Talk about unpredictable. Just when you think you’ve seen everything the men’s and women’s basketball teams had to offer this season, both squads managed to upset a ranked opponent at the Liacouras Center last week.
That’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes – if anyone under the age of 80 even uses that expression anymore.
If anybody outside of the respective locker rooms of the two team’s claims they could’ve predicted that the men would blow out No. 23 Xavier, 78-59, Wednesday or that the women would knock off No. 13 George Washington, 68-66, Saturday, they were lying. They were telling an awful, awful lie of politician-like proportions.
Before last week, everything about the 2007-2008 Temple basketball season seemed as scripted as a cable TV reality show. Both teams were plodding along, displaying the type of consistent inconsistency that typically leads to an early exit once the Atlantic Ten Conference playoffs commence in March. Everybody could see it, everybody accepted it and everybody changed the channel.
Now, thanks to the back-to-back unexpected victories, that train of thought just seems foolish, especially when you consider the conditions surrounding both teams.
The men’s and women’s squads played tough non-conference schedules and while both teams endured more losses than wins, the experiences properly prepared them for A-10 season and they’ve wasted little time showing that they’re capable of competing with the top teams in the league.
Credit should go to coaches Fran Dunphy and Dawn Staley for crafting the type of schedules that would make John Chaney proud. But also credit Dunphy and Staley for their ability to get the best out of teams that are clearly lacking.
Like his football counterpart, coach Al Golden, Dunphy is in the process of building a foundation for the men’s basketball program in only his second year on the sidelines.
As with Golden, a keen observer can tell that Dunphy is starting to make headway with his players.
Although limited to essentially an eight-man rotation, the Owls have stayed step-for-step with teams boasting a lot more depth than them in almost every contest. In the last few games, the Owls have made progress on defense, which was a major point of emphasis before the season.
The Owls win over Xavier will reinforce the fact that, given time, the program can flourish under Dunphy’s leadership because the players – many of whom he inherited – seem receptive to his methodology.
Unlike Golden and Dunphy, Staley has already established a strong foundation within the women’s basketball program. But this season presented a challenge to Staley as this team didn’t have a dominant, all-around player like a Candice Dupree or a Kamesha Hairston to lead the way.
This squad wouldn’t be as talented as previous Temple teams. This squad would have to embrace team basketball on both ends of the court. It didn’t look like that was going to happen as the Owls dropped four consecutive games in late December and early January.
Just when it looked like the Owls were in the midst of a rebuilding campaign, Staley adjusted, inserting new players into the starting lineup. The move paid off against George Washington as the Owls utilized team basketball to pull off the upset. Three Temple players scored in double figures, five players grabbed five rebounds or more, and the Owls out-assisted the Colonials, 17-12.
Obviously, before last week, it was difficult to envision either Temple basketball team competing toe-to-toe with a top-ranked team. But now that both squads have taken down a ranked team, is it unreasonable to think that they both can’t do it again?
Before you make your final decision, remember who’s on our sidelines.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.