Categories
Football

2019: North Texas at Louisiana Tech Preview

Last year in Denton, this battle was played before a record Apogee crowd and contested by equals.

This season North Texas comes in the clear underdog. We have noted all season that reasonable fans should have expected to see an unbalanced team with a powerful offense and a young inexperienced defense.

That has mostly held true, however the offense has disappointed in most games save for the recent two. The opening quarter duds can be explained by injury, personnel, and the quality of opponent but those are just different names for “excuses”.

The fact is that the offense had all the tools to be good and was not ready to start the games that way.

Two things have happened in the last fortnight: 1) The teams NT faves were very bad. 2) The WRs got a little better.

Playing Tech means going up a level in difficulty.

North Texas needs to win out to have a shot at a division title (need two USM losses, and one more Tech loss FYI) and probably a bowl invite. My thinking is that seven wins — not six — is the magic bowl-invite number for this team. That means no losses the rest of the way.

NT has struggled despite the offensive talent. Some of that was growing pains with new faces on the field and in the coaching booth. Some of that was ill-preparation and ill-execution.

Whatever you think of SMU and Cal, they were beatable. The Houston let down was also frustrating given the circumstances. Losing to USM was understandable but the one to Charlotte was nigh unforgivable.

As Bill Parcells said, ‘you are what your record says you are’. NT is an unbalanced team that is trying to get better every week.

Louisiana Tech

Skip Holtz has had a nice run in Ruston. Close, cynical observers will note that he had a lot fewer league titles than is desired but compared to the league he has been a model of success.

In seven years he has only the one losing season: his first. His teams have had NFL talent and have produced some quality entertainment to boot.

The criticism is right on, however. Going back to his days at South Florida and Wast Carolina, he has never won more than nine games and none of those have come with fewer than four losses.

This year’s team is right out of that mold: talent everywhere, but enough questions that we can have hope they will do North Texas a favor and fumble the ball away.

They have started 7-1, losing only to Texas when they were good. They have played to their competition, battling close against Grambling and Rice, but stepped up and got a big win vs USM at home. That same USM team took apart NT in Hattiesburg.

They have a ton of talent — again– and senior leadership to guide it.

Attacking Tech

Amik Robertson is the name you probably already know. He blocked the kick to seal the game last season. He also nearly intercepted the previous ball to Bussey down the sideline.

He is a tough competitor and intercepted Jack Abraham thrice in the big west division matchup this season.

We cannot expect Jyaire Shorter or Deonte Simpson to win the majority of those battles. He is the league’s best cornerback and our outside guys are still learning to be consistent.

That said, one cannot coach size. Shorter is a big dude and running through a smaller guy does not take any coaching.

The concern will be that North Texas will have to grind out some drives in this one. Sure, throw it up to Shorter here and there, but we cannot expect that will go for six the way it has recently.

In all the ways that UTEP and Charlotte are bad defensively, Tech is much better. The stats show that Tech gets off the field on third downs better, and stops the opposition from gaining any momentum early. UTEP is 129th in stop rate — the measure of a team’s percentage of defensive drives ending in punts, turnovers, or turnovers on downs. Charlotte is 116th. (NT is 99th) and Tech is 40th.

Still, looking down the Tech schedule there is only one win that impresses: 45-30 winners vs Southern Miss. They were scored upon in that game, but they got three big turnovers late to win it.

The other corner is Michael Sam, a redshirt senior at 6’1″ 194 lbs. Safety L’Jarius Sneed likes to come up and make a ton of tackles. OLB Ezekiel Barnett will bring pressure — he leads the team in hurries but Amik Robertson will come on a corner blitz, too.

Best case scenario: NT’s offense continues its run of play, and scores 38 with no turnovers.
Worst case scenario: The Tech pass rush causes interceptions, and NT’s WRs cannot get open against the talented secondary

Defending Tech

J’Mar Smith has all the tools and he has come up big when it has been needed from him. He will not set any league passing records, and that has been something like source of frustration. A lot of fans criticism him for what he is not instead of appreciating what he is. That said, he is a little frustrating.

As we saw the last two seasons, Smith can get the ball to his playmaking wide receivers. That is really the entire job description so in that respect he is a good QB. He does also make the odd mistake here in there. Odd not in frequency, but in character. He will fumble, throw the ball to no one, and take sacks.

It may be in NT’s favor that he is at home and can feel the crowd’s nervous energy instead of drawing inspiration from a bunkered-down mentality on the road. He was great last season against NT, and has come up big for Tech in crunch time this season.

That said, he had to pull out an OT run against Rice so it is not super impressive that he had to be clutch there.

The OL has experience. NT has not had a ton of success bringing pressure, and J’Mar Smith can elude whatever pressure that is brought. See last year’s preview for a little video. His targets include Adrian Hardy again. Last season his acrobatic receivers made incredible catch after incredible catch that helped calm the crowd a bit.

RB Justin Henderson is a load — 218 lbs! — and will run through arm tackles. Jaqwis Dancy is still good, and shifty and a senior.

This is by far J’Mar Smith’s most efficient season. He has 13 scores to only 3 interceptions and one of those was a freak play. NT may not be able to rely on Smith doing self-harm in this one, although they did not get much of that last year either.

Best case scenario: North Texas gets some fortunate turnovers and gets off the field often enough to get the ball back to Fine.
Worst case scenario: An endless conga line to the end zone for Tech players.

Coaching

Skip Holtz is a good coach and Seth Littrell is a proven program-builder in this league. Neither can be said to be an outstanding in-game adjuster. Call this a wash. The home field advantage is well, an advantage.

NT has had solid game plans throughout the season but has also fell on its face to start games too often to discount. The depth chart has changed in reaction to performance — a good thing — but it also means there has been some inconsistency.

Let us count special teams with coaching today. Marty Biagi’s group has allowed some awful returns this season, even while the kick and punt games have been solid. If the offense and defense keep it all even, we cannot expect to have an advantage in this area.

MGN season preview prediction: W 31-24
MGN prediction today: L 28-38

While I have appreciated the offensive explosion the last couple of weeks I absolutely know that has much more to do with the opposition than anything. Tech is good — not great, but good — and NT has had trouble being consistent. If things go the right way, I can see NT pulling this out. This is one of those seasons where NT needs to be perfect on offense and lucky on defense. I do not see it.

Categories
Basketball

2018 CUSA Tournament: NT vs La Tech Preview

Overview

North Texas opens up their conference tournament run with a battle against La Tech. Both teams suffered late season collapses. This game should be a battle till the end. The winner gets ODU on Thursday night.

  • Wednesday, March 7 2018
  • 8:30 p.m. CT
  • The Star , Frisco TX
  • TV:  Facebook
  • Radio: MGRN – 88.1 KNTU-FM
  • Line: La Tech -2.5

What You Need to Know About La Tech

Record: 16-15 (7-11)

Last Game vs UNT:  W La Tech 66-65 (1/18/18)

Last Game:  L Southern Miss 72-64

Scoring Margin: 4.4

CUSA Scoring Margin: -0.7

Season Story: The Bulldogs season started out with great hope. Everyone including myself picked La Tech as one of the top contenders in CUSA. LT lost some tough games early on. They almost upset Alabama, played tough against Texas, and lost a couple of heart breakers to other good mid major programs (La Lafeyette, SFA). The season started to take a downward turn when sophomore stud Jalen Harris decided to transfer. It’s understandable to transfer at the end of the year, but Harris left mid season. La Tech has never really regained momentum. A close loss at the beginning of CUSA play signaled to most that the Bulldogs still had a shot, but 3 straight losses left more question marks. La Tech’s CUSA schedule was top heavy, and after being beat up by the contenders the Bulldogs claimed 4 straight wins, even without CUSA star DaQuan Bracey. Bracey has been hampered with a back injury. La Tech finished up the season going 2-6.  They remain a dangerous team heading into the CUSA tourney if they can find a way to play some defense.


 Projected Starting Lineups

North Texas

Player Position Stat
Ryan Woolridge 6-3 G 5.5 A/pg
Roosevelt Smart 6-3 G 18.8 PT/pg
A.J. Lawson 6-5 G 9.8 PT/pg
Allante Holston 6-7 F 3.6 PT/pg
Zach Simmons 6-9 F 5.9 PT/pg

 

La Tech

Player Position Stat
Amorie Archibald 6-3 G 7.1 PT/pg
Derric Jean 6-2 G 9.3 PT/pg
Jacobi Boykins 6-6 G 14.7 PT/pg
Anthony Duruji 6-7 F 7.4 PT/pg
Oliver Powell 6-8 F 7.3 PT/pg

Scouting Report

La Tech

  • Defense – Man
  • Best Offensive Weapon – Amorie Archibald
  • Best Shooter – Jacobi Boykins
  • Best Defender – Derric Jean
  • Rim Protecter – Yes, Anthony Duruji
  • Primary Offensive Scoring Way – 3 Pointers
  • Secondary Offensive Scoring Way – Free Throws
  • Offensive Weakness – Inside Shot Making
  • Defensive Weakness – 3 Pointers
  • Defensive Strength – Rim Protection

Last Game vs UNT 

  • Defense – Man
  • Shot Chart
    • 3 Pointers – 41%
    • Inside – 41%
    • Mid Range – 18 %
  • Best Offensive Weapon – Anthony Duruji
  • Best Defender – Exavian Christon
  • Offensive Efficiency Rating – 92.1
  • Defensive Efficiency Rating – 90.7
  • Stats That Stood Out
    • 7 Blocked Shots
    • 27 Free Throw Attempts
    • Allowed 12 Offensive Rebounds
    • Allowed 17 Points off TO’s
    • Lost the Bench Scoring 20-12

 


Go To Guys

*Stats are in CUSA Play*

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Player Match-ups

Ryan_vs_LT

Last Game

  • Woolridge 2 pts, 1-8. 75% of his shots were at the rim
  • Archibald 7 pts, 3-6. 50% of his shots were at the rim

Both Archibald and Woolridge had a tough time keeping each other out of the lane in the last game. As you can see by the numbers, Ryan couldn’t finish his shots and Archibald had more success.  What separates these two, is Archibald’s ability to hit mid range and 3pt shots. Woolridge got in some foul trouble, so much of the second half North Texas tried to get another match-up for Archibald. Woolridge needs to be more aggressive early in this game with his rim attacking. Ryan should also be able to get a lot assists as LT, likes to collapse hard.

Roose_vs_LT

Last Game

  • Smart 3 pts, 1-8. 88% of his shots were 3 pointers
  • Jean 0 pts, 0-5. 60% of his shots were at the rim

Smart missed a lot his good looks against Jean. Smart will be able to get any look he wants against Jean. Jean is only 6-2 so Smart can rise and fire over him. Roosevelt was a little 3 happy in this game. Smart needs to attack the rim and try to get to the free throw line. Jean averages 9 points a game, but he did very little against North Texas in their first match up. The concern here is if Jean is able to get hot from 3 point range. He is a 40% 3 point shooter on the season and 37% in conference play.

Lawson_vs_LT

Last Game

  • Lawson didn’t shoot while Boykins was guarding him
  • Boykins 2 pts, 1-3. 66% of his shots were 3 pointers

Boykins is one of the best 3 point shooters in CUSA. He wasnt matched up with Lawson, much last game on the defensive end, but they did see each other when La Tech had the ball. Boykins offensive ability gives him the overall advantage here. Lawson is a wild card for NT. Sometimes he finishes around the rim sometimes he doesn’t. Lawson has to take quality shots and not try to be a volume shooter for NT. The offense flows much better when he doesn’t try to force things.

Allante_vs_LT

Last Game

  • Holston 2 pts, 1-3. 66% of his shots were at the rim
  • Duruji 2 pts, 1-3. 100% of his shots were at the rim

Duruji was a match up problem for NT last game. The Mean Green had no answer for his offensive skill set. Holston couldn’t keep him out of the lane off the dribble. Duruji also was a on fire beyond the arch. Holston is a better match-up for him than Temera, but there are still concerns. When UNT has the ball Holston is virtually no threat, which will allow Duruji to help out around the rim. He had 3 blocked shots back in January. Holston has to find ways to keep Duruji occupied.

Simmons_vs_LT

Last Game

  • Simmons 2 pts, 1-1. 100% of his shots were at the rim
  • Powell 2 pts, 1-5. 80% of his shots were at the rim

This is the one match-up that North Texas could really do some damage with. Simmons was open a ton off of pick-n-rolls. He was also open a lot off dribble drives from the guards. Simmons did a good job of guarding Powell. North Texas likes to try to front the post entry. Against LT last time the Bulldogs got some good looks, because of that. NT should just let their bigs play from behind. Powell and the other LT bigs aren’t that much of scoring threat. Most times they are looking for the kick out 3.

Other Match-ups to Watch for

Draper vs Archibald

Surprisingly after going back and looking at the film, Draper did a solid job on the more athletic Archibald.  On offense Draper had the upper hand. Archibald had to over play DJ, and Draper was able to drive past him on a few occasions. Draper was also able to lose Archibald through some screen action. Would like to see Draper be more aggressive in looking to score once he gets past his defender.

Smart vs Boykins & Exavian Christon

Smart had 15 of his 23 against these two guys. Boykins and Christon arent the best defenders, but they do have some length that will bother Smart. Smart should still be able to drive around them, and run them off screens to get his shots. He had numerous quality looks vs. them.

Temara vs Duruji

Temara started out the game on Duruji, and was no match for him. Duruji was able to take him off the dribble, and was able to lose him in basic movement. Duruji racked up 15 points of his 25 against Shane.

Temara vs Powell

Shane is listed as the projected starter in the game notes, so its possible he will start at the 5. If he does, he should get plenty of good looks in the pick-n-pop game. Powell and LT in general had trouble with their rotations in pick action last game. Powell would lose his man often, and wouldn’t get back. Shane could become an X-factor in this game if he gets off to a good start.  Temara went 3/8 behind the 3 point line in the last two games. Temara had one stretch where he didn’t hit a 3 for 7 games.


 

Inside the Advanced Stat Match-up

 

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3 Points

  1. Inside Shooting – North Texas missed a ton of bunnies against LT.  They shot a pretty good percentage (65%) at the rim, but in reviewing the film, NT should’ve been better. We are not talking about making contested tough shots. We are talking about point blank put backs, and being stronger. LT is a tough team to score on at the rim, but NT will get plenty of looks.
  2. 3 point defense – LT is one of the better 3 pt shooting teams in the conference. North Texas has to run them off that line and make them finish around the rim, where they aren’t very good. 
  3. Tempo – If LT comes out hot, hits a couple of early 3’s and gets up by double digits North Texas can’t panic. If they do we will be watching another game like the FAU one where NT got blown out. Its very important that the Mean Green stay patient, work for those good shots. Don’t get caught up in trying to make up a deficient in one shot. March is all about momentum swings. Teams that can stay even through the good and bad are the ones that keep advancing.

Prediction

After re watching the game, you’d see why La Tech is the favorite even though North Texas is the higher seed. La Tech has the better athletes, and the better team. There are a few adjustments that La Tech will likely make, that could make life tougher for Ryan Woolridge.  A tough game for Woolridge could make things really tough for NT. Also North Texas is 1-6 in their last 7 games.

BUT La Tech has lost 4 in a row, and the Bulldogs aren’t a good defensive team. North Texas should get the same quality looks that they did back in January, but this time they will make those. Simmons is going to have a big game. Rose and Lawson will also be double digit scorers. North Texas will win this game in similar fashion to most of their other CUSA W’s, by making some key stops and shots down the stretch.

My Pick:  North Texas by 3

Categories
CUSA Stuff Football

C-USA Preseason Power Rankings & Ratings

MGN CUSA POWER RANKINGS
RANK TEAM RATING
1 MARSHALL 86.2
2 WESTERN KENTUCKY 84.8
3 MIDDLE TENNESSE ST 83.5
4 SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI 83.0
5 LOUISIANA TECH 78.3
6 FIU 77.0
7 OLD DOMINION 76.9
8 FAU 76.4
9 UTEP 75.8
10 RICE 75.0
11 CHARLOTTE 72.8
12 UTSA 71.6
13 NORTH TEXAS 71.0
MGN CUSA OFFENSIVE RATINGS
RANK TEAM RATING
1 SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI 85.3
2 WESTERN KENTUCKY 84.8
3 MIDDLE TENNESSE ST 83.4
4 MARSHALL 86.2
5 UTEP 79.1
6 FIU 76.9
7 OLD DOMINION 76.8
8 CHARLOTTE 76.7
9 LOUISIANA TECH 76.5
10 NORTH TEXAS 75.9
11 UTSA 75.3
12 FAU 71.0
13 RICE 70.9
MGN CUSA DEFENSIVE RATINGS
RANK TEAM RATING
1 MARSHALL 88.4
2 FAU 85.1
3 SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI 82.5
4 MIDDLE TENNESSE ST 79.9
5 WESTERN KENTUCKY 79.2
6 LOUISIANA TECH 77.2
7 FIU 75.9
8 UTEP 73.9
9 UTSA 73.9
10 CHARLOTTE 73.3
11 RICE 73.3
12 OLD DOMINION 72.6
13 NORTH TEXAS 70.0