Since the onset of the season, GW men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs has made his aspirations clear. Three names have been mentioned countless times, citing their success as a measuring stick in Atlantic 10 basketball.
Xavier, Dayton, and Temple have all had great success in the past decade, the kind of success Hobbs’ program is looking to emulate this year. Last week the Colonials dropped a nail-biter at the buzzer to Xavier but responded to beat Dayton.
This week, the Colonials will face Temple, the third, and perhaps the most historically successful team of the trio. GW will face the Owls Saturday in Philadelphia at 2 p.m., in a game that will be seen across the country on ESPN.
When asked about facing the GW men’s basketball team on Saturday, Temple coach John Chaney was hesitant to make a comment about the Colonials.
“I don’t want to talk about GW, I’d much rather talk about Rhode Island on Wednesday,” Chaney said. “Kids can hop, skip and jump. Coaches can’t.”
Chaney may be hesitant to get ahead of himself, but his mentality has proven successful in past years. A Hall of Fame coach, Chaney has compiled a .682 winning percentage and has brought his team to the NCAA Tournament 17 times in his 22 years at Temple.
This season, the Owls are currently in second place in the Atlantic 10 East (9-8, 5-1 A-10). But recently, they suffered their first A-10 loss at Fordham.
“We beat them pretty handily the first time,” Chaney said. “Our guys thought they would just sit back.”
Temple has faced a difficult non-conference schedule this year, losing to Wake Forest by only three points and facing Duke, Maryland and Ivy League powerhouse Princeton.
Hobbs has no illusions that his team is anywhere near the likes of Temple. Since the beginning of the season, Hobbs has stated that his biggest challenge is to manage expectations.
“Some people want to put us there but we are not there yet,” Hobbs said. “We are still a team learning how to win. We don’t have guys who have had that kind of success yet, so we are still learning.”
After losing three of their last five A-10 games, the Colonials have lost their national ranking and proven Hobbs correct about their place in the conference.
But after beating A-10 west rival Dayton on Sunday, the Colonials have a chance to right the ship with what Hobbs calls the most important stretch of the program’s history.
GW starts the stretch on Saturday in Philadelphia against the Owls, a squad which returns three starters and seven letter winners from their 2004 National Invitation Tournament team.
The Colonials’ defense will be challenged by the high scoring trio of Marty Collins, Keith Butler and Antwayne Robison. The addition of freshman Mark Tyndale will assist the Owls in providing needed scoring against the Colonials’ defense.
Collins is a 6-foot-6-inch junior who has started every game in his two years at Temple. Last season he averaged 15.5 points per game along with a 1.5 turnover to assist ratio. This season, Collins leads the team in scoring average (17 points per game).
Mark Tyndale joins the Owls this season from Simon Gratz High School, a Philadelphia basketball powerhouse. He is currently averaging 13 points per game, along with five rebounds. Despite being a freshman, Chaney considers his contributions invaluable.
“Their size and depth and the way they cause turnovers is unbelievable,” Hobbs said. “We are going to need someone to step up and make shots.”
The Colonials have been struggling with offensive production, partly due to injuries to leading scorers T.J. Thompson and junior Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Thompson, a senior, is still struggling with a knee injury suffered against Richmond.
A key to Temple’s success against GW will be their use of zone defense. The Colonials have seen a zone defense in almost every conference game this year, due to their up-tempo style of play.
“It will be a game of who can play their style of basketball,” Hobbs said. “Whoever can create tempo will control the outcome of the game.”