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Last Night In Basketball: 3.15.23

The First Four — that abomination of a preliminary round — began in Dayton, with former UNT hooper Jalen Jackson getting 22 points for TAMU-CC. They beat SEMO thanks to superior foul-shooting, mostly. The Southland school earned the right to be blown out by 1 Alabama this weekend. Tomorrow, Johnny Jones — former NT coaching legend — will lead Texas Southern again in the tournament.

Over in the NIT, UAB hosted Southern Miss in a little ‘remember me?’ matchup. The Sun Belt’s regular season champion got whooped by the C-USA’s third-place team (and tournament runner-up). This reminded me that someone said on twitter that Southern Miss would likely have “gotten into the NCAA tournament” in CUSA. Given that FAU was the only entrant, this struck me as, well, very wrong. I looked at the Belt and saw that two teams that combined for five league wins in 2022 finished first-and-second in the Sun Belt. Marshall was basically the same squad. Southern Miss reorganized themselves a ton, but still. I don’t buy it. I think Middle as currently constructed wins the Belt easily. I think Charlotte and Western also finish top-four. Yes, I am thinking even with Western being godawful.

Rumors of Grant McCasland to Texas Tech are surfacing. The message boards and twitter are dissecting all the possible meanings of various things that have happened and comments unsaid in post-game press conferences. North Texas’ men’s program is in a good spot compared to where it was in Mac’s first season. If and when McCasland leaves for greener (read: more money) pastures we will not hold it against him. Plenty of good coaches will see what has been done here and want to jump in a good situation in a good league, living in a great town. Most people think Ross Hodge will be the next guy, and that makes a lot of sense. I believe Grant when he says he wants to coach this particular group through this NIT, however. Expect some serious inquiries to come during, and maybe some strong rumors. Texas Tech is a big money job and Chris Beard took that program to the National Championship game. Big time winning can happen there. Putting aside the history and conduct of the administration, it is possible the job would need some mighty strong financial compensation to make anyone with strong opinions willing to give it a show over a good status quo.

More discussion about Jalie Mitchell, the women’s basketball coach for UNT. The thinking is that this season was an underperformance, and while the WNIT run was nice, it might be time for a change. One issue with spending money to make a change now, is that the return on investment is low. While women’s hoops is increasing in popularity every year, broadly speaking the men’s side is vastly popular. Basketball in Denton is already kind of a tough sell. McCasland has the best program in NT history by many measures and is still not packing the PIT. I am not saying the women’s program does not need a change, but simply that it may be worth letting Mitchell work out her contract — the Benford Plan so to speak — before making any costly decisions. There is also the delicate matter of firing a HOFer. I mean Georgetown still had trouble letting go of Patrick Ewing. And he deserved it.

Oh, in the Upper Left Bracket of the NIT (such a silly name), the Eastern Washington squad went to the Palouse and upset NIT fourth-ranked Washington St. After a late three to go up three, Wazzu missed and fouled. The amazingly-named Steele Venters missed a free throw but got his own rebound over four Cougars. He then made the two next FTs. Then EW steals it and dunks it. They’ll advance to play the Oklahoma St/Youngstown St winner. If NT is able to get by Alcorn St and then the winner of SHSU/Santa Clara, EWU is a possible opponent in the quarterfinal.

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