The task facing St. Bonaventure tonight is to show it can be competitive, never mind pulling an upset, when 24th-ranked Temple visits the Reilly Center.
In fact, one could argue that is the task facing the Bonnies the rest of the season.
Can the Bonnies be competitive this year? Or are they headed for a carbon copy of last season -- an 8-20 campaign darkened by regular blowout losses on the road?
Four games into the college basketball season may seem like an unfair time to ask such questions, but the results of the first four games begs them.
After defeating Division III Concordia, the Bonnies were uninspired in getting blown out at Niagara; got shut out the last eight minutes in a home loss to Cornell (not one of the better Ivy League teams); and lost at powerful Rutgers, 71-46.
Bona coach Tom Chapman says his team will not be counted out.
"We're expecting we can have success because that's the attitude we have to have," he said. "Certain people want to write you off. But what you can't do is write yourself off. And we will not."
A first step to being competitive is playing with intensity and motivation, something Bona did not do at Niagara. Chapman said he has seen it since.
"We've been impressed with their work ethic and courage. We're playing with a purpose. But the results have not been there."
Bona showed other signs of being competitive at Rutgers, although the final score didn't reflect them. Bona was down by two, 30-28, at the half, and still was within eight, 48-40, with eight minutes left. Bona foul trouble and a Rutgers parade to the foul line helped widen the margin.
In the majority of road games last year, Bona found itself way behind after the first 10 minutes and never got in contention.
Two things the Bonnies have lacked thus far are good shooting and offensive cohesion.
The Bonnies have shot 37.5 percent from the field in their last three losses, and it's apparent it will take time for the offense to jell.
"It's a real process because we've invested minutes in the newer guys," Chapman said.
Three newcomers are seeing significant time. Junior college transfer Chris Meadows has replaced senior Quinn Smith at point guard. Freshman Garland Mance has been a plus defensively on the wing. Freshman forward Tobias Hauff has joined a thin front line and is needed to add rebounding, another Bona question mark. Hauff has been bothered by a sore shoulder of late.
To say the least, Bona still is searching for a lot of answers.
How did the Bonnies get in this predicament?
Perhaps a review of the recruiting record is in order. Numerous players who theoretically should be veteran contributors are either gone or have not panned out.
The Bonnies have one player -- Michael Burnett -- from the recruiting class of four years ago. The other two, Dan Aloi and Myron Ray, left school after being involved in a string of campus thefts.
From the recruiting class of three years ago, the Bonnies still have three of the five players they signed. Gone are Bron Holland, the highly touted big man who transferred to La Salle two years ago, and guard Donald Burnett, who left Bona after being kicked off the team last year.
Still at Bona are starting forward Kenrick Hamilton, starting center Dan Putney and Smith, who has not lived up to his reputation after transferring in from Seton Hall.
All that is a big reason why Bona is not an Atlantic 10 force. But it's no excuse for not playing competitively, many Bona fans would argue.
It may be hard to be competitive tonight (7:35). Temple has star guard Mark Macon back, but the Owls' focus has shifted to mammoth 7-foot center Donald Hodge, who looks like a future first-round NBA draft pick. Temple also has added a sharp point guard, Vic Carstarphen.
"Where we are with this team is very hard to rate," Chapman admits.
After tonight's game, Bona plays four "winnable" non-conference games (Morgan State, Niagara, Canisius and Central Connecticut).
It will be interesting to see how the Bonnies rate at that point.