By Ed Benkin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some say the Temple Owls are young. Their coach prefers to call them inexperienced.

The Owls were hit hard by graduation, as five seniors from last year’s squad have moved on.  Head Coach Fran Dunphy understands there must be more patience with a host of players which saw limited action last season.

“I’ve become more patient the longer I’ve been in this,” said Dunphy.  “I’m sure these guys won’t agree with me on that all of the time but you are more patient, especially with the newest guys.”

Despite the graduation hit, there are still several Owls remaining from a team which picked up a victory in the NCAA Tournament last season.  One key contributor is junior guard Will Cummings, who understands his role is changing now that he is one of the few players remaining with significant experience.

“They kind of look at you now as a leader on and off the court,” Cummings said.  “They kind of make it known that you’re the leader and they look up to you.  You have to be at the top of your game at all times.”

With so many talented players gone, the Owls could struggle thanks to a lack of experience and a challenging schedule. However, junior forward Anthony Lee doesn’t think expectations will change.  He says the players know every team coached by Dunphy evolves into a contender.

“It’s always been a team that’s been in the game,” said Lee.  “I don’t think any of that is going to change.  His system has been working, and you just have to have faith and trust it.”

The Owls will move into the American Athletic Conference this season and will go against a host of new conference rivals.  Among the teams the Owls will face are defending national champion Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati. Temple will also face teams such as Houston and SMU.

“The competition is going to be very good,” Dunphy said.  “You have and SMU and a Houston who you don’t see much on TV, where as Connecticut and Louisville you saw.  Memphis you saw on occasion.  Cincinnati you saw on occasion.  It will really be a tremendous challenge for our group.”

The Owls open the season on November 9 at the Palestra against Penn.

(credit: Ed Benkin)

(credit: Ed Benkin)