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Basketball Basketball Recaps

Rout! UNT 74 – Ark St 50

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Basketball Basketball Recaps

WKU 2.7.13

Guys, there simply isn’t much to say about that. When you can barely scrape together a team to put on the floor because of injuries, it is hard to criticize when the team starts getting behind because of fatigue or foul trouble.

This season is lost, a disappointment of epic proportions and a terrible way to start your career as a head coach. It is something similar to the terribleness that was the Southern Miss year in football. Going from the damn near highest to the very lowest.

Everyone on this team looks likely to come out worse for it. Never mind the career-ending injuries to Jacob Holman and Justin Patton, Tony Mitchell’s stock has dropped, Chris Jones is even more of a forgotten man, Roger Franklin won’t be mentioned with the greats post men in UNT history largely because no one is in the stands to remember him.

The only exception has been Jordan Williams. He has been scoring like we thought Tony Mitchell would. He is a bit streaky from three, but he makes up for it with the (newly-found) ability to attack the paint without turning it over. Credit Tony Benford for that, who — as was noted on the broadcast — worked with him to correct a high dribble.

He has been fun to watch. Here’s hoping there won’t be some kind of transfer-fest this offseason (as has been rumored) and we get CJ and JW out there showing signs of their freshman years.

 

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MGN Podcast

17: FollowTrain

In this week’s episode:

Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation! Adam is joined by SportDFW‘s Justin Brumit  to talk about basketball’s game against Troy, the loss against ULM, the upcoming game against UALR and even about the Cowboys, BCS Title game, reviewed some Bowl Games and talked sportz.

Click here for the podcast feed. That should get you everything you need. You can play the episode from there or subscribe via your favorite podcast catcher.

We are in the iTunes store! The Mean Green Nation Podcast will be up every week! You can contact the podcast at podcast@meangreennation.com.

Click the following for a smartphone friendly link:

MGN17 download link

Things we discussed, or will discuss:

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Basketball

Chris Jones Has Broken Foot

Per Vito, man on the scene. 

This is bad bad news ya’ll. Whereas we made it through last season with his absence, this year we have no Brandon Walton to help fill other spaces. The good news? Everyone has written this team off. If pressure and hype was the real reason for the poor showing, there is practically none now. It is all just disappointment.

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Basketball Basketball Recaps

WKU 70 North Texas 64 – 12.30.12

Moral victories are useful. They are like candy, temporarily tasty, make you feel good, but ultimately useless to building a good program. Last night the basketball team fell to 0-2 on the conference season and 5-8 overall. Coming off the game against Lehigh in which they couldn’t score or defend and going into a WKU-MTSU trip against rivals, this was a scary proposition. I could easily imagine that game being another blowout. That it wasn’t makes me feel good. I don’t want to feel good about losses but I also don’t want to have an embarrassment of a basketball team.

So I feel guilty about feeling good about that loss. The offense still doesn’t look like any kind of crisp machine but there were signs of encouragement. Decisions were made much quicker. Passes looked faster. Shots were still missed, though. That was the problem early. WKU jumped out to a nice ten point lead by simply just grabbing rebounds and converting easy buckets. Our defensive sets still rely too much on funneling dribblers to Tony for a block. The problem is that this is a recipe for foul trouble. Tony had four. We did much better with the 1-2-2 press that forced a few bad passes in the second half.

Pressing all game is tiring and risky. Lehigh ate it up pretty easily. WKU, a good team, is obviously as cohesive or we just played with more verve. Whatever the case, we forced turnovers and go easy buckets. Most surprisingly? We started hitting threes. Five of them. I know huh?

Ultimately, the comeback succeeded. We got a lead thanks to Clarke Overlander’s three. We lost it soon after that and things just kind of fell apart. Tony Mitchell got his fourth foul, Chris Jones tweaked an ankle, and we missed shots we had to make.

It was disappointing but heartening. CJ was running the point like we knew he could. He was the catalyst in transition, attacking the paint with success, and making the right passes. Defensively, he was quick to jump in passing lanes (5 steals!) but more important that just stealing the ball was his aggressiveness. He stole it or rebounded it, turned and attacked offensively. It seemed these last few games he was kind of floating down court. Before tonight, only Alzee seemed comfortable in transition.

According to Vito, Chris Jones is still being evaluated and we’ll know if he’ll play against the Blue Raiders tomorrow night.

What does this mean? Well, WKU is among the class of this conference. The road to the NCAA tournament likely goes through them in some fashion. We played them tough in their own building. Last time we were there we got rocked on national television. It is good for everyone’s psyche. Can we defend as well as we did last night with that 1-2-2 and full-court man? Likely not. That is a risky defense. We have the athletes, but it is a tiring defense. That won’t fly in a conference tournament with back-to-back-to-backs. But what other options do we have? The offense was sparked by the turnovers created. Right now that is the only option for scoring consistently. Tony Mitchell still goes no-show a couple of times a game.

MTSU will be just as tough, if not tougher. I still feel guilty.

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Basketball Basketball Recaps

Lehigh Recap

CJ McCollum didn’t even play. Sixty or so NBA scouts attended tonight’s game to figure out where they were going to take CJ and our own Tony Mitchell in the upcoming draft. CJ is a senior while Tony is only a sophomore. He is widely expected to go pro after this year.

Without a possible first-round draft pick to go against, Tony Mitchell had the floor all to himself. He began the night on the bench because of some rule-breaking. (Something about skipping a class??) The team started off well enough. Lehigh obviously had a problem adjusting to the 11-days off and absence of  the nation’s leading scorer. It briefly looked like the offense was going to run smoothly and that this might be a good game.

Then Lehigh went on a run that erased a North Texas 2-pt lead and put them up 52-33 at the half. Aside from a few mini-spurts from the green guys, Lehigh quelled any rebellion and sailed smoothly into an easy victory.

You can get that all from the Associated Press. That isn’t what we do here, ya’ll. We obsess over the little things. Like how we can’t defend. Like how we can’t score. Like how this team is an embarrassment. Stick a fork in us, we are done, says SBN’s Benjamin Miraski.

This is officially the end for North Texas. Even if they should win the Sun Belt, you can’t honestly believe that it will happen at this point. There is too much wrong with a team that shows up and doesn’t compete.

That’s about right. The frustration from the fans is palpable. Same old North Texas, they sayIt is hard to disagree. All the excitement and hope that we had after last season is gone now.

Tony Benford looks lost. The team, following his lead, looks lost. Chris Jones isn’t playing like the guy who dropped 30 on Texas Tech in his first college game. Jordan Williams looks like he could really use someone to pass him the ball in good positions. Tony Mitchell looks like he wonders what could have been at Mizzou.

We must resign ourselves to our fate, ladies and gents. We have no money to fire Benford, not even to threaten to fire him. We have even less money to pay another guy to come in here and fix this mess. This has been our problem for as long as I can remember. Why not North Texas? Well, because we tend to miss badly with our coaching hires. Where Arkansas State was hitting with Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn, we swung and missed with Todd Dodge and Tony Benford.

There is an entire conference regular season and therefore lots of chances to turn this thing around. The  players can rally, talk about how no one believed in them (right) and everyone wrote them off (yep). It will be awesome. I can’t wait for that to happen.

If it doesn’t? We have four more years of Tony Benford. We’ll have to learn to love him as he learns to coach a team. Tonight? He learned that losing the jacket didn’t inspire the team to close out Gabe Knutson. It didn’t  inspire flawless execution of the fast and secondary breaks. It didn’t inspire any cohesion at all.

The players? They played hard in spurts. Mitchell was jogging at some points, sure, and everyone loves to point out how hard Roger Franklin plays (he plays really hard). This doesn’t matter. Did you watch Lehigh? They weren’t out-hustling our guys. They just executed better. When you know where to go and make decisive moves it looks quick. It looks fast. It looks like desire and hunger. It really is just a better coached team doing what they do.

The slowness, the poor shots, the bad passes on our side? Those are overthinking mistakes. Tell me, what is our go-to play? You Mavericks fans know what I mean. You know where Dirk wants the ball late in the game – on the left elbow ( that means near the free throw line to you basketball n00bs). Where does Tony Mitchell want the ball besides under the rim? When teams counter the easy pass to Dirk in his spot, the Mavs will run counters off of that. Some pick-and-roll, some slips, backcuts right? What are our counter moves for Tony Mitchell getting quad-teamed underneath? Nada.

Nothing.

It’s standing around looking lost.

I get that we can’t shoot threes. Brandon Walton and TJ Taylor could have stretched the defense and created space. Sure. Basketball is a rhythm game, though. Clarke Overlander has taken precious few part-of-the offense threes. Instead the ball will somehow find its way into his hands after a failed entry pass. He fires, he misses. I am not surprised.

I suppose the chance that the guys just refuse to buy into Tony Benford’s regime and so this is the problem. Most of the team was constructed by Johnny Jones, with his style in mind. We don’t know Benford’s true style. He hasn’t had time to put his touch on this program. Under normal circumstances, a grace period would be expected. These aren’t normal circumstances. We have had only one first-round-caliber guy here. You do a little adapting to get the most out of the situation.

Right now, this is clearly not happening.

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MGN Podcast

15: McCollum Cometh

In this week’s episode:

Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation! Adam is joined by SportDFW‘s Justin Brumit to talk about the basketball squad’s 45-40 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday and CJ McCollum’s Lehigh coming to town Thursday. Also, Antoinne Jimmerson, Freddie Warner and their effects on the depth chart, recruiting and more. **UPDATE** I mispoke when I said the guys are kicked off the team. No punishment has been announced as of yet. I make mention of that later in the show. Sorry for the confusion. My bad.

Click here for the podcast feed. That should get you everything you need. You can play the episode from there or subscribe via your favorite podcast catcher.

We are in the iTunes store! The Mean Green Nation Podcast will be up every week!.

you can contact the podcast at podcast@meangreennation.com !

Click the following for a smartphone friendly link:

MGN15 download link

Things we discussed, or will discuss:

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Basketball Basketball Recaps

Creighton 71 North Texas 51- 11.9.12

The obvious thing to say is that Creighton is a top #25 team and we should not be embarrassed or surprised at the result Friday night, a 51-71 loss in front of a 17,000 + in Omaha.

We have a new coach, a relatively new system, and a bunch of guys that haven’t had many regulation games with each other facing a tested, good team. We all know that seasons are journeys and improvement will come after 20 games. It still hurts to see your team get stomped. It also hurts to see that there is a ton of room for improvement.

Tony Mitchell went shot for shot with All-American Doug McDermott and block for block with Echenique, the big Venezuelan for the Blue Jays. It was elsewhere that we didn’t matchup well.

Jordan Williams and Alzee Williams combined to go 7-28 from the field. There’s no telling what the reason for this was. Jordan was aggressive like Benford wants him to be but just couldn’t find his shot. Alzee got to the line a few times and make a few nice baskets. It could be just bad luck. Hopefully it was just bad luck. Benford talked about the Creighton defense playing well . . . but then threw in a mention of “execution”. That is coach speak for “it wasn’t them, it was us. Also I want to be diplomatic.”

We can give the BlueJays lots of credit for being a good team and not letting us get away with sloppy execution and lazy plays. It will be a nice lesson going into the NIT and especially into the conference season.

If we fancy ourselves a Tournament team we have to learn these lessons fairly quickly. For now, we take what ever we can into Manhattan, Kansas for the pre-season NIT. There are some good opportunities to be had there and plenty of chances to forget this game.

So that is the rational way of thinking. Let’s talk about how we really feel. IT was a let down. With the football team still trying to climb out of the irrelevance hole we have all attached our Mean Green hopes and dreams on the Tony Mitchell ship. We know he will likely leave for The Association after this, making 2012-2013 our best chance to go do Tournament Damage.

For those you too young or too just joining us, that means further than a first round exit to a traditional powerhouse. Assuming we meet expectations we can at least reach our Rightful Place in the SBC title game (and win) with an unimpressive resume which will get us a low seed  to face a team like  . . . Creighton.

So while I wasn’t exactly expecting a win, I was hoping for something along the lines of that Texas Tech game last year. The one where Chris Jones dropped 31 points in Lubbock. Tech ended up being awful but we came away feeling really good about a loss. This time, I don’t feel so good. I can rationalize it, sure. I can’t feel good.

Next up we have Alabama-Huntsville in Manhattan, KS on Monday at 9:30pm.

 

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Basketball

Mean Green Madness 2012

//Ballislife

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Basketball

Basketball Schedule 2012-2013

Finally! The basketball schedule was released today. Look over it and find out where and when you’ll get to see SB Nation’s ninth ranked college basketball player

Biggest games according to me:

  • at Creighton Nov 9 – North Texas takes on Jr F Doug McDermott’s team in Omaha
  • NIT Preseason Tip Off First Round Nov 13 – Could take on Kansas State in Manhattan, KS
  • NIT Preseason Nov 19-Nov 23 – later rounds. Madison Square Garden!
  • at St Louis Dec 5 – Rick Majerus!
  • Lehigh Dec 20 – The big showdown against the Duke-slayers

I think the best thing about this year’s slate is the balance. There is no seven game home stand needed to balance a long road trip. The conference schedule is basically one week home-one week away.

Enjoy. Make plans to see the most anticipated NT basketball season ever at venue near you.

GMG.