North Texas has 9 games left on its conference schedule, and everyone of them is important. Right now if you look at the standings in CUSA you see that a mammoth battle is about to ensue for that 4th seed, and a 1st round bye.
For the longest time I thought that the top 5 in CUSA were pretty much set, but in recent weeks Marshall and UAB have looked vulnerable. Now La Tech and UTSA are surging. UTSA just beat UAB and Marshall. North Texas is the quiet team, because no one is sure what to make of them. At one point UNT was scary, but now not so much. If you polled all those that are in the know about CUSA basketball I think you would find that most would pick UNT 5th out of the group of 5 vying for that 4th seed. I’m here to tell you that there is hope in this race. I’m here to tell you that North Texas has a chance at that 4th seed, but the hope is tied to one area. That area is offensive efficiency.
Offensive Efficiency Breakdown
First off what exactly is offensive efficiency? Raw offensive efficiency is points scored per 100 offensive possessions. So for this post that’s what we will focus on. Here is a breakdown of what North Texas has done in their wins and losses.
First off like you expected there is a big difference. Yeah when North Texas wins they play well on offense. Look at the defensive efficiency rating now, and notice how it isn’t that much of dramatic difference like the offensive rating. When North Texas wins it is averaging 20.8 more points per 100 possessions then when they lose. Defensively it’s only 7.7 points. If you’ve watched most of the Mean Green games this year you would’ve noticed that there isn’t much difference in the quality of defense in won and lost games. Credit Coach McCasland for the most part he gets his guys to play pretty good defense in every game. Now for reference purposes NT has averaged an offensive efficiency rating of 104 and a defensive rating of 101 throughout all of their games. So what or who is exactly driving the offensive efficiency in these wins and losses?
The Three Pillars
If I posed the question to you who you thought was the driving force in good offensive efficiency for North Texas was. I’m sure you’d answer Roosevelt Smart or Ryan Woolridge, and you know what I wouldn’t argue with you. Those guys along with AJ Lawson are very critical to the success of North Texas. They are what I call the Saviors. They can save North Texas on a bad offensive night. At least two of those 3 always have to be scoring for North Texas to have any chance. But they really aren’t the drivers of successful offensive efficiency for North Texas. Each one of those guys have had good games when North Texas had below average offensive efficiency night. Smart had 23 against La Tech when NT’s offensive efficiency rating was 90.7. Woolridge had 21 against Georgetown when NT’s offensive efficiency rating was 85.3. My 3 guys who are the pillars to offensive success for North Texas are – Shane Temara, Zach Simmons, and Tope Arikawe. Yup those 3 big guys are the key to North Texas running down that 4th seed. Lets take a look at their numbers.
I took 7 of the best offensive efficiency games after the Rodgers St game and 6 of the worst offensive efficiency game and ran the number of these 3 guys. Obviously a couple of things stand out. First you have the 9 points per game difference. North Texas lost 5 of those 6 bad offensive efficiency games. Their average margin of defeat in those was 7 points per game. The second and probably most glaring is the shooting %. These guys don’t take a ton of shots per game, and most of their shots are at the rim. For them to shoot 23% at close range is pretty ugly.
Close it Out
North has as good a chance as UAB, Marshall, UTSA, and La Tech to get that 4th seed. It’s going to take a great effort to accomplish a feat that many thought was near impossible to start the season. If North Texas is going to accomplish the impossible it will always start on the defensive end, but they have to get quality games out of at least 2 of the 3 guys. Tope is starting to figure it out. Zach continues to improve. Shane is in a shooting slump. Temara hasn’t scored in double digits since the Charlotte game. We all hope he can figure it out before the gauntlet of UAB, Middle Tennessee, WKU, Marshall.