As a fanatic follower of the Temple University men’s basketball team, which plays the Wolfpack on Friday in the NCAA tournament, I know what it’s like to root for a group of hoopsters who can’t decide if they’re good, mediocre or truly terrible.
Sure, the Owls have won 23 games, knocked off top-tier teams like Syracuse, VCU and St. Louis, and boast one of the premier point guards in the country in A-10 player of the year Khalif Wyatt.
But they’ve also stunk up the joint by losing to teams like Duquesne and – Gulp! – Canisius. I mean, really. Canisius?
You guys understand, right? You were picked in preseason to be one of the elite programs in the country, what with that Sweet 16 finish last year, the return of key players like C.J. Leslie and a killer recruiting class. But somewhere between dreams and reality, the Pack slowly slid into mediocrity. Yes, you won 24 games, but some of those victories came against real dogs like Norfolk State and Western Michigan. There was, of course, that glorious victory over the hated Dukies, but 10 days later you went to Winston-Salem and lost to Wake Forest. I mean, really. Wake Forest?
See what I’m getting at here? It’s almost like we’re brothers under the skin. Members of that fan base I like to call the Diminishing Expectations Club. You may not know this, but Temple is No. 6 on the list of winningest basketball programs, yet it’s the only one of the top six (Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, Duke and Syracuse are the others) that has never won a national championship. And I know, the Pack has won two national titles, but the last one was so long ago, it might have happened during the Jurassic Age.
So which teams will show up on Friday? Will it be the Temple team in which Wyatt hits for 30 and the Owls look like they could beat anyone, anytime, anywhere? Or the group that could lose to a pickup team at the local Y?
And how about the Pack? Will it be the team in which Scott Wood puts down trey after trey and C.J. Leslie looks like a first round draft pick? Or the one where Wood couldn’t find the basket with a funnel, and Leslie seems to have gotten lost somewhere on Hillsborough Street?
Are you nervous? Worried? I completely understand, Wolfpack nation. We are riding on the same shaky boat in turbulent seas.
Lewis Beale is a Philadelphia native and Temple University graduate now living in Raleigh.