Andrew Albert (@andrewjalbert01)
The best way to get a good shooter out a slump is to have them keep shooting. The shots will fall eventually.
Temple is hoping that this really is the case. This is their sixth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, but most, if not all, have led to premature exits. Last season, the Owls fell to South Florida in their first game of the tournament.
Like a shooter, the Owls have short memories when it comes to their recent NCAA tournament losses.
“We try to keep that behind us,” Khalif Wyatt said. “We’ve got a different group of guys. We’ve got some real experienced guys and some guys that are real hungry to prove themselves on the national level.”
This year is different for Temple. There was no joking, or even smiles among the players at the press conference this year. The Owls have one thing on their mind, making the most of their shop.
“Other times we’ve been here, it seems like we might be happy just to be here,” Wyatt added. “I don’t think that’s the feeling this time around. I think guys are focused, and the main goal is to try to get a win, get some wins.”
“We’ve got five seniors on this team who don’t want their season to end yet,” Wyatt said. “So it’s just going to be about going out there Friday, handling our business, having fun, and seizing the opportunity.”
Wyatt, who is one of those seniors, has not had the success he has wanted in the postseason. The same could be said for Wyatt’s last performance in the Atlantic 10 tournament against Dayton. He did manage 19 points in the game, but was just 4-for-19 from the field. At one point during the game, he missed 12 straight shots.
Both him and his team know what the have to do for success, and they are not afraid to do so. They are supportive of whatever gets them to the end result once and for all.
“I know my teammates trust me, and I know my coaches trust me,” Wyatt said. “So they’re always encouraging me when I’m missing shots, when I’m not shooting the ball good, to keep shooting.”
Wyatt brings a unique mix of talent and confidence in his game every time he steps on the court, which can translate well to the NCAA tournament. While he is fun to watch, he can sometimes drive coaches nuts with his shot selection.
“You do kind of live with what Khalif gives you,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “Most of it is good, and there’s some that will drive you a little bit crazy. But most of it is good. He’s a very creative guy. I don’t want to take that creativity away.”
That creativity can be what could carry Temple to a few NCAA tournament wins this year, starting Friday with North Carolina State. For the first time since 2011, they will be playing as the lesser seed, but that is not something that the Owls are worried about.
“We’ve all got a chip on our shoulders,” Scootie Randall said. “We have something to prove. A lot of people doubted us, and we found a way to get the job done in certain games.”
The chip that rests squarely on their shoulders could help them when they take on the 24-10 Wolfpack in Dayton of Friday. Yet, they are taking everything seriously, and to heart on the trip to Ohio. They want to extend their season past the first weekend of the postseason.
“I think this is a business trip,” Randall added. “Each and every trip was the same way, but I think this feeling we don’t want to go home too soon. So we know we’ve got a chance to change that, and that’s our mindset right now.”
The Owls just have to keep shooting.