Almost halfway through the CUSA slate its time to analyze what’s happened so far for North Texas.
Roosevelt Smart Lights It Up
I thought at the beginning of the season that Smart would be the leading scorer for this Mean Green team. I had no idea that he would be the shooter that he is. Smart is such a smooth shooter it really is a joy to watch him play. Smart has already made more 3 pt shots than anybody else did on the 16-17 team did. Roosevelt has been the guy that NT has leaned on to carry them through their offensive struggles. When he struggles to get his shots to fall North Texas struggles to score. Look at the past two games, Southern Miss and La Tech emphasized making his looks tougher. Both of those teams made it difficult for NT to get Smart the ball. The way that North Texas is playing right now Smart has to score 30 for the Mean Green to have any chance of winning a game.
Roosevelt in Conference Play
- 22.9 points per game
- 4.6 rebounds per game
- 33 made 3’s
- 40.7% 3pt%
- 81 attempted 3’s
- 87% from free throw line
- Scored in double figures every game
- Leading scorer for UNT in every game, but 2. One he tied Temara for leading scorer.
Defensive Efficiency Slips
You want your defensive efficiency number to be under 100. The first 2 games of conference play NT had a defensive efficiency rating of 98.05. Not too bad, considering last year through 2 games it was at 106.8. Since the UTEP and UTSA games NT’s efficiency has ballooned to 106.3. Not good folks. The issues aren’t that hard to spot.
- North Texas is struggling to defend the pick ‘n roll. It pretty much lost them the La Tech game.
- DJ Draper is being forced to play more minutes due to injuries. Teams are taking advantage of his athletic limitations.
- Intensity has been lacking. Teams are jumping on North Texas early.
- Teams are getting better looks, because the fundamentals are slipping.
Its a long season, and every team goes through a stretch where they struggle in one area. Sometimes teams start to struggle in two areas or more. Right now North Texas is struggling in multiple areas. No amount of Smart 3 pt shots can mask the defensive issues.
AJ Lawson Struggles With Injury
AJ Lawson was a supposed to be a key cog for this team, but he hasn’t settled in yet. I thought he was pressing a bit to find his role. Turns out his wrist injury is still bugging him. We also found out that he put off surgery to keep playing. All of his shooting numbers are down from last year. The biggest downfall is at the free throw line. Last he was at 60%, now he’s at 46%. That really hurts because he is getting to the line quite a bit. Lawson has shot 15 free throws the last 5 games. He has only hit 4 of them. Tough to watch that guy struggle.
I’d really like to see North Texas get him more looks in the post. Teams know he is no threat from the outside, so why not get him more looks down low? He can finish around the rim. It may help his confidence and also help the team.
Free Throws are Free
North Texas is shooting 66% from the free throw line. During their struggles in CUSA play NT is shooting just 64%. That ranks them 13th out of 14 teams. No one thing can ever cost a team a game. Its usually 2 or 3 things, but North Texas is missing free throws in critical times. If North Texas is able to get its free throw shooting up to 70% during the second half of conference play, they may finish conference play with a winning record.
In conference play here is what a couple of key players are shooting from the line:
- Smart – 87%
- Woolridge – 36%
- Lawson – 29%
- Arikawe – 67%
|Off. Reb. %:||27.8||27|
|Points per Game||70.1||70.7|
Outlook For The Rest Of Conference Play.
Can I be honest with you? It doesn’t look good. If you were asking me today how many more games North Texas might win, by the end of the season I would say 3 or 4. Of course you would shout back at me for being so negative, but you have to look at this objectively.
- Offense struggles to score when Smart isn’t on the floor
- Sometimes the offense is relying on a walk-on to be the secondary scoring threat.
- Duffy has been battling injuries all year and still is.
- Woolridge is playing iron man type of minutes. Sooner or later he may hit the wall.
- This team hung its hat on defense early in the season. Now that efficiency is slipping.
- CUSA is a tough league and NT has a stretch where they play UAB, Middle Tenn, WKU, and Marshall all back to back.
- Free throw shooting is one of the worst in the country.
- AJ Lawson injury is hampering his ability to shoot and score.
What out of those is magically going to correct itself? Maybe Duffy gets healthier by conference tourney time. They really need his shooting. Woolridge isn’t getting any less minutes. AJ wont be getting healthier. Maybe the defense gets a little bit better, but teams have more film and stats now. They know where to attack NT.
Best case scenario is that NT gets Temara and Tope to step up their games. Shane was playing so well early in the year, and has dipped lately. Tope has only gotten better. Then NT corrects some of their defensive issues, the fundamental ones. Plus whenever Draper gets on the floor they go to zone. Duffy gets healthier and gains confidence down the stretch. Woolridge plays with more aggression and becomes the consistent secondary scorer next to Smart. If all that happens I could see North Texas winning 6 or 7 more games. That would give them 16 wins possibly 17 wins going into the conference tournament. I think all North Texas fans would be happy with that.