A blowout win over Marshall, the defending champ. A three-point loss to the most talented team in the league, WKU.
This was not a bad weekend even if North Texas dropped from 2nd to a tie for 3rd (really fourth given the tie-breaker against WKU). NT is still in a great spot for a top-five spot.
Next week NT travels to Florida to take on the FAU/FIU squads and that will wrap up the regular regular season.
If you forgot, or did not know that the league then goes into Bonus Play where the league is divided into three pods — 1-5, 6-10, 11-14 — and a round-robin mini-league will take place.
Right now the current top five in CUSA is like this:
1st — ODU / UTSA 9-3 — as of this writing ODU is playing MTSU
3rd — WKU / UNT 8-4
5th — Southern Miss
North Texas has lost to every one of these teams except for USM, and it required a game-winning layup from Michael Miller with seconds to go. ODU handled NT easily. UTSA required a travel+ miracle shot to win. Western just beat NT.
The league says Bonus Play scheduling will be determined based on “a preset formula” but I imagine that will be something like the seeding determining the home team. In that guesstimate, NT would (right now) play on the road at ODU, UTSA, WKU, and host Southern Miss (again).
Losing to WKU was always likely. The oddsmakers gave NT a two-point favorite designation but the matchups favor WKU. The most talented team in the league had struggled early but had recently begun to figure things out. Charles Bassey is a future NBAer and against NT’s frontline, we were in store for another ODU.
NT needed shooting and instead begun the game as brick-layers. The second half saw the kind of energy and sharpshooting the will win games, but it was too little, too late. NT dropped a game in front of one of the largest crowds in a decade.
NT jumped out to a lead and dominated the Herd from start to finish. This is the kind of thing that is hard to interpret. Marshall lost by 50 to USM the other night and that is the kind of thing that makes any win feel unimpressive.
When you read the roster, you see why you should be rewriting the media guide, though. Jon Elmore was an NCAA Tourney hero, and lead the Herd to a conference tourney title.
What Should We Think?
North Texas is in a good spot — 20 wins! — and is playing like one of the better teams in this league. The latter was expected in pre-season, and while it is frustrating to lose an opportunity game against Western, there are plenty of chance to win this league and this tournament to earn an NCAA tourney bid.
Western and ODU are the toughest matchups because of their size. On the right day, NT can overcome that with superior shooting and good pace. We saw how that would look when NT made the big comeback in the second half vs the Toppers.
As it stands, I like NT’s chances against any of the top-five on the right day. NT matches up better with UTSA, and Southern Miss but both of those games came down to the wire. Both of those teams are playing even better than they were then, also. One more week to go and we get our first taste of Bonus Play.