Sometime after the game wrapped on Wednesday night, Your Favorite Blogger (YFB) decided to put off a hastily written recap to enjoy time with his family. Work emergencies, snooze buttons, and the movement of the earth through time and space later, it is the day of game three and no recap is in draft form.
So it goes.
On the eve of the Final Four in San Antonio, somewhere on your dial — ESPN U — you can watch the Mean Green battle San Francisco one last time in the Spring of 2018 for the College Basketball Invitational tournament. This three-game series has familiarized us all with Frankie Ferrari, he of the small stature but big shot making ability. Three games have shown that if North Texas is engaged defensively, and shooting decently, then the Dons are not up to the task of winning.
Last game, the Super Pit creaked to life like it has not been since the very early days of the Tony Mitchell era, when he was blocking and rebounding and supposed to put North Texas on the minds of all the important college basketball people. Football is a spectacle, but basketball is a religious experience.
This tournament has felt like the Revival Weeks at my old church. Instead of the typical Sunday/Wednesday meetings we would do an everyday service while a visiting preacher(s) would reignite the spiritual flame of the congregation with the same old words told in new, fresh ways. So it has been for North Texas. The Super Pit is still the same, the game is still basketball, but old fans have renewed passion for their team.
If everything goes to plan, North Texas should win this game fairly easily. The loss on Monday and the mid-game struggles on Wednesday were caused by defensive lapses and poor shooting. San Francisco can shoot the ball really well, but they have yet to show they can consistently get their own shots in individual matchups, or punish North Texas at the rim. McCasland’s defense has been quick to help but USF has found the shooters with skip passes and quick ball movement.
When Duffy and Smart are on, NT has played extremely well. Ryan Woolridge has been great in this tournament — and all season — but he still will turn the ball over. Unfortunately, NT does not have anyone at his ball handling level, and has gotten in trouble when anyone else has to do more than cross over and go. Last game NT feasted on turnovers and got easy buckets at the rim. For a team that has lost it’s hot shooting touch (see table below) NT needed all the easy stuff it could get.
Every coach will tell you that the shots will not always fall, but you can always control defense and effort. This team has not executed well defensively for all 40 minutes, but has shown the effort. The defense won game two, and will be very necessary for this deciding game three.
North Texas is the slightest of favorites tonight: last check showed a -4.5 edge for the Mean Green. Zach Simmons was briefly hurt last game, and Frankie Ferrari sat with a bad ankle for a bit. Ferrari only averages 11 points per contest, and has not really gone off this series, but he has found his teammates for easy buckets and makes the offense look much more crisp when he is the conductor. In Game 1 he had nine assists of the USF 20 total. That tied the opponent high for the season (Oklahoma had 20 in November). Wednesday, Frankie managed five of ten (with four turnovers).
If he is not at 100% that should bode well for NT.
If you are in the DFW area, you should make every attempt to get to the Pit for tonight’s game. Whatever the outcome, the experience should be memorable and that is all that one can hope for.
Game 3 of the CBI Finals
- U of San Francisco (22-16) at U of North Texas (19-18)
- 6PM CDT
- Radio: MGRN – 88.1 KNTU-FM, 95.3 KHYI-FM
- TV: ESPNU
CUSA has had a remarkable postseason run. Marshall made it to the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, WKU went to the NIT semi final at Madison Square Garden, Middle got a win in the NIT before bowing out, and even UTSA got a win in the CBI tournament. A win tonight would mean CUSA would have its sole championship winner in a postseason tournament by league’s 7th seed. North Texas will have won 20 games, putting Grant McCasland at 20 wins each of the last two seasons (he won 20 at Ark St). This tournament run has been helpful for all of the young player getting time in meaningful games. Whatever the outcome, the development time is already in the bag.
Aside from that, the renewed excitement surrounding the program is infectious. Winning tonight will carry over into next season, the support and attention is valuable, the kind of thing that athletic departments and higher ups dream of. All things considered, this tournament run could not have turned out better.