NT Men’s Basketball Is Off To A Slightly Rough Start

It is almost turkey time and you will be busy travelling or hosting family, or making food or fighting people at the store on black friday.

You might have forgotten the basketball season has started already. Let us recap the season thus far and mixing in a look ahead at the schedule.

The season thus far:

North Texas beat an overmatched squad to start the season, then hung tough with #25 VCU before losing by three points. They followed that with an ugly loss at Arkansas and then lost as favorites against Eastern Michigan at home.

The beat North Carolina A&T by 20, and head to Jamaica for the Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic. There, they’ll face Rhode Island and Utah State. Both of those games will be on CBS Sports Network.

Sitting at 2-3, North Texas has simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed. You can be proud of the fight and toughness they showed against VCU but disappointed by the lack of the same vs Arkansas and EMU.

The squad is depending on a lot from new faces, but it is the usual suspects that have under-performed relative to their abilities. Roosevelt Smart is not the same player he was two seasons ago, when he was the most dangerous player on the court for the Mean Green. Zach Simmons was incredible last season but has struggled to find his form this year.

North Texas has very little size outside of Simmons and McCasland needs him to be efficient. Last year he shot 61% from 2-point range. This year, he is at just 44%.

It is early, and some of his struggles are from not having Ryan Woolridge finding him and NT not really having an identity thus far. In the VCU game, NT blew two offensive possessions late that could have tied the game, and struggled to run the offense or find their best player. That last part is the key. Who is the best player?

Umoja Gibson has been great so far, but struggles to create his own shot off the bounce. He almost exclusively shoots from distance (240+ attempts from three, 78 from two for his career). He does not get to the line or the cup like Rose did two seasons ago, nor like Woolridge did in his time here.

Javion Hamlet has played well in spots, but has not been the one-for-one replacement for Woolridge (no one was ever going to be able to do that) and there is plenty of time for him to adjust to the team.

The short version is that this team is scrappy, but will be frustrating to watch offensively unless one of these guys makes a leap. We have seen players bloom late in the season for McCasland — remember Mike Miller suddenly switching hands and becoming a ridiculous shooter? — so do not hold tight to an opinion just yet.

The tough schedule — UTA on Dec 2nd, Oklahoma on Dec 5th, Dayton on the 17th — should prepare the squad for the solid CUSA schedule. The travel in this league can be rough, and the teams good enough to beat you on any night.

North Texas’s most realistic shot of an NCAA berth is via the Frisco tournament so all the focus should be on earning a good conference seed, developing the kind of team that can play great basketball over a week’s time in March.

It would be great to see Zach get some easy buckets and that means someone is going to need to be able to attack the basket with authority. There are plenty of guys who can and the rest of this early period will be about finding the one who will.