Thursday night. Heading home.
Listening to the radio. Sportstalk, as usual.
A caller checks in and actually touches on what me and my son had just witnessed, Temple topping Connecticut in an American Athletic Conference men’s basketball game at the Liacouras Center. Talks about what a tremendous win it was. Against a pretty big-time, national program.
All positive stuff. Complimentary. Even hopeful.
Then it hit me. Again. Like a sledgehammer to the cerebral cortex.
Philly. Is. Just. Not. A. College. Sports. Town.
Football, hoops, men’s or women’s, it doesn’t matter. For a city that prides itself on knowledge of athletic endeavors, including those outside the professional spectrum, that, in fact, raves about such “genius” every stinkin’ opportunity it has, or creates in almost narcissistic “look at me, look at me … no, seriously, look at me, I am great” fashion, the reality is just as scary as the self-perceived view.
Not for nothing, but that aforementioned caller represented just how uninformed the typical Philly sports fan is. Nicer than most, he certainly didn’t bring any more insight to the table.
Thing is, he was right. The Owls’ victory was tremendous. Especially when you consider they trailed by 12 with 5:40 to go before closing things out with a 21-4 run highlighted by Daniel Dingle’s trio of tricfectas and Quenton DeCosey’s circus “and one” shot that led to his go-ahead free throw with 70 seconds remaining.
But the effort wasn’t earth-shattering or “put ’em on the map” type stuff. Or, frankly, even unexpected.
Not for nothing, Philly, but you’re a little late to the party on one of your own. Temple’s on the map. Been on the map. For decades. Or, if you don’t wanna go all old-school and bring up the long-ago past, don’t.
The caller made a big deal about that night’s opponent being UConn. How it’s a storied program, and it is. It also fell prey to the Owls back on January 5. In Hartford, Conn., no less, when the Huskies ranked 23rd in the country.
In addition, mentioned how this could be the start of something, maybe a return back to those glory days when Temple “once” went to a Sweet 16. You know, remember that?
Well, yeah, if you mean 2001, when the Owls went on to the Elite Eight as well. Which kinda rivaled similar trips to the regional finals in 1999, 1993, 1991 and 1988.
Maybe the fact Temple has beaten a top-10 team seven of the last eight seasons might float your boat a bit more. Heck, even the campaign in that stretch the Owls failed to do so, one in which they posted the worst record in program history, they still managed to upset No. 23 SMU.
The Mustangs were Temple’s “top 10” skin this season. Ranked eighth and arriving in North Philly as the nation’s only remaining unbeaten, they left the night of January 24 at 18-1.
Thing is, Temple ain’t the only area college squad whose exploits escape the Philly masses.
While LeSean McCoy’s latest “night out” has dominated the news and apparently the entire region’s consciousness, Villanova has emerged as No. 1 in the country … with barely a Philly breath wasted on mentioning that, never mind truly acknowledging, or celebrating, it. Last time a city school topped the regular-season polls was 2004 when Saint Joseph’s did during an Elite Eight season. Before that? Temple in 1988.
Ironically, the Wildcats visit the Owls this coming Wednesday in a for city bragging rights.
Sort of …
Should the Owls win, and Saint Joseph’s beat La Salle tonight, that would give the ’Cats, Owls and Hawks a share of the Big 5 title.
Since Saint Joe’s already beat Temple … and did you know the Hawks 20-4 this season, Philly?
Didn’t think so.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
While the nation seems to have a decent grasp of the goings with college hoops in Philly, perhaps it is time to give the locals a refresher.
Current: 20-4 record, 9-2 in the Atlantic 10. Second in the conference behind No. 19 Dayton, which it hosts this coming Wednesday at Hagan Arena.
Biggest wins this season: Temple, Rhode Island (twice) and George Washington.
Looking back a bit: The Hawks were the darlings of the Big Dance in 2004 after going 27-0 in the regular season and reaching No. 1. Ultimately, they got bounced by Oklahoma State in the East Regional final by two points. Since then, they’ve posted five 20-win seasons, including this one, with two NCAA tournament appearances.
Current: 15-8, 9-3 in the American Athletic. Tied for first in the conference with No. 16 SMU, which it beat 89-81 on January 24 at the Liacouras Center.
Biggest wins this season: Cincinnati (then No. 22), Connecticut (No. 23) and SMU (No. 8).
Looking back a bit: The Owls earned NCAA berths every year from 2008 through 2013, and reached the NIT’s final four last season, but they haven’t made a big postseason splash since 2001, when last making an Elite Eight. That visit capped a “5 regional finals in 13 years” run that highlights the program’s modern era – well, that and the current seven in eight seasons stretch of wins against top-10 teams (then-No. 8 SMU this season, No. 10 Kansas last season, No. 3 Syracuse in 2012-13, No. 5 Duke in 2011-12, No. 9 Georgetown in 2010-11, No. 3 Villanova in 2009-10, No. 8 Tennessee in 2008-09).
Current: 20-3, 11-1 in the Big East. Stands atop conference standings, with a game at second-place Xavier, ranked fifth, remaining on February 24.
Biggest wins this season: Xavier (then No. 6), Butler (No. 18) and Providence (No. 11).
Looking back at bit: Not exactly sure why the Wildcats are No. 1 at the moment, aside from playing in arguably the best hoops conference in the country. They did get smoked by both Virginia and Oklahoma earlier this season and split a pair of games against Big East rival Providence, which is ranked 18th. Or, perhaps, No. 1 is due to their rich, relatively recent history, which includes Elite Eights in 2006 and 2009 as well as Sweet 16s in 2005 and 2008. They have been to the NCAA tournament 10 times in the last 11 years, and, going back a bit further, were the last Philly team to win it all, in 1985.