Every program is prone to having a down year, and John Chaney’s squad is no exception.
The Owls are suffering through their worst start since Chaney’s inaugural 1982-83 season at Temple.
After earning their second road win of the season at Rhode Island last Wednesday, the Owls are an uncharacteristic 5-12 overall and 3-4 in Atlantic 10 games.
If the Owls were to be graded on this season’s performance thus far, they would probably be deemed ineligible.
But with another two months left in the season most say it’s too early to give up on the Owls just yet.
After stumbling out of the gate with six losses in their first seven games, the Owls stunned then-10th-ranked Indiana in front of a frenzied crowd at the Liacouras Center.
However, the Owls continued to sink, dropping two more to Villanova and Wisconsin before opening up conference play with a win against George Washington.
But then the Owls hit rock bottom with atrocious shooting performances in losses to lowly Duquesne and Richmond.
Though Chaney refuses to give excuses for losing, he seemed to concede that this year’s team is just not ready yet.
The Owls are still trying to develop synergy and cohesion.
Above all else, Chaney is stressing the need to have confidence as a unit.
“When you get to the stage where kids learn how to play without the ball, that means they’re playing like a team.
And that’s when they’re confident and have trust in each other,” Chaney said.
In addition, the lack of a true point guard to run Chaney’s offense, coupled with no legitimate big man, has rendered the Owls ineffective at both ends of the court.
Temple is last in the conference in both points per game (61.3) and shooting percentage (38 percent).
The Owls are 0-8 when scoring under 59 points and have already managed to score under 49 points four times this season.
Consequently, the void on defense has been just as disturbing.
The Owls are allowing opponents to shoot an unacceptable 45 percent from the field and a blistering 42 percent from beyond the arc.
They have been out -rebounded 11 times this season, each time resulting in a lost.
Starting three freshmen, that are still trying to acclimate themselves to the college level, has also taken its toll.
Both guard Maurice Collins and forward Antywane Robinson are averaging over 30 minutes a game and have displayed flashes of brilliance amidst their struggles.
Moreover, Collins has shown maturity and perseverance as part of Chaney’s point guard by committee, despite never playing the position in high school.
“He has a tremendous responsibility at bringing the ball up, setting up the offense, and then expecting his own offense out of it,” Chaney said.
“It’s not an easy job, unless you’re a born point.”
The Achilles’ heel for the Owls has been the absence of a post presence.
Both freshman Keith Butler and sophomore power forward Glen Elliot have been less than adequate, and each have dubiously accumulated more fouls than points.
On making more of a difference, Elliott said, “We just need to do it, because they can’t win without me and [Keith] in the middle.”
Numerous times during games, Chaney has resorted to smaller lineups with Hawley Smith, a 6-5 forward who has been able to cause some havoc with his defensive prowess.
So far this season the only consistent shooter on the team has been senior co-captain Alex Wesby, who is putting up solid numbers, shooting 45 percent from the field and a team-leading six rebounds per game.
During winter break, Chaney repeatedly held four- and sometimes five-hour long practices, far above the usual permitted time allowed while classes are in session.
The exhausting practices were time well spent for the Owls, admitted junior guard David Hawkins, who, because of the extended practice sessions, is now suffering from sore feet.
“It didn’t hurt us, it got us used to playing with each other,” Hawkins said.
“And [Chaney’s] a perfectionist, so practice makes perfect, so I guess we got closer to that goal.”
Jason Haslam can be reached at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org.