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North Texas at FAU, A Preview

As of this writing, no one wanted/could sponsor a trip for two to Boca Raton for a little MGN coverage of the game. So we will be covering this very large and important matchup from the sofa.

I am and was serious about sending someone out. Coverage of the hoops team is fun, sure, but also is important to get the full context of the team. This program led by Grant McCasland is incredibly forthcoming and open with their process and all those questions people have can be answered by a little reporting and digging.

Not enough people care hard enough about this team (or the site, haha) to open up their wallets, however. I do not just mean MGN, which is an ongoing concern but not close to being self-supported. The success or failure of this little website has more to do with the quality of product, than anything else I am sure. No, looking at Louisiana Tech visiting the Pit, I did not see a full house. This program is the most successful in NT basketball history and has put trophies in the trophy case. It is entertaining and fun and totally worth getting off the couch and visiting the Super Pit for a couple of hours.

A lot of people do just that. Many do not. My gut says that is simply the nature of basketball in Texas. People like it here, but they love football. This proprietor of blogging goodness can see that when I post a football article. I get 10x the traffic than if I were to write anything about hoops. It is just what it is. As a freshman staying at Maple Hall, I rounded up a bunch of people to try to go to a game. A good portion didn’t know there was a game. Others didn’t know we got in free as students. So it goes. NT had a good squad!

The distant past with a good crowd

Lost amid all the questions about how good a team should be or what kind of style you want them to play and the opponent and whatever is the simple question: Do You Like Basketball?

I do. I think it is great. I can talk about it all day. I can go on and on about styles, offense, defense, good picks, playing pick up, high level offense, strategy for rec leagues, youth basketball, skills training, and on and on. I love the game. It is great.

So watching even a mediocre squad hoop (this team is not mediocre) still holds a lot of value for me. I can still appreciate the goings-on. I am still aghast at how cheap season tickets for the Mean Green Men’s team were. It is incredible value for a great squad. But that is me. I know everyone isn’t me, and they have their own reasons for going to a game and perhaps NT doesn’t provide that. Fair. 1

This is a big game folks, as far as regular season battles go. FAU came into Denton and won the last five minutes and pulled away. North Texas won the other 35 minutes, but as Mac writes on the board every night: It is a 40 minute game. FAU is on a 14-game win streak and is being discussed in the top-25 and also about getting an at-large bid. As a North Texan, you can be confident that NT can compete with this team — we saw it happen! The issue is that this will be a raucous crowd in Boca, and a team with newfound belief and also with luck on their side. FAU just escaped cross-town rival FIU in OT at home. North Texas of course escaped from Tech — something of a rival — with a last second buzzer-beater on Wednesday. College basketball is silly, and that is why we love it. Conference play brings familiarity, hostile crowds, and good games. I love it.

North Texas With The Ball

How about that first half vs Tech? Let’s see more of that. North Texas likes to play inside-out and will continue to look for Abou Ousmane to do his damage. He had fourteen vs Tech and that is right about the number we can reasonably expect. Goldin, and Rosado don’t have the defensive skill to stay with him. Ousmane has a nice range of finishes around the cup to get buckets for NT. The key for him is to stay out of foul trouble. When he is sitting, NT has gone with a combination of Aaron Scott, Jayden Martinez, and Rubin Jones. That combination brings a ton of versatility. Jones and Scott don’t really guard the bigs, but they bring enough energy and versatility and length to disrupt a lot of stuff while Martinez can bring enough heft to not get disrupted down low. Kai Huntsberry hit the game-winner but struggled a bit — it looked like he had the yips. He is getting to his spots and showing aggression but missing some bunnies. It happens. He hit the most important shot he took, so it is all good.

Beyond that, NT will be looking at Tylor Perry to do his thing. Teams like to deny him the ball, and Grant McCasland dialed up a play to get Huntsberry the ball by making Perry the decoy. Catching teams overloading Perry’s side has been great for Scott, and Jones to dive and get back cuts. Mac told MGN that he has been coaching his players on being aggressive even when the shots aren’t falling by getting paint touches and driving hard at the defense. This has worked well in the last couple of weeks. Perry, Tyree Eady, Martinez, and Scott have been nice from distance, and that will have to continue. NT went cold late vs FAU — a team with a very aggressive and tough, smart defense. Guys will get chances, but have to take advantage of them. NT spent a lot of gym time working on shots they got vs FAU – and missed — last time. That has paid off in three straight wins. Now it is time to get some revenge.

NT Without The Ball

Foul trouble has plagued NT. Abou Ousmane had two early ones vs Middle, and the team put Tech at the line a ton in allowing 47 second half points in Denton on Wednesday. Usually that is not something NT is known for. This is a very disciplined team, usually. Going on the road and staying solid but not allowing free points is obviously key, but an aspect that needs a little extra focus. FAU has four or more players with 100+ offensive ratings and does not need the added boost of freebies at the line. FAU likes to shoot — they have four guys shooting greater than 37% from the three. NT did a great job of challenging those shots in Denton — and FAU didn’t shoot well just like NT didn’t. Dusty May’s squad will want to shake off their rust as well. The crowd will be loud and that usually means the refs will be more likely to give the 50/50 calls to the home team. NT will probably be playing against six people if you know what I mean.

Mike Forrest, Greenlee, Alijah Martin are the usual suspects. NT has done well against this FAU squad (14-7 series record) but Mac has only a 3-4 record against this program. Johnell Davis has been out-of-nowhere-good scoring 36,10,17 in the three games since the NT squad. There is plenty of offense and talent throughout the FAU roster. NT does a good job generally of neutralizing teams, and did so in Denton so a lot of the good from that can be carried over.

Other Thoughts

There probably is a little game theory here where a loss by North Texas would strengthen the chances of getting two-bids if NT were to win in the league title game or something or other. I think while that may be true, the purpose of the league is to compete and win. The chance to impress out of conference came and went (FAU beat Florida, by the way) and so now the time to bang heads and compete in the league is here. FAU got one, and now NT is competing to win the regular season and the league tournament seedings that come with it.

  1. I have season tickets to SLU, and am going to the women’s hoop game this Sunday. I love hoops

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