, and less appealing to the NCAA selection committee.
With all this in mind the travails will remain a constant and through it Chaney thinks his team will improve.
“Hopefully the kids will grow up,” Chaney said.
“I’ve always believed that you make some mistakes, and then you get better from mistakes, and learn from mistakes.”
Jason Haslam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org