This has been a nightmare. Injuries, underwhelming performances, questionable coaching, and bad luck have conspired to produce a terrible 7-14 season in the Sun Belt that UNT was tabbed to win outright. There were some rumblings about squeezing into a 10-seed if we we got lucky. Sometime early on SBNation wrote us off. There was no reason to believe that this team could achieve anything on that wishlist. From then until now fans have been eyeing their phones and hoping for a run to get them back in the stadium.
I don’t blame them. Life is full of distractions. Seeing terrible basketball isn’t the greatest use of one’s time, no matter how die-hard they are. If they are any kind of person that UNT hopes to mold them into, they have jobs, families, hobbies, and the like to fill the schedule. You shouldn’t blame them either. The fans have been keeping up. They know what’s what. They know that the regular season for a Sun Belt team that doesn’t WOW in non-conference won’t be given any kind of credit. The road to national notoriety is via the Sun Belt tournament. I’ve said before in this space that the SBC title game is our rightful place. Johnny Jones figured out a formula that put us there two years in a row, and multiple times over his career. For all the criticism that Tony Benford has gotten by me and all the NT faithful, he will do a lot by getting back to the promised land’s doorstep. That is to say, I will become a Benford Believer if he can navigate this SBC Tournament and lead this unlucky team into the NCAAs.
The greatest thing about college basketball is the unquestionable Americanness of it. With a little hard luck and some good fortune smiling on you anyone can climb to the mountain top. Last year Jacob Holmen cought fire, Brandon Walton hit some clutch threes and we made our way to the title game after an up-and-down rebuilding year. Jordan Williams has discovered his three-point stroke these last few weeks, Chris Jones is back and shook off some rust v ArkSt, and god knows we’ve been waiting for Clarke Overlander to shake off the first-year jitters.
The point is that there is reason to be hopeful. The lack of depth may mean the run may end early in a heartbreaking game where everyone misses seemingly easy shots. Sure. That has been the worry this since Jake Holman and Justin Patton retired. The good news is we have renewed confidence. We’ve found a winning formula (that may rely on the other squad relaxing but whatevs) and have found a spark in CJ’s return. Hell, the boost that comes from actually having something to play for may be enough to carry us through.
Sure was good to get over on Arky State. They whooped us in football and the last meeting in Jonesboro didn’t go well. Tony Benford was accused of being lame and unprofessional and we lost.
Chris Jones looks way more comfortable even now coming back from that injury vs the beginning this season. I wonder if sitting for a couple of months watching everyone else play built up that old love of the game. Miracles happen when you play while having fun. The pressure is off when you already won by getting to play.
I won’t be in Hot Springs this season after all. Instead I’ll be in Richmond, VA. I will be watching the games however. I will also try to swing some podcasts to talk about them. (Ad coming) For more podcasty goodness I encourage you to visit josephinestreetpodcasts.com where you can find Deranged Pengwin, Mean Green Nation, and Dapper Dialogue, a tech podcast with my buddy @brandonjermaine (end Ad).
I know it was Senior Night. I don’t want to say good bye to Roger and Niko just yet though. Let’s wait until we are done with Hot Springs. Again, I do want to acknowledge Jacob Holmen and Justin Patton, however. Thanks for the basketball, guys.