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North Texas MBB at Middle Tennessee, A Preview

NASHVILLE — Part of the allure of doing this MGN Road Trip with the family was staying in Nashville for a couple of days. As part of other trips (Knoxville, Memphis) we had been to Tennessee before, but never to the Middle. 1. I am getting Austin vibes, in that every building looks to have been constructed in the last decade. It is all made of glass, there are bars everywhere, and even this midtown hotel has a guy doing live music three nights a week. For you Denton-ites who love music and live music, Nashville isn’t a bad choice for when you want to grow up and move along. Now, you’ll need a ton of cash to buy anything decent housing wise. So it goes.

We have yet to try the hot-chicken (Prince’s) but we did try a place called “San Antonio Taco, Co“. Now you might think this is a waste of time and effort and I will not dispute that. I was compelled by forces greater than my own to try this and I can tell you it is a bit strange and yet familiar in seeing a place decorated like a mediocre spot from San Antonio plopped right next to Vanderbilt.2. It looks like a spot from Texas got teleported but with some damage. “They’ve lost their way in the last 35 years” says my wife. The way they order tacos here is strange — it is a check-box system. It is decidedly for people unfamiliar with how to order tacos. Being a Texan, and well, brown, this is all very strange and funny to me. My children, being similar makeup and background as myself, were delighted to get tacos again. “I liked them.” reports one child of MGN. The tortillas weren’t bad. They make them fresh. I was surprised. 3

North Texas plays Middle at 5pm in Murfreesboro. Coach McCasland told me “we have to be able to score against their press” and that is true. Middle lost in San Antonio on a buzzer-beater in front of dozens. NT was just up in Bowling Green but the trip down from Kentucky is about two hours. “We’ll be there by midnight and by then they’ll be ready to sleep. We’ll get up and watch film of this [WKU game] and we’ll turn our full attention to MTSU”.

NT With The Ball

Score against the press. North Texas will get pressure on the ball, but it will be a mix of man-to-man and full-court zone presses from Middle. North Texas struggled a bit vs WKU’s slight variation on that, but that was more because of the changeup than anything. NT has seen Middle just the once, last year in Denton. This is the first of two this year with a very different NT roster. Expect Tylor Perry and Kai Huntsberry to do a lot of the ball-handling, but also expect Rubin Jones to do some as well. Jones was “coached” up on his decision-making against the press vs WKU a bit, but is the primary in-bounder, and a good ball handler himself. There will be turnovers and that is fine, but we also want to see NT get through the press and get easy buckets.

Middle will sometimes “press” by just extending their 1-3-1 zone out and then settling in and trapping once you get to half court. NT has to be smart with the ball, and find the open guy. They did a great job against WKU for the most part, but there were some iffy passes and some close-calls. WKU got a couple of steals, but NT was mostly able to hit them with good passes and found open looks.

They have a bunch of 6-7, 6-8 dudes with length and springy legs. Teafale Lenard is a defensive stalwart, but also Eli Lawrence, and Elias King are good.

NT Without The Ball

Expect more grit and defensive prowess from the Mean Green. That’s just the deal. I mean read this quote from Western:

“It’s what they do,” Cunningham said. “I don’t want to bring up a bad memory, but we got down 17-0 to them a few years ago down in Frisco in the championship game. So a lot of it, give them credit – it’s what they do. I’ve seen it happen with them a lot. They’re so good at what they do defensively.

Middle wants to get steals and get out and run, but they also like the ‘continuity’ stuff offensively. For the layman, that means you will see their big man pop out high, and a series of passes off screens until they can find a cutter or get into a two-man game with 24 Camryn Weston. They also like to get Deandre Dishman some post-touches — last year in the league tournament he was awesome.

We mentioned the series of 6-8 athletes they have, and they all can attack the rim — especially on cuts. They fly in for tip-ins, cuts off back screens, and love to get steals and get out and run. King and Lawrence are the shooters but Lenard can knock it down. He hit one as Middle came back from down double-digits in San Antonio.

Quick take: NT played very well vs WKU, and while you may focus on the near-WKU comeback, consider that Western never really threatened to come back and didn’t lead late at all. NT controlled the game thanks to the big jump to start the game. Middle will be aggressive at home, and is looking to get the bad UTSA loss out of their mouths. NT has been in Murfreesboro and is presumably slightly more rested and ready for this one. Scoring vs the press is key — good ball security and taking advantage of the opportunities. Martinez, Eady, Jones, and Scott will have shots. They have to knock them down.

  1. It is hilarious to me that they chose “middle” as the designation over the nationwide preference for “central”.

  2. The owners were from SA and sold to Vandy students

  3. Most places don’t make their own tortillas. This place did, despite not having a really great selection of taco options. It was just beef or chicken, and like pork.

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