Categories
Basketball

CUSA Basketball Power Rankings & Thoughts (Tourney Edition)

  1. Middle Tennessee
  2. Old Dominion
  3. Western Kentucky
  4. Marshall
  5. UAB
  6. Louisiana Tech
  7. North Texas
  8. UTSA
  9. FIU
  10. Southern Miss
  11. UTEP
  12. FAU
  13. Rice
  14. Charlotte
  • Middle Tennessee is on the bubble now as an at large team. They need to win the whole thing in Frisco to not feel nervous on Sunday. Marshall must be their kryptonite. I wonder how Middle feels about seeing them on their side of the bracket. Analysts always say that its hard to beat a team 3 times in a row.

  • UAB got hot at the right time. Two dominating wins against Marshall, and WKU have Blazer fans feeling good about their Frisco trip. UAB is the most dangerous lower seed in this tourney. They have the offense and interior defense to win this whole thing.

  • WKU was mentally beat before they faced off against UAB. The beat down that Middle gave them really shook their confidence. WKU is still a good team, but they have to find some confidence. Its not going to be easy, since the team that just beat them by 28 will likely walk out on to the floor when WKU starts their tourney run in Frisco.

  • Feel bad for UTSA. It sucks to lose a star right before the conference tourney. Now they get a hot UTEP team.  That’s one early game to watch for an upset.

  • A lot of fans are already ragging on the Frisco set-up. Mainly WKU fans. I say give it a chance before saying anything bad about it. No destination in CUSA is going to please everyone. Frisco and The Star in particular is a unique set-up, that alone should get CUSA some nice publicity. I’m excited to see how everything looks, and feels. Sure there are going to be some hiccups, but the play on the courts should be exciting.

    MGN CUSA Awards

    Player of the Year – Nick King, F MTSU

Defensive Player of the Year – Ajdin Penava, F Marshall

Newcomer of the Year – Roosevelt Smart, G North Texas

Freshman of the Year – Taveion Hollingsworth, G WKU

Sixth Man of the Year – Gerdarius Troutman, G FAU

Coach of the Year – Kermit Davis, MTSU

All Conference 1st Team

  • Nick King, F MTSU
  • Chris Cokley, F UAB
  • Justin Johnson, F WKU
  • Jon Elmore, G Marshall
  • Ahmad Caver, G ODU

All Conference 2nd Team

  • Brian Beard, G FIU
  • C.J. Burks, G Marshall
  • Trey Porter, F ODU
  • Ajdin Penava, F Marshall
  • Cortez Edwards, G Southern Miss

All Conference Defense Team

  • Brian Beard, G FIU
  • Ajdin Penava, F Marshall
  • Cortez Edwards, G Southern Miss
  • William Lee, F UAB
  • Ahmad Caver, G ODU

All Conference Freshman Team 

  • Jhivvan Jackson, G UTSA
  • Taveion Hollingsworth, G WKU
  • Zack Bryant, G UAB
  • Zach Simmons, F North Texas
  • Evan Gilyard, G UTEP

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Basketball

CUSA Basketball Power Rankings & Thoughts

  1. Middle Tennessee
  2. Western Kentucky
  3. Old Dominion
  4. Marshall
  5. UTSA
  6. UAB
  7. Louisiana Tech
  8. North Texas
  9. FIU
  10. FAU
  11. Southern Miss
  12. UTEP
  13. Rice
  14. Charlotte
  • Middle and WKU flexed their muscles last week.  WKU probably had the best week. The Hilltoppers absolutely demolished ODU, who was ranked number one in these rankings last week. WKU put up 88 points on ODU, and to be honest you could make a strong case that they should be number 1 this week.  Since the UTSA loss WKU has been nothing but really good. Middle tore apart UAB. The Blue Raiders showcased why they are a top 25 team. Both of these teams WKU and Middle face off in Murfreesboro this Thursday. It is absolutely must watch basketball.  In their last meeting Middle controlled the tempo and held WKU to only 62 points.  I would not be shocked at all if WKU won this game. The Hilltoppers have more weapons, but Middle is a better overall TEAM. Should be fascinating.

  • What has happened to UAB? The Blazers should be a top challenger in CUSA, instead they are trying to figure out their offensive issues. In their last 8 games UAB is 2-6 scoring only 63.7 points a game. That’s not where UAB should be. Their offensive efficiency should be much better than it is.

  • North Texas is in an absolute free fall right now. The Mean Green have issues all across the board. First off they can’t get stops when they need them. NT just let FIU and FAU, two bad offensive teams, run right over them. Secondly and more importantly, NT is looking for some on the floor leadership. Ryan Woolridge and Roosevelt Smart are the leaders of that team. They really need to step up this week, and get things back on track.

  • What exactly is UTSA? Are they contenders or pretenders? The roadrunners from San Antonio have taken care of business in the last two weeks against the bottom half of CUSA. Then there was the 40 point drubbing ODU put on them. UTSA is still in contention for the 4th seed and a bye. They have NT and Rice. Both of those games are winnable, and should be W’s for UTSA. I wouldn’t be shocked to see UTSA get a bye.

  • Here is what the match-up’s look like if CUSA ended today.
    CUSA_Tourney
  • And here are my crazy predictions based off those match-ups.
    CUSA_Tourney_PredictionsYes I know what you are say UNT is not beating WKU. It’s hard to see that with how UNT is playing right now. Still my bold prediction is that if UNT wins their 1st game they are winning their second game no matter who they play. There are going to be upsets on day two. One of those top 4 seeds is going down. Marshall wants revenge on UTSA. UAB is in the same boat as UNT right now, struggling to stay afloat. So its hard to see them beating ODU. Its pretty crazy to believe that La Tech vs Middle would be a day 2 match-up. No one saw that coming in the preseason. If UNT can climb up to the 6 seed, and get by their first game I think its a more likely scenario of them beating ODU. If they stay at 7 they have a slim shot at WKU. NT probably has a better shot at Middle than WKU. So summarizing ODU, Marshall, and possibly UTSA if they are a 4 seed- one of those top ranked teams is going down on day two. It should really be a great tournament. Don’t expect chalk outside of WKU and Middle. There will be lots of close games, and potential upsets. Middle and WKU also might not be as safe as some think. Marshall is the one team that beat Middle, and WKU has shown it could have a bad night too. Would love to hear who your picks are right now.
Categories
Basketball

2017-18 BBall Season: FAU Preview

Overview

North Texas ends its Florida trip with a battle against FAU.

  • Saturday, Feb 24 2018
  • 6:00 p.m. CT
  • FAU Arena , Boca Raton FL
  • TV:  CUSA TV
  • Radio: MGRN – 88.1 KNTU-FM
  • Line: North Texas -1.5

What You Need to Know About FAU

Record: 11-16 (5-10)

Last Game vs UNT: L 59-53

Last Game: Rice L 79-76

Scoring Margin: –0.1

CUSA Scoring Margin: -4.0


 Projected Starting Lineups

North Texas

Player Position Stat
Ryan Woolridge 6-3 G 5.7 A/pg
Roosevelt Smart 6-3 G 19.2 PT/pg
A.J. Lawson 6-5 G 9.4 PT/pg
Allante Holston 6-7 F 3.9 PT/pg
Tope Arikawe 6-8 F 3.9 PT/pg

 

FAU

Player Position Stat
Justin Massey 6-4 G 12.9 PT/pg
Payton Hulsey 6-5 G 6.0 PT/pg
Jailyn Ingram 6-7 G 8.8 PT/pg
William Pfister 6-10 F 6.7 REB/pg
Ronald Delph 7-0 C 14.2 PT/pg

Game Plan

Attacking FAU

FAU Defensive Strategy: Man

Last game against FAU Smart was hampered with foul trouble.  Smart only had 4 points. The real hero was AJ Lawson. His offensive outburst wasn’t one that many were expecting. Lawson did a great job attacking and finishing around the rim. Woolridge was another dude who had a good game. NT killed FAU on the offensive boards last game. The Mean Green grabbed 16. FAU’s coaches will most likely make that a point of emphasis today.

North Texas feels like a much different team offensively since then. The Mean Green look like they are operating with much more efficiency.  That should give any NT fan hope that this is the game that stops the losing streak.  Other reasons for hope are the continue improved play from Jorden Duffy.  I get the feel that Duffy is close to a break out game.

Defending FAU

If Simmons doesn’t play which looks unlikely then North Texas is going to have a helluva time defending the size of FAU. Delph had a good game against NT when these two teams met in Denton.  He was pretty much the only starter that scored double digits. The other primary threat for FAU Justin Massey scored only one point. Massey has been playing much better, scoring double digits in his last 5 games.  The 6th man for FAU Gerdarius Troutman could be one to watch. He is the best 3pt shooter for FAU. Troutman has 15 3’s in the past 5 games.

FAU is going to follow the game plans of previous opponents of NT. The Owls are most likely going to throw lots of ball screens at NT. We all know that guys like Tope and Temara struggle in those situations. Hopefully NT has made a few adjustments. The other concern for NT in this game is front court depth. Tope often finds himself in foul trouble. McCasland would prefer that not happen. I dont think he wants to play Fuller or Temara. If Tope gets in foul trouble NT may go with a super small lineup. It will be something to watch.

 


Go To Guys

UNT_goto

FAU_Go_to


FAU_Matchups


3 Points

  1. North Texas dominated FAU on the glass last time. Can they do that again without Simmons? FAU is one of the better rebounding teams in the conference.
  2. Second half defense has been suspect for UNT the past 4 games. FAU is the worst offensive team in CUSA. North Texas really needs to lock down the Owls.
  3. If Simmons doesn’t play Tope AND Temara have to have good games against the big front line of FAU. I’m not talking scoring I’m talking rebounding.

Inside the Advanced Stat Match-up

 

FAU_advanced


Prediction

North Texas is playing well on offense right now.  FAU is playing better on offense too. This game is going to come down to NT’s ability to defend and attack the boards. I know I’ve preached a lot about defense, but to me this game comes down to the battle on the boards. I think NT will get a collective effort from everyone. I also think NT will find their defense. I think they will really get after FAU today.

My Pick:  North Texas by 3

Categories
Basketball Recaps

Dropping Dimes – 10 Thoughts Recapping NT vs. FIU

Woolridge couldn’t get his last second floater to drop, and North Texas dropped another heart breaker.

  1. North Texas let one of the worst offensive teams in the conference get pretty much whatever they wanted last night. It was hard to watch. North Texas has been a team all year that relied on their defense to set the tone. Yet the last four games, they haven’t been able to get stops.  FIU ran ball screen after ball screen for their guards, and early on North Texas had no answer. Part of the problem was UNT was without F Zach Simmons. Simmons is a much better ball screen defender than Arikawe or Temara. The other part of the problem was FIU was just straight making buckets. Jacobs and Douglas were non factors in the last game. They combined for 8 3’s last night. Beard was held in check for most of the night by Draper. Draper was solid on the defensive end again. It was really the 3pt shooting that was the difference for FIU last night.

  2. Roosevelt Smart was 3-13 from the field with no free throw attempts. That just cant happen. Smart was 3-10 from the 3pt line. When the 3’s arent falling Smart needs to be more aggressive in attacking the basket. He is the best free throw shooter UNT has. He should be getting to the line 5 times a game at minimum.

  3. I wonder who is the leader on this team. Perhaps someone closer of the team can tell you, but if you watched the team play do you have a sense of who it is? They all see somewhat quite. There isn’t one guy who stands out as a leader. If I put money on it I would bet Smart. Sometimes we forget or at least I do of how young this team is.  They are getting a lot of minutes, and production from underclassmen.

  4. Simmons was missed last night, but Tope Arikawe had a solid night. 12 points and 8 boards. I never would’ve expected Arikawe to be the second leading scorer for UNT. It would be nice if Tope and Simmons could be playing well together. I think where Simmons was missed the most was rebounding. The second and third big men Fuller, and Temara combined for 2 boards. Last game against FIU Tope and Simmons combined for 18 boards.

  5. North Texas had a 5 second count after a timeout. That is unacceptable high school level stuff.

  6. It was nice to see Shane Temara hit 2 3’s. It was long overdue. I really wish that guy had more of an impact. At this point he’ll only play because of the injury to Simmons. Temara is still a liability on defense.

  7. 3 games left to go and 4 losses in a row.  Where is the confidence of this team? As I mentioned before its a young team,  so no one knows how exactly they will take 4 tough close losses. That would take a toll on any team. It may do more damage to a young team. Then again it may not do anything. One thing I know whoever the leader is of this team, well that guy needs to come out and set a tone early on Saturday vs. FAU. This young team needs to get its swag back.

  8. I’m starting to wonder what is the best line-up for UNT going forward. Obviously a lot is going to depend on match-up. For example against the guard oriented teams Holston provides a better match-up than the bigs. I’d like to see Woolridge, Duffy, Smart, Lawson, and Simmons play more together. I like Lawson at the 4 because he is a more of a threat to score than Holston or Temara. Your 6th and 7th men are Draper and Tope. Holston is the 8th man. I think that is a solid group going forward. I start Duffy over Draper, because he provides a little bit more athleticism. He can get to the rim. I would like to see a few lineups where Tope and Simmons are on the floor at the same time too. Just to see what kind of mismatches I could draw.

  9. North Texas should be able to find their defense against FAU on Satuday. FAU is the worst offensive efficient team in CUSA. If the Mean Green can’t get back some defensive momentum vs. the Owls then it isn’t going to happen.

  10. North Texas is projected as a 6 or 7 seed by TeamRankings. They also should be favored in 2 of their last 3 games. If things go according to TeamRankings the first round matchup for UNT would be against either Southern Miss or FAU.  Neither one of those teams concern me much. Honestly North Texas could lose to either one, its just how the season has gone. If North Texas does get through the first round they would draw ODU or WKU.
    Team_Ranking


Player Grades

 

Player Game Grade
Roosevelt Smart C –
Ryan Woolridge B –
AJ Lawson D –
Allante Holston B
DJ Draper B +
Jorden Duffy B +
Shane Temara B
Tope Arikawe B +

Players with 10 minutes + get graded.

Next up for North Texas is FAU on Saturday, February 24th in Boca Raton.

Categories
Basketball

2017-18 BBall Season: FIU Preview

Overview

North Texas travels to Florida to face FIU, in a must win game.

  • Thursday, Feb 22 2018
  • 6:00 p.m. CT
  • Ocean Bank Convocation Center , Miami FL
  • TV:  CUSA TV
  • Radio: MGRN – 88.1 KNTU-FM
  • Line: FIU -1

What You Need to Know About FIU

Record: 11-16 (5-9)

Last Game vs UNT: L 67-69

Last Game: FAU L 77-72

Scoring Margin: 0.0

CUSA Scoring Margin: -2.1


 Projected Starting Lineups

North Texas

Player Position Stat
Ryan Woolridge 6-3 G 5.8 A/pg
Roosevelt Smart 6-3 G 19.6 PT/pg
A.J. Lawson 6-5 G 9.7 PT/pg
Allante Holston 6-7 F 3.9 PT/pg
Zachary Simmons 6-9 F 6.1 PT/pg

 

FIU

Player Position Stat
Brian Beard Jr. 5-10 G 16.3 PT/pg
Trejon Jacob 6-5 G 14.9 PT/pg
Eric Lockett 6-5 G 13.9 PT/pg
Hassan Hussein 6-9 F 6.1 PT/pg
Jay Harvey 6-9 C 1.6 PT/pg

Game Plan

Attacking FIU

North Texas has been getting better offense of late. I’d like to think that its not just who they’ve been playing, but rather how. Lawson and Simmons have really provided a spark of scoring. Lawson is a guy we know can score, but his injury has held him back. Lawson has done a better job finishing around the rim. Simmons is similar. He is finishing around the rim. He has been underrated at positioning himself in passing lanes. Most of his scores are easy buckets.

FIU is a decent defensive team. They excel in 3pt defense, and tend to allow their opponents to shoot a good percentage from 2pt range. Most of FIU’s opponents do their damage inside, and at the free throw line.  The Panthers area of strength is steal and turnovers. They are the 2nd best team in CUSA play in getting steals

These are the most likely player match-ups when UNT is on offense. This is solely based on the starting 5. FIU changed their match-ups the most last game. Mainly between the guards. Beard Jr switched a lot. Lockett started out on Smart when UNT went big. I’m not sure how comfortable Grant is going big with Temara not being a factor of late. Beard Jr, couldnt guard Ryan, so they put the more athletic Lockett on him. Wooldridge can still take him. Smart rushed a bunch of his shots over Beard. Beard acted like a pest on Rose.

Player_matchups

Stats are from last game. Note that the first 14:30 mins were missing from stats, because there was no video to review. 

 

Defending FIU

FIU is a guard dominant team. Lockett, Beard Jr, and Jacob are the guys that will do most of the attacking for FIU.  This trio took 44 shots the last game against UNT. Most of their offensive sets were run with lots of high ball screens for the guards. Those 3 guards did a good job of attacking inside the arch. Biggest take away from last game is not to let FIU get easy offense from turnovers and the fast break. If you take that away FIU will struggle to score in the half court.

Offensively FIU is pretty bad. They dont shoot well at all. They get to the free throw line a lot, but dont make them. They do a pretty good job at not turning the ball over though.

These are the most likely player match-ups when FIU is on offense.  I will say that Draper guarded Beard the most, and Smart got matched up with Lockett a lot and struggled to contain him. However, when all these players are on the floor these are what you can expect. FIU has the size advantage. Douglas and Hussein played a lot on the perimeter though and were non factors.

Player_matchups_FIU
Stats are from last game. Note that the first 14:30 mins were missing from stats, because there was no video to review. 

 

FIU_Last_game


Go To Guys

Copy_of_Copy_of_North_Texas_Go_to_Guy_3

FIU_Go_to_Guy_1


FIU


3 Points

  1. Keep the turnovers to a minimum. 20 last time against FIU. That led to 20 points. Can’t do that and expect to win on the road.
  2. Second half offense and defense has to get better. UNT really needs to get their defense efficiency back after last week.
  3. Smart is the run ender. When UNT struggles or FIU gets hot, Smart has to be the dude to take over. He can’t go missing during those times.

Inside the Advanced Stat Match-up

 

FIU_Inside


Prediction

I like North Texas in this one. FIU doesn’t have a good enough offense to beat UNT. Yeah I know last time it took a last second shot to beat FIU, but I think UNT is a better team now. Especially on offense. This game will allow NT to gain some confidence on defense.

My Pick:  North Texas by 5

Categories
Basketball

Dropping Dimes – 10 Thoughts Recapping NT vs. WKU

North Texas got “out-flexed” at home by a superior Western Kentucky team.

  1. If you would’ve told me that Smart, Woolridge, Lawson, Simmons, and Draper were all going to score double figures I would’ve guaranteed a North Texas win.  For a half of basketball North Texas could do no wrong on offense. Lawson ,and Woolridge were getting into the lane at ease. Lawson was finishing, and Woolridge was dropping dimes to Simmons. It was all going so well, but it soon feel apart. North Texas shot 60% in the first half and it dipped to 37.1% in the second half.

  2. If your a box score looker like most are you are feeling pretty upset at the fact that WKU shot 48 free throws while UNT only shot 13. If you were at the game you probably feel just as upset. Lets talk about what happened. First off WKU was already a great team at getting to the line, and UNT was a team that generally put teams on the line a lot. That played out last night. On the flip side of that WKU was a team that doesn’t foul a lot.  WKU fouls the least in CUSA. However, UNT was still a team that gets to the line quite a bit. So what happened? Well WKU was the aggressor. They had guards that North Texas couldn’t stay in front of.  On offense North Texas just wasn’t getting to the basket, and they weren’t getting the calls. Coleby was injured, but he was still a force. Watching the game it just didn’t feel like UNT put itself in position to get calls.

  3. I’m going to preach this till I’m blue in the face. This North Texas team isn’t equipped to get in a high paced shoot out type of game. They are going to win with their defense and their gritty style. Low 70’s and games in the 60’s are what we want to see  from UNT vs teams like Middle, WKU, and ODU. WKU had an offensive efficiency rating of 126. That was the second highest given up by UNT and the third highest for WKU.

  4. When WKU went on their run Smart disappeared. Smart only took 2 shots during that run. He eventually made a 3 with 9:38 left in the game. At that time WKU was already up by 12 and the Smart 3 cut it 9. Smart has to be more assertive during opponents runs.  He is the one guy that North Texas depends on to score.

  5. North Texas allowed 42 points in the paint. Not acceptable.

  6. I love that both Jorden Duffy and Draper continue to fire away. They are going to need both of those dudes scoring in Frisco. Duffy isn’t there yet mentally, but he hasn’t been afraid to continue shooting. Duffy hit a big 3, and Draper hit a couple of them last night. I continue to believe that having both Duffy and Draper playing at a high level by Frisco will make UNT the most dangerous lower seed.

  7. One thing that UNT can’t do against the best teams in CUSA is turn the ball over and take bad shots.  Those type of possessions lead to easy offense. UNT gave up too many easy possessions last night.

  8. Most of the fan base feels pretty good about where North Texas is at right now. They’ve beat UAB, lost a tough one to Middle and WKU. One of the most popular opinions is to complement the effort that Coach McCasland is getting out of this team. That’s just a testament of how bad things were under Tony Benford. For me I’ve always expected the effort from this team. It was a lot of new guys, and I knew that Coach McCasland wouldn’t accept anything less than a really competitive effort. So I won’t really ever be complementing effort. Coach McCasland is one of the highest paid coaches in the league, and with good reason. I believe he is one of the best. So what I want to see is him coaching execution. That is what I will complement this team on. One thing I do admire is not really the effort, but the ability for this UNT team to climb back in games when there looks to be no hope.  Some teams have that uncanny ability to make a few plays and buckets to climb back in games. That is this North Texas team. They are never out of it.

  9. WKU is the one team that I believe that North Texas can’t beat. I just feel like its a bad match-up. Middle is the best team, but WKU has the most talent. They can pretty much score at every position. Their athleticism stood out last night. They got stops when they needed, and got buckets when they needed.

  10. North Texas is in a position now where they are 2 games back of Marshall in the battle for the 4th seed, and a bye in Frisco. They must win on Saturday, and really NT needs to win out. Marshall has games left against ODU, UAB, and Middle so they have the tougher schedule, but UNT needs to keep the pressure on them.

Player Grades

 

Player Game Grade
Roosevelt Smart B +
Ryan Woolridge C +
AJ Lawson B +
Allante Holston C –
Zachary Simmons B +
DJ Draper B –
Khalil Fuller B
Tope Arikawe B

Players with 10 minutes + get graded.

Next up for North Texas is Marshall on Saturday, February 17th in Denton.

Categories
Basketball

2017-18 BBall Season: UAB Preview

Overview

North Texas travels to Birmingham to face UAB in a monster CUSA match-up.

  • Thursday, Feb 8 2018
  • 7:00 p.m. CT
  • Bartow Arena , Birmingham, Ala
  • TV:  CUSA TV
  • Radio: MGRN – 88.1 KNTU-FM

What You Need to Know About UAB

Record: 15-9

Coach: Rob Ehsan (2nd season at UAB. Record 32-25  )

Last Game: ODU L 65-60

Scoring Margin: 9.6

CUSA Scoring Margin: 4.4


Game Plan

Attacking UAB

Attacking UAB comes down to one major area. Lets be honest with each other. North Texas isn’t going to win this game, by attacking the basket. UAB has William Lee in there redirecting shots. Plus UAB is only letting their opponent shoot about 59% on shots near the rim. North Texas shoots close to 66% on their attempts, but they only get about 21 shots near the rim.

Nope this game comes down to NT’s ability to knock down open 3’s. UAB is giving up about 27 3PT’ers a game in CUSA play. North Texas will attempt near 26 3’s in this game. The important numbers are that NT is shooting 38% from downtown on the road this year, and that UAB is letting their opponent hit on 36% of the 3’s they attempt.  In conference play UAB’s opponents are getting 42% of their points from behind the arch.  Those are high numbers and reason for hope.

North Texas fans know that Smart and Draper are capable of hitting 3’s at a high rate, but its Temara that could be key in this game. His ability to shoot could draw William Lee away from the basket opening up some driving lanes for Woolridge and Lawson. Temara is due to breakout from his slump. The other X factor could Jorden Duffy who is set to make his return tonight. He was ready to play vs. Rice, but they are being cautious with him. Expect him to get a few minutes tonight. He could provide a lift by knocking down a few outside shots himself.

The other key offensive player I wanted to breakdown was Holston. If its true and Holston does start he has to be aggressive on offense.  He just cant be another body out there on offense. What made his game special against Rice was his offensive output. He doesn’t have to score double digits, but he has to at least force Cokley to guard him.

Defending UAB

Lets breakdown how this game is going to look. North Texas allows about 18 shots near the rim per game.  UAB gets 30 shots near the rim per game. North Texas is allowing their opponent to shoot over 70% in those close range shots. UAB shoots about 66% in their close range shots. If North Texas allows UAB to get off 30 or more shots near the rim they will have no chance at winning this game. Its really that simple. It would equal about 42 points in the paint for UAB, when NT usually gives up 25.

Keeping UAB from getting paint touches is going to be really hard. They do have one of the best players in CUSA who is a post player. F Chris Cokley is a match-up nightmare for the Mean Green. They don’t really have one guy who can hold him down. It’s an interesting strategy to start Allante Holston on him as the game notes suggests. Holston is a long rangy defender. He isn’t a bulky post defender. Tope was battling a little back injury so perhaps that plays into it. Either way Tope is the guy who has the best chance of slowing down Cokley.

Besides Cokley the Blazers also have 6-9 C William Lee on the inside. Lee is primarily a shot blocker, but he can rebound and knock down outside shots. Maybe Holston gets matched-up with him while Simmons guards Cokley.

The UAB guards are led by Zach Bryant and Nate Darling. Bryant is one of the best freshman in CUSA. He was heavily recruited out of Florida. Bryant is a combo guard who can score,slash, and defend. Darling has improved a lot. He was only averaging 2.5 points per game last year. Now he’s arguably the best 3PT shooter for the Blazers. Also I dont want to leave out PG Nick Norton. Norton is averaging 5 assists per game in CUSA play.  Norton is the dude that drives the Blazer offense. They weren’t the same team without him last year.


Projected Starting Lineups

North Texas

Player Position Stat
Ryan Woolridge 6-3 G 5.9 A/pg
Roosevelt Smart 6-3 G 19 PT/pg
A.J. Lawson 6-5 G 9.7 PT/pg
Allante Holston 6-7 F 4.2 PT/pg
Zachary Simmons 6-9 F 4 REB/pg

 

UAB

Player Position Stat
Nick Norton 5-10 G  4.5 A/pg
Zach Bryant  6-2 G 13.1 PT/pg
Nate Darling 6-5 G 10.1 PT/pg
Chris Cokley 6-8 F 18.5 PT/pg
William Lee 6-9 F 2 BLK/pg

Go To Guys

UNT_Go_to

UAB_Go_to_guy


UAB_Matchup


3 Points

  1. Survive the early UAB run. After losing in a tight one to ODU, UAB is probably going to come out fast early. UNT needs to survive that and keep this game close for as long as possible.
  2. Keep the bigs out of foul trouble. Have to throw as many bodies as you can against the UAB front line.
  3. Holston has to be aggressive on offense. If your going to start Allante Holston he better make an impact on the offensive end. He isn’t a shooter and Cokley wont chase him around. He has to find ways to score.

Inside the Advanced Stat Match-up

 

Advanced_stats


Prediction

I’ve rewrote this section 3 times now. I’ve gone back and forth with this one. Way back when I said that North Texas would need a prayer to win this game. Well that prayer will be answered by Smart, Draper, Temara, and Duffy knocking down 3’s. I believe North Texas will hit double digit 3’s for the 6th time this season and pull of the major upset. All the pressure is on UAB in this game. For NT its all about enjoying the ride.

My Pick:  North Texas by 3

Categories
Basketball Basketball Recaps CUSA Stuff

Dropping Dimes – 10 Thoughts Recapping NT vs. FAU

North Texas got a much needed win. The Mean Green took down FAU 59-53.

  1. It was never pretty in this game. It was down right ugly basketball for most of the night, by both teams. Credit North Texas for finding a way to win without a serious contribution from Roosevelt Smart. Smart was saddled with 3 fouls early in the 1st half, and then picked up his 4th foul early in the second. Some how UNT found enough ways to score more than FAU.

  2. From the get go Ryan Woolridge was more assertive on the offensive end. He needs to do that from here on out. He needs to be the second leading scorer for North Texas on most every night.

  3. AJ Lawson provided some offense that I was not expecting. Lawson even hit a 3. I don’t encourage him shooting 3’s, but his offensive output was necessary with Smart being in foul trouble. North Texas had to get it from some where. Lawson got to the basket, and was able to finish on numerous occasions. Good for him.

  4. Where has Shane Temara gone? He is a SR leader on this team, and NT needs him to step his game up.  18 minutes 0-11, 1 reb, 1 block. That isn’t going to cut it. If NT is going to have any chance at all of making some noise in Frisco they need their SR to play like one.

  5. Zach Simmons and Tope Arkiawe are two nice players. Simmons has played well for a FR. He has had his moment on defense where you can tell he is FR. But he has also had key plays in a lot of UNT victories. Tope has really stepped up his game in conference play. His play off the bench has been very important.

  6. North Texas had 16 offensive boards against FAU. Pretty great effort against a team that way a very good defensive rebounding team. Now the down fall is that NT was only able to turn that in 13 second chance points. North Texas is 4th in conference play with 11.4 offensive rebounds per game. Rebounding as a whole has been a pleasant surprise for NT this year. I think many believed that a guard heavy lineup would struggle to rebound. Woolridge, Smart, Holston, Lawson have all chipped in. Those 4 combined for 22 of the 43 rebounds against FAU. In conference play they are accounting for 46% of the rebounds.

  7. North Texas continues to struggle around the basket. I stopped counting how many bunnies the Mean Green failed to convert last night. I really hope that’s a point of emphasis in practice. NT left at least another 10 points out there because they couldn’t finish.

  8. 70%. North Texas hit the sweet spot I set for them. 70 % from the free throw line was a welcome sight. The last time UNT shot 70% and above was against Rice, which happened to be the last time they won. North Texas has only shot around 70% 3 times in conference play. All 3 have been wins.

  9. I think it was some sort of blessing in disguise that Smart had to sit for most of this game. As of coach you never want your best offensive weapon to be on the bench, but it forced this young NT team to focus on offensive execution. A guy like Smart can bail out a bad possession with a deep 3 or a drive to the basket. Last night NT had to find ways to score with out Smart. Guys like Lawson were able to step up to fill the void.

  10. FAU is going to look back on this game and slap themselves in the face. FAU had every opportunity to take it. It seemed like North Texas was trying to give the game away at times. FAU failed to take advantage of Smart being in foul trouble. Instead of going to a zone and packing it in they stayed in man and let Woolridge and Lawson get to the basket. Then late in the game they fouled Smart when he wasn’t going to get it across halfcourt in time. The little things matter in all games. They really stand out in close games. NT will take a W no matter how it looks.

Player Grades

 

Player Game Grade
Shane Temara F
Roosevelt Smart C –
Ryan Woolridge B +
DJ Draper C +
AJ Lawson B +
Allante Holston C –
Tope Arikawe C +
Zachary Simmons B

Players with 10 minutes + get graded.

Next up for North Texas is FIUon Saturday, January 27th in Denton.

Categories
Basketball

Basketball Breakdown

Almost halfway through the CUSA slate its time to analyze what’s happened so far for North Texas.

Roosevelt Smart Lights It Up

I thought at the beginning of the season that Smart would be the leading scorer for this Mean Green team. I had no idea that he would be the shooter that he is. Smart is such a smooth shooter it really is a joy to watch him play.  Smart has already made more 3 pt shots than anybody else did on the 16-17 team did.  Roosevelt has been the guy that NT has leaned on to carry them through their offensive struggles. When he struggles to get his shots to fall North Texas struggles to score. Look at the past two games, Southern Miss and La Tech emphasized making his looks tougher. Both of those teams made it difficult for NT to get Smart the ball. The way that North Texas is playing right now Smart has to score 30 for the Mean Green to have any chance of winning a game.

Roosevelt in Conference Play

  • 22.9 points per game
  • 4.6 rebounds per game
  • 33 made 3’s
  • 40.7% 3pt%
  • 81 attempted 3’s
  • 87% from free throw line
  • Scored in double figures every game
  • Leading scorer for UNT in every game, but 2. One he tied Temara for leading scorer.

Defensive Efficiency Slips 

You want your defensive efficiency number to be under 100. The first 2 games of conference play NT had a defensive efficiency rating of 98.05. Not too bad, considering last year through 2 games it was at 106.8. Since the UTEP and UTSA games NT’s efficiency has ballooned to 106.3. Not good folks. The issues aren’t that hard to spot.

  • North Texas is struggling to defend the pick ‘n roll. It pretty much lost them the La Tech game.
  • DJ Draper is being forced to play more minutes due to injuries. Teams are taking advantage of his athletic limitations.
  • Intensity has been lacking. Teams are jumping on North Texas early.
  • Teams are getting better looks, because the fundamentals are slipping.

Its a long season, and every team goes through a stretch where they struggle in one area. Sometimes teams start to struggle in two areas or more. Right now North Texas is struggling in multiple areas. No amount of Smart 3 pt shots can mask the defensive issues.

AJ Lawson Struggles With Injury

AJ Lawson was a supposed to be a key cog for this team, but he hasn’t settled in yet. I thought he was pressing a bit to find his role. Turns out his wrist injury is still bugging him. We also found out that he put off surgery to keep playing. All of his shooting numbers are down from last year. The biggest downfall is at the free throw line. Last he was at 60%, now he’s at 46%. That really hurts because he is getting to the line quite a bit.  Lawson has shot 15 free throws the last 5 games. He has only hit 4 of them. Tough to watch that guy struggle.

I’d really like to see North Texas get him more looks in the post. Teams know he is no threat from the outside, so why not get him more looks down low? He can finish around the rim. It may help his confidence and also help the team.

Free Throws are Free

North Texas is shooting 66% from the free throw line.  During their struggles in CUSA play NT is shooting just 64%. That ranks them 13th out of 14 teams. No one thing can ever cost a team a game. Its usually 2 or 3 things, but North Texas is missing free throws in critical times. If North Texas is able to get its free throw shooting up to 70% during the second half of conference play, they may finish conference play with a winning record.

In conference play here is what a couple of key players are shooting from the line:

  • Smart – 87%
  • Woolridge – 36%
  • Lawson – 29%
  • Arikawe – 67%

 

In-Conference Stats

Offense Defense
Efficiency 102.9 103.8
3P% 36.6 31
2P% 47.3 50.8
FT % 63.8 72.4
Effective FG%: 50.6 49.2
Turnover %: 17.8 17
Off. Reb. %: 27.8 27
FTA/FGA: 35.6 38.9
Points per Game 70.1 70.7

Outlook For The Rest Of Conference Play.

Can I be honest with you? It doesn’t look good. If you were asking me today how many more games North Texas might win, by the end of the season I would say 3 or 4. Of course you would shout back at me for being so negative, but you have to look at this objectively.

  • Offense struggles to score when Smart isn’t on the floor
  • Sometimes the offense is relying on a walk-on to be the secondary scoring threat.
  • Duffy has been battling injuries all year and still is.
  • Woolridge is playing iron man type of minutes. Sooner or later he may hit the wall.
  • This team hung its hat on defense early in the season. Now that efficiency is slipping.
  • CUSA is a tough league and NT has a stretch where they play UAB, Middle Tenn, WKU, and Marshall all back to back.
  • Free throw shooting is one of the worst in the country.
  • AJ Lawson injury is hampering his ability to shoot and score.

What out of those is magically going to correct itself? Maybe Duffy gets healthier by conference tourney time. They really need his shooting. Woolridge isn’t getting any less minutes. AJ wont be getting healthier. Maybe the defense gets a little bit better, but teams have more film and stats now. They know where to attack NT.

Best case scenario is that NT gets Temara and Tope to step up their games. Shane was playing so well early in the year, and has dipped lately. Tope has only gotten better. Then NT corrects some of their defensive issues, the fundamental ones. Plus whenever Draper gets on the floor they go to zone. Duffy gets healthier and gains confidence down the stretch.  Woolridge plays with more aggression and becomes the consistent secondary scorer next to Smart. If all that happens I could see North Texas winning 6 or 7 more games. That would give them 16 wins possibly 17 wins going into the conference tournament. I think all North Texas fans would be happy with that.

Categories
Basketball

2017-18 BBall Season: UTEP Preview

Overview

North Texas travels to El Paso for their first conference game of the Grant McCasland era. Its a huge opportunity for the Mean Green to set the tone for a solid showing in CUSA play.

  • Thursday, Dec 28 2017
  • 8:00 p.m. CT
  • Don Haskins Center , EL Paso TX
  • TV:  CUSA TV
  • Radio: MGRN – 88.1 KNTU-FM

What You Need to Know About UTEP

Record: 5-7

Coach: Phil Johnson (1st season at UTEP, Previously at San Jose St from 2002-05 )

Last Game: North Dakota St L 63-51


Game Plan

Attacking UTEP

Last time on the floor North Texas struggled to find good looks against a long athletic Georgetown team. The two best shooters for North Texas went 2-18 from beyond the 3pt line. Tonight Jorden Duffy and Roosevelt Smart have to come up with better efforts if the Mean Green are going to have chance at the W. Both Smart and Duffy should fare better tonight against easier competition.  Duffy was a little rusty after missing a few games with a knee injury. Smart struggled with the Hoyas length.

Woolridge was the best player last time out for North Texas. He will need to be on top of his game again tonight. He will most likely be matched up with FR Kobe Magee. Magee isn’t the type of defender who should be able to shut down Woolridge. If you’ve watched any of North Texas this year, you know that even when defenders play off of Woolridge they still struggle to stay in front of him. Ryan should have a big game tonight.

Perhaps the most interesting match-up tonight will be Lawson vs. Frazier. Both are similar slashing type players. Frazier is probably the better shooter. Lawson is the better finisher at the rim. If Lawson remains in attack mode, he may get Frazier in foul trouble.

Temara and Simmons have been a solid front court for North Texas.  The FR Simmons has had his ups and downs. Simmons looked like he was really turning a corner after the McNeese St game, but he has had some off games. UTEP isn’t a good rebounding team, so Simmons is due for a nice game. Temara did his best to keep North Texas close against Georgetown.  The SR F hit 4 3’s and hauled in 12 boards. That was a great effort against one of the best front courts North Texas has played.

Defending UTEP

UTEP has had an up and down year. The Miners only won one of their first 7 games, and they lost their coach to retirement. Then after losing 6 in a row UTEP came up with 4 straight victories. Its hard to get a read on exactly where this UTEP team is. I’m still a believer that the Miners are a dangerous middle tier CUSA team. UTEP has enough weapons to challenge the elite CUSA teams on any night.

The Miners are led by some familiar faces. Guard Omega Harris is back and is a threat to score from everywhere on the floor.  Former North Texas guard Keith Frazier is having the kind of year that many Mean Green fans were hoping he’d have for them last year.  Frazier is been the best scorer for the Miners this season. He’s scored in double digits 4 out of the last 5 games. Frazier has also been strong on the defensive boards. During that 5 game stretch he’s averaged 7 defensive boards a game.

Other guys to look out for are JR forward Paul Thomas. Thomas is a threat to get a double double. FR G Kobe Magee was a really good scorer in high school. He hasn’t put up a lot of points yet, but he’s been a nice contributor. Another FR Tirus Smith has also been a solid freshman contributor.  He’s been one of the better rebounders for UTEP.

 


Projected Starting Lineups

North Texas

Player Position Stat
Ryan Woolridge 6-3 G 4.9 A/pg
Roosevelt Smart 6-3 G 17.6 PT/pg
A.J. Lawson 6-5 G 10.8 PT/pg
Zachary Simmons 6-9 F 5 PT/pg
Shane Temara 6-9 F 6.8 REB/pg

 

UTEP

Player Position Stat
Kobe Magee 6-1 G  1.4 A/pg
Keith Frazier  6-5 G 14.6 PT/pg
Omega Harris 6-8 G 12.6 PT/pg
Paul Thomas 6-7 F 8.7 PT/pg
Tirus Smith 6-9 F 5.6 PT/pg

Go To Guys

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Copy_of_Eureka_College_Go_to_Guy_2


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3 Points

  1. Get Smart some easy looks early. He needs to bounce back after 1-13 from 3pt range against GTown.
  2. Dominate the glass.
  3. Keep the bigs out of foul trouble.

Inside the Advanced Stat Match-up

 

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Prediction

Even though North Texas has had their troubles out west in El Paso, I still like their chances tonight.  That’s why I’m going to pick North Texas to win.  I believe that the Mean Green will shut down UTEP with their first shot defense and will own the boards.

My Pick:  North Texas by 7