Who knew North Texas was destined to dominiate in the College Basketbal Invitational? I gather that no one thought this nor knew that this particular tournament existed. Here we are now and the Mean Green are giving little glimpses into what Grant McCasland had cooking up in his head.
At Baylor Scott Drew was known for adapting his playing style to the talent of the team on his roster. This may seem like extreme common sense but it is not that common. Grant McCasland has had only two D1 level squads that we can judge and in both situations he was adapting to the roster of a program he inherited.
The above is a long way of saying we did not know exacly what to expect from coach Mac. After the disaster before him, anything resembling a coherent program was going to be fine with most observers.
The early roster makeup and early games looked like North Texas was going to push the pace and be something like the team we have seen in this CBI. Because of injury — Umoja Gibson and Jorden Duffy — NT has played a slower, more deliberate pace that ranked as one of the slowest in the league.
Against South Dakota and tonight against Mercer, the Mean Green have been attacking with pace, using a smaller, quicker lineup with shooters.
Duffy has been the guy we thought he would be along side Rose Smart. He had 19 against USD while Rose had 34. Tonight, they put on show. There was little-to-no drama about the outcome after a point but there was drama around which NT player would be the leading scorer.
In the end, they both had 31 points. Duffy did it from deep, knocking down 6/10 from beyond the arc to go along with his four assists and two steals. Rose Smart went 8/20 including 4/13 from deep, but added eleven boards and went 11/12 from the stripe.
North Texas shot 55% for the game and held Mercer to 35% from the floor including an abysmal 5/26 (19%) from three, where they live and die.
This sleek NT starting five — Woolridge, Duffy, Smart, Miller, and Simmons — came out ready to attack. Tope Arikawe split the minutes at the five spot pretty evenly with Simmons and was a +23 in that time.
The win has put NT in position to host the semifinal round of the CBI on Wednesday night. The crowd was good and rowdy, filling long time fans with nostalgia for the late Johnny Jones era when good basketball at the Pit was a given, and post season fun was expected.
The Denton crowd has a chance to repeat the performance and so does North Texas. The CBI Tournament final is an unusual set up wherein the two entrants play a three-game series to determine the champion. Depending on the situation, North Texas has a chance to host as many as three more games in this event.