North Texas can win the league regular season and division titles 1. They are -4.5 point favorites on senior night against a decent Louisiana Tech team. It would be a perfect send-off for everyone to win, do a little celebrating and cap the careers of Thomas Bell, Mardrez McBride, JJ Murray, and of course Jahmiah Simmons. Whatever happens in Frisco, they’ll leave the most decorated class of hoopers in NT history. They won at least one regular season title, a league tournament, and the school’s first tournament game2. They should be celebrated loudly and ridiculously today.
The last time NT had a chance to win the league at home was vs WKU a couple of years ago in 2020. That was the first of the current little three-game streak agains the Hilltoppers. NT is also on a little three-game streak vs Tech. NT won in the second-game of the home stand last year, and then the matchup in Frisco, and early this season.
Nearly a month ago to the day, North Texas went to Hattiesburg, MS without Tylor Perry and won by nine points against Southern Miss. It was a Thursday night right before a big game against Louisiana Tech that upcoming Saturday. It was a classic trap game. NT fought off the early Southern Miss rally and pulled away in a game which they were not seriously threatened even if there were some eyebrow-raising moments if you were just looking at the scoreboard. North Texas went on to sneak by Tech with a big three from Perry. You know the story.
A couple of days ago, NT was riding high, five wins and about a month later. This time Southern Miss was hurting and light on players and North Texas rolled them easily. The 24-point margin beat the spread, and put NT at 21-wins, 14-1 in conference and at 13-straight victories in both the league and overall. The fourteen wins are the most in CUSA for NT ever, and tie the 2020 team that won the regular season but did not get to play in the postseason. It is the most wins for a CUSA squad since 2018 when Middle (16), ODU (15), and Western (14) did it. There is not much to say that we didn’t already tweet. NT was just better in all facets of the game. Compared to the attention to detail that of the home team, Southern Miss looked awful. They gave up buckets because of a lack of concentration. They could not score, and it did not help that Tyler Stevenson was out as well. Ousmane, McBride, et al just got what they wanted. Abou had 21 but that was just because he was open as hell so often.
The squad is playing well, and has room to improve. Bell struggled a bit against UAB and had a quiet ten against USM. This is coming off a monster month where he was the team’s best player. I do not mind him figuring things out this next two weeks and getting right before the tournament on the 8th of March.
Today, NT gets another matchup against Tech. Since that late January meeting La Tech has dropped games to FAU, and UTEP and have beaten FIU, CLT, UTSA, and Rice. Tech is not nearly as good as they were last year but they can play well (as we saw in Ruston) when they get the ball inside. Dealing with Tech’s big man Kenneth Lofton is still priority one, but we can feel good about Abou Ousmane — not to mention Aaron Scott. They had good minutes last time, and got big defensive stops when they needed it. Bell has struggled with his offense, but is still good for effort and defense and that is what NT is all about right now.
Cobe Williams, their ball handler, is quick, but cannot score like UAB’s Jelly Walker. He can shoot and get into the lane and finish strong, though. There is always Amorie Archibald as well, whose five seasons in Ruston have felt like ten.
The coaching staff have the guys in focus-mode, telling them not to think about the praise they are getting. That’s a good sign. Why? Well because they are a good team. The media doesn’t hype you if you suck. Trust me, it is a great problem to have. This squad has won previously — everyone who gets major minutes has won with NT or elsewhere 3 and they are all grinders. They know what it takes to win, and the have the concentration and discipline to stay thinking about the work involved in getting those wins in the first place.
Given the opponent, I cannot expect any wins. We can expect a hell of an effort from the good guys. The Star in Frisco should be heavily green-colored, but this is the last time in the Pit this season, and the Mean Green Nation should take full advantage. GMG