Every Wednesday during the basketball season I will be taking the time to discuss basketball. I’ll be breaking down the upcoming games and discussing previous games. I’ll do some video breakdowns as well as providing my HSOs on the basketball season. If you’ve got questions I’ll even take the time to discuss those. So get ready the season is upon us.
Its really hard to establish any kind of solid idea of what to expect from the North Texas Mens Basketball team this year. Just like last year there are so many new faces. The player turnover for the Mean Green under Tony Benford has been really astonishing for a Mid Major program. Normally smaller programs are built on consistency. You look for those senior laden teams in March to really make impact in the conference and NCAA tourney. Tony Benford is relying on these new faces to come in and make an impact right away. Not sure I agree with that strategy, but I can say that he has brought in some talented guys.
I think one of the big questions this year is much like last year “Can this team gel in time before conference play?” Last year I was really banking on that happening and it never did. There was a stretch of 5 games where North Texas played really well and got rolling, but after that UNT ended with 4 straight losses. The final loss was another early round exit in the CUSA tourney. So getting back to the question at hand, I really hope that Benford uses the non-conference play wisely to find out who his 7 to 8 man rotation will be. I hope that coming into conference play we know who the starting 5 will be on a consistent basis. I also hope that starting 5 is really comfortable playing together.
Another big question is post play. North Texas got solid play from Colin Voss, but he is gone and that leaves a big hole. No question Jeremy Combs can step up his production to help with the loss of Voss, but that wont be enough. Voss was great because he helped space the floor and allowed Combs to do damage near the basket. Rickey Brice Jr. is a big body, but he is an unkown at this point. Khalil Fuller is a guy you wish was on the football team. Fuller is a big body guy, who can do some banging in the paint. Not sure how skilled he is offensively. I’m just hoping he can come in and provide some quality minutes hitting the boards. Then you have Eric Katenda who transferred in from Notre Dame. He didnt play much for the Irish, but hopefully he can contribute at North Texas. Basically outside of Combs the post play is an unknown and that is pretty scary.
One thing that contributed to the struggles in the post play last year was the poor outside shooting. North Texas ranked near the bottom of college basketball when it came to 3 point shooting last year. Outside of Taylor and Aniefiok the team really struggled. DeAndre Harris had his sparks, but also took a lot of bad shots. Hopefully Harris can play like the guy who was on fire during that 5 game winning streak and less like the ill-tempered player during the last games. Not sure if Harris is starter this year, I like him as a great 6th man candidate, because he is instant offense. J-Mychal Reese is a baller and could shoulder a lot of the burden when it comes to scoring. Deckie Johnson was a good player in the JUCO ranks. We’ve hear nothing but good things about Ja’Michael Brown. Make no mistake about it, this team is going to rely tremendously on guard play. I just hope we dont see a lot of standing around and streetball.
Going into this season I’m predicting 15 wins for North Texas, and even that maybe too high. I just feel there are too many uknowns with this team to feel good about them. I do think they have some talented guys, but I have no idea if they can function as winning basketball team. I’m not sure anyone could answer that with a certainty right now. No one outside of the athletic department is predicting this basketball team to be good. Hopefully that will create a chip on their shoulder and spur the Mean Green onto a great season. I know a lot of North Texas fans would love to see a return of 20 win seasons and deep conference tourney runs. I know one thing, and that is a deep conference tourney run this year would be tough. CUSA is pretty loaded with a good teams. UAB and Old Dominion are the class of the conference.
5 Burning questions facing this team:
How will UNT replace 4 of their top 5 scores?
How much can Brice contribute?
Can this team gel by conference play?
Who plays alongside Combs in the post?
Can Tony Benford finally figure it out?
F Jeremy Combs
F Eric Katenda
G Deckie Johnson
G Ja’Michael Brown
G J-Mychal Reese
G DeAndre Harris
Breaking Down the Basketball Schedule
|Mississippi Valley St|
|Middle Tennessee St.|
Scouting the Roster
|Rickey Brice Jr.|
CUSA Power Rankings Week 1