I had planned to podcast a couple of times since Friday and well the world conspired against me. I am aggrieved.
Okay, truthfully I could not fit it into the schedule, that is packed with stuff both real and imaginary 1. So instead of holding back some thoughts and them then becoming stale and unworthy of consumption, let us lay them down here.
NT closed up the recruiting signing period with the fourth-or-so signing class according to the sites that rank these things. As always, we have to consider that the overall ranking does matter, and the ranking does not matter at all. Recruiting and developing talent is important and this is step one of that process. There are always players that move on — just saw today that former WR Greg White is now at Grambling — and well, that means your team is without their services. The Mean Green have talent on both sides of the ball and it does two things for you in the course of a given season: 1) helps you sharpen the skills of the guys on your squad and 2) gives you protection against injury and suspension and whatnot.
The only question that matters for the 21 season is Does NT have enough talent to compete for a CUSA title? The answer to that question is Yes. The larger, longitudinal question of whether or not there is a net talent influx in the appropriate positions to compete for titles every year and compete with lower P5 is another question and that answer right now is Depends.
My overall feeling about the program is that it is a decent spot. There are certainly worse situations in this league to be in — UTEP, maybe FIU — and for that the average fan can be grateful. I understand the complaints that NT as a program has only moved slightly from its depths — Portland State — and for the dedicated, monied fan that shells out donations and fees every season it can be a little bit of a slog to do the same thing every year. I will not tell you your investments have been in vain, but I will not tell you that they have made the difference.
Supporting this little football program is a pastime, so do not feel bad about taking a break or giving it up. It is fine. Do not browbeat anyone else for digging in and continuing with it. Part of some people’s fun is complaining.
I was trying to get friend of the show Greg to join said podcast but that compounded the scheduling logistical problems. He follows the program as closely as anyone and well, it is always fun to talk basketball with some one who cares.
The squad as currently constructed is good enough to win the league, but man WKU and Tech are scary. We saw how good the Tech defense is this past weekend, and we have written again and again how Javion Hamlet is not playing to last year’s level, but is still good. It a little unfair to continually view his performance through the lens of last season, but it is not completely unreasonable. If you show you can reach some heights people will think that is your ceiling. It just makes sense. Greg messaged me some good points about this team in comparison to last year’s title-winning squad. I can believe the argument that this year’s version is better man-for-man than last year’s. However, Hamlet is not the same guy right now and that is probably the main thing that is keeping me from being a True Believer.
Tech and WKU are good but not so much so that they cannot be beaten. UAB is an unknown, they are good, play good defense, and can score from so many different angles. If NT slips against WKU and Marshall coming up, I do not know that they actually try to make up the Blazer series. It really depends and the league does not reveal its thinking until late. That is something I have an issue with and that makes them look like they do not know what they are doing even if they do know what they are doing. I wrote about it over at CR.
This weekend Southern Miss is the opponent. They can beat NT, if the Mean Green aren’t careful, but if this team has designs on catching up to UAB and winning the West division (non unreasonable) it absolutely needs to sweep.
The league tournament will be a weighted coin toss. I can see anyone winning the thing. The national writers are coming around to UAB and WKU maybe both getting in, but a lot of this is just glorified box-score reading. WKU has many issues — they do not reliably shoot the three and are reliant on a big man in a wing-centered game. They have athletes, though, and in a make-or-break moment that can make the difference between getting a loose ball and not. Tech, we know about. We saw how their size creates problems. Lofton has bulk, and Crawford is rangy. It is a tough thing to deal with. NT has versatility, but Tech has given everyone issues at least once. In a tournament situation, where a team’s legs are not at 100%, just being bigger than the guy next to you is an advantage.
I get NT vibes from UAB, in that they do a lot of similar things, and they play good defense as well.
All of that said, consider that UTSA can win a game if one of their two ballers goes off. Charlotte has Jahmir Young who can win a game for them. FAU with Jailyin Ingram, as well. You could tell me any one of those teams would steal a game vs UAB/WKU/Tech/NT and I would believe you. It can easily happen.
The team that will win the tournament will have a good defense and that is why I would put my money on one of the UAB/WKU/Tech/NT group. Those squads defend well and defense travels. They all have something like an inside presence — which means they do not have to have their legs for shooting from distance on a given day. They all have at least one guy that can create a shot for themselves or others in a clutch moment. Those are all championship ingredients. NT is in that group. That is all we can ask for right now.
If NT wins the tournament does Zach Simmons go in the NT HOF? I say yes.
If NT wins the football championship, and Seth Littrell wants a new job, are you sad about it? I say no.
Did it concern you that UTSA had the top recruiting class in the conference? No, because of the point I made above. Talent development is number one. It concerns me more that NT got ran over by that squad and I think winning invites and encourages more players to come. Buying the groceries is important but the whole point of dinner is eating the meal, so to speak.