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Basketball Basketball Recaps

North Texas vs Tech: 2020 Bonus Play

North Texas hosted Louisiana Tech in the first game of this year’s bonus play, the latest reason to hate the league leadership inappropriately. These teams are two of the best in the league not only in standings, but in play. NT came in leading the league in offensive efficiency, according to Kenpom, while Tech was third. Tech boasts a ferocious, athletic (as all good defenses are) defense that hurt NT late in the last meeting.

This game was the best this league had to offer: two incredible playmakers in Javion Hamlet and DaQuan Bracey making tough shots at the end of the game for their squads.

Bonus play will determine some seedings but North Texas was always going to have to win a tough game in the league tournament to get a championship. In the last game, NT overcame a relatively poor game to steal a win. In this one, they had an advantage but just came up short.

There are no moral victories that will satisfy the team, but this is one of those that should make you, the fan, feel god. Tech is a good team and has a really great defense. NT fought and nearly pulled out the win. Javion Hamlet was super clutch, and that big bucket to put NT ahead was the kind of play a championship-winning team will need.

One concern we had all season was the team’s inability to generate the right kind of shot late. Hamlet has been amazing getting into the lane and putting pressure on the defense. Here, his 25 points came on 7/13 shooting and 5/7 from the line.

He was only outshone by Bracey’s 26 and an off-hand floater.

One thing to note about Bonus Play is that Tech, FIU, WKU, and Charlotte are good teams and losing to any one of them is not a failure on the Mean Green’s part, but something that can and maybe will happen. That is the nature of this pod play set up.

NT hosted the 3rd place team, and now will travel to the 5th placed team (FIU) on Thursday. They will host Western (2nd) before traveling to Charlotte (4th) to end it. The 49ers upset Western on Saturday.

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Football

North Texas down 17-3 at the Half vs Louisiana Tech

Mason Fine only has 48 yards passing and zero touchdowns after throwing 12 in two games against the league’s worst teams. Tech is decidedly better, as we wrote this week. The good news is that there is still hope, and despite the 14-point disadvantage, the game is within striking distance.

The mistakes have mostly been self-caused, although Amik Robertson has made some plays for Louisiana Tech. The defense has been committing too many penalties and that has kept Tech on schedule. Still, the NT defense is giving some effort and nearly held Tech on the goal line to end the half.

They did not, however, and almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

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MGN Podcast

MGN Bye 17: Around CUSA

Adam talked with a few CUSA bloggers and podcasters of teams on our schedule

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You can contact the podcast at podcast@meangreennation.com.

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Football

2017 Season Preview: Schedule and Prediction

Predicting the schedule so far out is a fools’ game but we are silly fools who love this game and so here we go:

9/2 v Lamar
Lamar has had a rough go of things, Beaumont being in the path of Hurricane Harvey. There was a question of whether this game would go on, but I’d wager that the lure of the $400K that NT is paying swayed some of the decision makers. Lamar football arrived in Denton safely. They had not practiced since Monday, and most of the roster is from the affected areas. This will either be a Cinderella win for the Cardinals or a blowout. For our own sakes let us hope it will be the latter.

Prediction: Win 45-10

9/9 at SMU
Southern Methodist is the older generation’s rival and they have had the Mean Green’s number these last few years. NT did not avail themselves well in last year’s matchup but the scoreline was not indicative of the difference between these two teams. SMU will be favored but I suspect NT will sneak away with an early win.

Prediction: Win 34-31

9/16 at Iowa
Remember when this program had so many ties to Iowa that it seemed like the program was not ready to play? Things should be different this year, but the talent disparity and road game will make the difference. Iowa surprises and disappoints regularly and so there is hope.

Prediction: Loss 38-17

9/23 vs UAB
The Blazers are back and the last time these teams played, NT embarrassed themselves in Birmingham. UAB has spent the interim time quitting football and restocking talent. While they may not be a completely new program, they are still slightly behind NT.

Prediction: Win 31-21

9/30 at Southern Miss
Southern Miss is better at home and was Jekyll/Hyde with/without their star QB last season. He is gone and the search for a replacement began with Keon Howard, who is fond of turning the ball over. There is talent here, but football is about the QB. If USM doesn’t have one by here we have a shot but I think they have enough to beat us away in Hattiesburg

Prediction: Loss 31-28

10/14 vs UTSA
Much was made of the loss in October in SA. The traveling contingent was supposed to be larger, the game had some importance toward bowl eligibility and even division standing. North Texas turned the ball over too often and it got away from them late. The difference between these two teams comes down to the difference in experience levels at the QB position. UTSA is just as inconsistent as North Texas and yet has more hype because of the recruiting success. That is not insignificant but should not make a difference in this game.

Prediction: Win 28-24

10/21 at FAU
Lane Kiffin is the story of the East division and he is rightly hyped. Hidden by the drama and non-football headlines is a good football coach. Unfortunately for him, the turnaround required at FAU is significant and will not happen in one season. This team has some talent but is not ready to compete for a division just yet. They will surprise some teams not ready for them, especially in Boca Raton, but that should not be NT.

Prediction: Win 35-17

10/28 vs ODU
Old Dominion was a surprising 10-win team last year, and they are good. Their coach Bobby Wilder is the perfect personality for a team on the rise. Their most impressive of the 10 wins were in the bowl game and probably Southern Miss — yes, the same Southern Miss that was unimpressive without their QB. ODU was senior-laden and this year will rely on young guys all over., that includes new starter RS Sophomore Blake LaRussa.

Prediction: Win 33-21

11/4 at LT
Louisiana Tech has consistently impressed with their ability to reload and compete for the conference title. There is no reason to believe that this will change significantly this year. North Texas was handled easily by La Tech’s talented WRs in Denton in 2016, and the graduation of those two will help things a bit, but this one is in Louisiana. This will be the on-paper toughest conference opponent and should be a good gauge for NT’s standing long term.

Prediction: Loss 45-21

11/11 vs UTEP
UTEP has won the last two matchups in surprising fashion. Two seasons ago NT was playing out the string and lost late in an awful played game from both sides. Last year NT looked unprepared to handle Aaron Jones and was run out of the Sun Bowl in a game that could have put the Mean Green in a bowl game without APR rankings. NT is on the rise and UTEP’s head man is on the hot seat.

Prediction: Win 24-21

11/18 vs Army
Army ran for gobs of yardage in the bowl game and if you peak at the stats of the October win they moved the ball well when not turning it over. That said, North Texas scored easily on “the best” defense in the nation (at the time, yardage wise) and generally feel that NT is more talented throughout the roster. Army gave us their best shot and played flawlessly on offense and had to resort to 4th down calls to win the thing.

Prediction: Win 35-24

11/25 at Rice
The biggest drive of the season came when North Texas was down 17 points early to Rice in Houston last year. NT had a few miracle plays, went and scored and saved the season in a thrilling overtime game. Rice continued their season-long stumble and limped toward a finish. The rematch takes place in Houston again which should make things difficult. That’s about al that should be difficult.

Prediction: Win 44-10

Predicted Season Record: 9-3

I will not predict what happens in the division, as La Tech could very well run the table and win the division over NT or a miracle could happen. These are the games scheduled and so these will be the ones we stick to predicting for now.

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CUSA Stuff Football

CUSA Bowl Season: ODU and La Tech

Today we enjoyed about six hours of CUSA football and two wins. ODU won their first bowl game in history, beating a tough EMU squad in the Bahamas Bowl, while La Tech outlasted Navy in a(n expected) shootout. That means CUSA is 4-1 in this 2016 Bowl season and the “P6” AAC is 1-4.

Bahamas Bowl: ODU 24 EMU 20

  • ESPN Highlights
  • The more fun offensive team was clearly Eastern Michigan, as they pulled out a few trick plays. EMU QB Brogan Roback ran around and made plays in the pocket that helped propel the Eagles to 470 yards of offense. ODU controlled the ball and kept the ball away enough – including on the final drive to ice it – to win this game. ODU finishes the year with 10 wins.

Armed Forces Bowl: La Tech 48 Navy 45

  • ESPN Highlights
  • This one was always going to be great, and it was. The only concern coming in was that Navy’s starting QB was out injured. Navy QB Zack Abey also was dinged up in this gone, but former starter Malcom Perry came in to run once for a 30 yard TD to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. This game was fun because it had such high-powered offenses of such different styles. Navy’s triple option put up 459 yards (300 rushing), 25 first downs, and 45 points. La Tech’s spread put up 497 yards (409 passing), 31 first downs, 48 points. This was really a game of Who Has It Last. La Tech wins the battle of conference title runner-ups.

Previously:

Next Up:

  • MTSU v Hawai‘i in the Hawai‘i Bowl, Saturday December 24.
  • North Texas vs Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Tuesday December 27.
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CUSA Stuff Football

2016 CUSA Bowl Schedule

CUSA is sending seven teams to the bowl season. Advanced numbers suggest CUSA is only above the Sun Belt among the FBS conferences, which sent six teams to the post-season. Given there are 80 bowl slots, a post season berth does not mean what it did back in 1980.

That is OK.

A bowl berth does not need to be a huge accomplishment in this era, but it is a marker of program progress. And if it is easy to get in, what does missing a bowl say about the teams that are sitting at home this Dec/Jan?

Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Texas State, etc?

Sending seven teams — even if one was an APR entry — is a good thing, but it does not mean much outside of a nice cap to the year for these squads unless everyone makes the most of the opportunity. CUSA needs to win every single one of the bowls and and next season fair better in non-con play to move up the G5 rankings,

Here is how the top of the conference faired in non-conference play:

  • Our reigning back-to-back conference champion WKU went 2-2, winning against foes from the MAC and FCS, while losing against Alabama (reasonable) and Vandy by 1 (less reasonable).
  • CUSA runner-up La Tech similarly lost to Arkansas by one point, and was blown out (relatively speaking) by defenseless TTU. This is less reasonable, but understandable.
  • Southern Miss managed the big Kentucky upset, but dropped a game to Sun Belt contender Troy. They held close with LSU, but were blown out late.
  • MTSU was blown out by Vandy (what?) and then upset a struggling Missouri.

While losing is not necessarily bad, not getting blown out is better. For example: Temple won the AAC, widely regarded as the sixth best conference and lost to Army, and Penn State — but only by seven.

Next season, CUSA needs the top of the league to pull off “upsets” against the lower tiers of the P5, and for the rest of the league to do better against the rest of the G5.

Bad non-conference losses by CUSA teams: UTSA being handled by Colorado State, North Texas losing to Southern Methodist, UTEP obliterated by Army, MTSU blown out by Vandy, Southern Miss to Troy.

These are not bad because the opposition was not good, but because they were winnable and / or were not even close. Building a reputation as a conference involves every program pulling in the same winning direction, not just the top four squads.

The good news is that this bowl season offers another chance to impress. Winning these games will not magically change CUSA, but it will help build the case for the league. Perception of quality is what brings in money and prestige, after all.

Here is CUSA’s Bowl Season:

New Mexico Bowl: UTSA vs New Mexico Saturday Dec 17th 1pm CST

New Mexico finished third in the Mountain Division but actually lost on tie-breakers to Wyoming and Boise St. New Mexico is favored by 7 as of this writing. UTSA did not play well on the road — 14-13 at Rice? — and this one will essentially be a Lobos home game. A UTSA win would continue the growing Frank Wilson legend and kick off CUSA season right

New Orleans Bowl: Southern Miss vs Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday Dec 17th, 8pm CST

Southern Miss needs to play like the squad that handled Louisiana Tech and not the one that North Texas beat. The Rajin’ Cajuns tallied six wins by beating bad teams — 2-10 Texas State, Georgia Southern, McNeese, ULM — with the exception of USA and Arky State. A fully healthy Nick Mullens and company can win this easily, but Southern Miss has not played consistenly well. Golden Eagles favored by 3.

Boca Raton Bowl: WKU vs Memphis Tuesday Dec 20th 6pm CST

Back-to-back conference champion WKU takes on the AAC’s Tigers. Memphis beat Houston, and conference champ Temple this season. They are good, but WKU should be winning this kind of game. The big, glaring problem: Jeff Brohm took the Purdue job this morning.

Bahamas Bowl: Old Dominion vs Eastern Michigan Friday Dec 23rd 12pm CST

The best bowl destination not named Hawai’i? Perhaps. The Monarchs surprised people by beating teams that were playing worse than them all year. They lost to Appalachian State on the road, which does not bode well for their chances this game. That was back in September, however, and five straight wins gives a team confidence. EMU had a solid season, but is not obviously better than ODU here.

Armed Forces Bowl: La Tech vs Navy Friday December 23rd 3:30pm CST

The best bowl matchup of the league slate, pairing the CUSA and AAC runner-ups. La Tech looked like potential conference champs until they lost two straight to USM and WKU. avy had an incredible November run before losing to Temple at home in the AAC title game. They play Army this weekend. Navy famously upset Houston this season, and was ranked in the top 25 for a while. This is a clear opportunity to display some kind of conference supremacy.

Heart of Dallas Bowl: North Texas vs Army Tuesday Dec 27th 11am CST

North Texas vs Army was already contested once in October with the Mean Green victorious 38-18. These two will battle again again next November in what could be the spark of a non-conference rivalry.

Hey, it could happen.

NT vs Army is scheduled through 2021, so at the very least there will be plenty of history. Various outlets have ranked this the worst of the bowl games on the slate, and I cannot argue with them. Army had a nice start, but fizzled. NT has beaten bad teams, and done so with an offense seriously hindered by depth and injuries. Still, this is a game NT can win, and one a CUSA team should expect to win going forward. That is, if we want to improve our rankings.

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Football

Littrell Post La Tech Game Press Conference Notes

I listened to Seth Littrell’s post game press conference and he sounded disappointed in the way you are when your team loses, but he did not have the frustrated tone of a man who thought there was any other outcome.

Louisiana Tech is good and played to their ability. Compared to the two big upsets in the conference on Saturday, UTSA over MTSU and Charlotte over Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech took North Texas seriously. MTSU came out soft and apparently feeling themselves after reading all the good press about themselves.

Louisiana Tech seemed to see NT for the dangerous team it is. That is bad in the short term, but good in the long. North Texas has a reputation as squad that will play hard and has talent enough to pull off the kind of upset we see every week in this league.

The problem with this recognition is that it will be harder to surprise teams.

I would rather the program be respected than overlooked, though. This is a good problem to have.

I like guaging my own post game reactions with the coaches’ as it serves as. a check on my own abilities to assess this squad as a guy sitting on the couch, with only my wits and inference skills vs the coaches who were a part of the game plan and privy to details.

  • Seth says LaTech is a quality opponent that required NT to essentially play perfectly in all three phases to beat. That did not happen as NT was inconsistent. This fits with my own observations that NT played a very median NT game, and that was not going to be good enough for the median LaTech game.
  • Seth gives them lots of credit, talked about their switch to Cover 2 in the second half and how that opened opportunities that Mason Fine was not able to take advantage of. I noted this in the recap, but assigned blame to the O-Line. It did seem like Mason Fine was not getting rid of the ball quickly, but it was hard to see on the broadcast that was only barely looking at the game at times.
  • Seth did not like the mental indiscipline and conversations with the referees. Given that NT is in week 9, this is unlikely to change. They are who they are.
  • Seth discussed and was asked about Carlos Henderson, who balled out. He talked about how difficult it was to take away everything. In the recap, I said much of the same thing, as LaTech is good enough to be a threat in multiple areas. Compared to NT, which is a threat on the ground with Wilson, there is not much NT does exceptionally well to counter that. La Tech has two good WRs and a QB that makes smart and big plays. Hard to stop.
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Football

NT 21 Point Dog For Homecoming

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CUSA Stuff

News Star: La Tech QB Ryan Higgins Charged With DWI

[News Star]

La Tech QB Ryan Higgins arrested for drinking and driving.

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MGN Podcast

56: It Flew

Adam and Greg take a look at the banner in the sky, discuss the La Tech debacle, the Tennessee game, the coaching search, break down some basketball, and soccer.

MGN Podcast is the Official Podcast of the Unofficial UNT sports blog Mean Green Nation!

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.

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