People of earth, it is real and it is today. North Texas is in the NIT Tournament as a 2-seed and will take on a solid Texas State squad out of the mediocre Sun Belt conference. They finished atop the league, but were not highly rated. See Kenpom screenshot below.
Texas State was ousted in the Sun Belt tournament by ULL in the second round.
Print your NIT bracket here.
As of this writing, North Texas is favored by -9
How To Watch
Tuesday, March 14th, 2022 – 7:00pm CT – Denton, Texas – Super Pit
Broadcasters: David Saltzman, Lance Blanks
Radio: (Local) Mean Green Learfield IMG College – Dave Barnett, Hank DIckenson
Series Record: North Texas 59 – 28
Fun Fact: This is the 88th all-time meeting between these two. The 59 wins UNT has over TXST is the most they have over any other opponent. The 88 previous meetings is also the most. This will be their first match up since Dec. 19, 2010 (UNT won 85-62).
North Texas are favored in this one, as expected given the seeding. The Bobcats are a good Sun Belt teams and beat Rice in non-conference. Rice had nothing for NT, however. In terms of ratings, and comparable teams that you might remember from the Mean Green season, you can look at Buffalo, Middle (non-tournament version), FAU, and UTEP.
They had a nice run through the Belt, but did split vs UT-Arlington, a team NT throttled. 5 Caleb Asberry was on the Sun Belt all conference first team and 12 Mason Harrell was on the second team. Asberry is primarily a shooter (.425 in conference). Harrell and backup guard 55 Drue Drinnon will get screens from 1 Isiah Small or 11 Nate Martin or 22 Nighael Ceaser. Ceaser will slash and try some finesse in the lane. Small will step out and try a three, but that shouldn’t be an issue. He likes to drive and use his quickness to surprise people attacking slower bigs.
They were one of the best offenses in the Belt, using their quickness in the front court and shooting to get buckets. Defensively, they were middling for the Belt (7th in Kenpom) and that has to be owing to their size. They struggled vs ULL’s length 1 on both sides of the ball in the league tournament.
Offensively, their sets are about getting Harrell, Drinnon, and Asberry open looks of the pick, or attacking downhill and finding shooters when the pick-and-roll is getting buckets. They remind me of Rice, in terms of size and mindset. They want threes and layups and use their speed to get the latter.
It is about size. NT has Abou Ousmane and version of him that bullied his way into 16 points vs Rice, and 21 vs USM, and 22 vs Marshall. He should be able to get bully-ball buckets vs this team. They will no doubt swarm him, but just as he got deep position into the paint vs Rice, he should be able to do what he wants in this one.
Mardrez McBride will be asked to shoot and honestly it should not be a worry. He struggled in Frisco (2-13 from 3) but is a .438 shooter in conference play and .388 on the season. He can shoot. Small, Ceaser, and their bench big are quick and agile, but so are Aaron Scott and Thomas Bell.
Tylor Perry guarded Tech’s Cobe Williams well enough in three games, and NT also didn’t let UAB’s Jelly Walker go nuclear either. NT should not have too much trouble preventing the smallish guards from getting into the paint. They might get free for a midrange or some pull-up transition threes, but the Mean Green have been great at limiting those.
If you have the Tech game on your mind, consider that Tech only scored 42 and that was with Keaston Willis shooting 4-8 from three. In that game, Williams was the only guy with more than two made baskets.
Texas State does not have the most crisp offense. Their bigs are ready to slip, or are simply not big enough to bully anyone. NT fought through Kenneth Lofton screens well enough, this should be much easier.
Keys to the game:
- Lock in — NIT is a disappointment only because this team is so good and wanted the NCAAT. Play the game in front of you, not the one you wish you were in.
- Dominate the points in the paint (Ousmane, Bell on ORebs, put-backs, dives on pick and rolls)
- Limit transition threes. Texas State doesn’t play fast, but they like to shoot it.
- Respect their experience. Texas State has won 20 or so games in three straight seasons, and Small, Asberry and Harrell have been in a lot of games.
So Are We Going To Win Or Nah?
Probably. It is hard to guesstimate motivation, but both of these teams are playing with key seniors. There is pride, and frustration at missing a chance to get into the tournament. Assuming NT plays with the focus defensively they did vs Tech and Rice, they should be fine. Louisiana Tech had better athletes and a better coach to help them execute their game plan vs NT. They were also fortunate that McBride and everyone was ice-cold from distance. Add to that the fact that NT isn’t playing at 11:30 am, and we should see a return to normalcy.
An NT win looks like: Something like the wins over Sam Houston St, UTEP, Middle, and FAU. NT controlled all of those games even though there were moments here and there where the squad was threatened or even trailed. You’ll see Ousmane in double-figures, Bell with 10-20 points and 8 rebounds, and Rubin Jones, JJ Murray getting some easy buckets.
An NT loss looks like: Something like the loss vs UTEP, the loss vs Buffalo, and even *gulp* vs Tech. NT had the offense either disappear, or an aspect of it betray them. Against the Miners it was free throws. Against Tech it was three-pointers. Against Buffalo it was execution. Texas State gets hot from three, someone struggles and Texas State gets a little confidence.
I think NT bounces back, we see a little variety on offense that we have not seen previously. Maybe it is a little more freedom for Rubin Jones or as Greg said on the twitter space this afternoon: a little more Aaron Scott at the three. Grant has been known to mix it up in the post-season tournaments.
Post game we will do a Twitter space. Follow @MeanGreenNation
in both meetings. They were down 12 in one matchup before coming back↩