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Basketball

Ryan Woolridge to Transfer

Ladies and gentleman, he is gone. Ryan Woolridge was pretty much the heart of this team throughout his career. That was none more evident than in his final postseason tournament. He limped his way to competitiveness, but he was nowhere near the engine that he was during the season. You can make the argument that the decline in form for Mac’s team was all due to Woolridge’s health.

MGN wishes him good luck on his next journey.

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Basketball

North Texas Basketball Is Back

The greatest North Texas basketball game I have been to was the win over Texas Tech in the Super Pit on Tuesday November 16th, 2011. The place was packed and North Texas won 92-83 in OT. Josh White had 32 points including a clutch basket down the stretch.

NT went 20-11 that season, averaged 4006 fans and fought through a mid-season slump and ultimately lost to UALR in the Sun Belt title game by one point. Since then, NT has been on a slow regression to terrible.

Enter Grant McCasland.

He has reinvigorated the program with a modern style, energy and most precious: wins. North Texas basketball is 14-1 on the season and yes, a good portion of those wins were against bad programs. There is value in preparing for league play with a rough-and-tumble non-conference schedule. There is also value in building up confidence and rhythm and hype.

North Texas needed good feelings more than it needed tough competition. The same rationale applied when the Mean Green entered the College Basketball Invitational — a throwaway postseason tournament to a good number of teams. They won that tournament, against okay competition, and built up the hype and good feelings that have carried over into this season.

Oh, and the style of play was honed in that tournament. Senior guard Michael Miller was famously coached to switch his shooting hand in the pregame shootaround and thus began a new style of play that has carried over to this season.

As we enter conference play, let us take a closer look at our Mean Green:

0 Ryan Woolridge: G 6’3″ JR

Woolridge has been an iron man in his three years at NT, playing a ton and handling the ball as the primary point guard. He is quick and can get to the basket and finish around the rim. He has extended his range to three this season but still does not shoot a ton from there even though he’s at .400 from deep this season. He is iffy from the FT line, or we would see him average something like 14-17 PPG.  In this drive-and-kick offense he is one of the guys that can get anywhere he wants.

Advanced numbers via KenPom.com

Numbers: 12.9 PPG 6.3 RPG 5.2 APG | 102.0 OffRtg 24.5 %Poss 54.6 eFG% 27.3 ARate 43.3 FTRate

2 Jorden Duffy: G 6’1″ SR 

Duffy is a scorer who can light it up from deep when he is on. In the CBI he was finally healthy and he broke out with 18 per game. He’s not been hitting them at the same rate this season, but he’s averaging 10 a game and is a solid contributor right now. He’s a streaky guy so expect him to break out during this conference season.

Numbers: 10.0 PPG 4.2 RPG 2.2 APG | 103.9 ORtg 19.1 %Poss 42.9 eFG% 34.7 FTRate

3 Roosevelt Smart: G 6’3″ JR 

Rose is listed as a guard but he plays the “three” or SF position often. In modern basketball this is not really a big deal, but this is also usually a bigger wing than the two-guard. NT is shorter across the board, so the 6’1″ Umoja Gibson will often play the two while Rose is at the 3. Smart is a shooter, plain and simple, and he can light it up. He had an injury in the offseason. He’s not quite back to the level he was at last year (110 ORtg, 19.5 per game compared to this year’s 95.7, 10 ppg) but he is working his way back into shape.

He is not driving and getting to the line as much and that is a good reason why he isn’t as efficient or effective just yet. He’ll get there.

Numbers: 10.9 PPG 2.4 RPG 1.3 APG | 95.7 ORtg 22.4 % Poss 50.0 eFG% 6 FTRate

23 Michael Miller: G 6’3″ SR

Mike Miller broke out in the CBI and he has been incredible since. He had 35 against Arkansas Pine-Bluff on 5/6 shooting from deep. He can shoot now, and has developed a nice little midrange attack using both hands. NT plays him at the 4-spot often and you can see how the four-guard lineup can be lethal with so many scorers spreading the floor. He has made 11 threes thus far this season, which was last year’s season total.

Numbers: 11.4 PPG 4.6 RPG 1.2 APG | 126.1 ORtg 20.7 %Poss 65.7 eFG% 32.5 FTRate

24 Zachary Simmons: F 6’10” SO

The key to this four-guard lineup has been Zach Simmons’ play. He has to do all the big man work since he is the lone big man. His offensive rating (131.2) is 31st in the nation among all players who have used at least 16% of their team’s possesions. That is to say he has been an efficient and productive offensive player.

Against Louisiana Tech Simmons was instrumental. Witness these two plays late — the patience in the post to get a layup over two guys, and the movement to make the final Tech drive difficult.

Numbers: 12.3 PPG 6.9 RPG 0.8 ASG | 131.2 ORtg 19.3 %Poss 64.6 eFG% 31.1 FTRate

The Bench


1 Umoja Gibson: G 6’1″ RFR

Umoja balled out in his first couple games last season before he was injured for the year. He has returned to the roster and filled in nicely in Smart’s absence.  He’s quick and can shoot the ball well. Right now, he is mostly a three-point shooter in this offense, taking far more threes than twos. He had an off night vs Tech, and that contributed to the Tech comeback.

On the right night he will be a game-changer.

Numbers: 12.4. PPG 2.3 RPG 1.6 APG | 95.4 ORtg 19.8 %Poss 45.6 eFG% 26.4 FTRate

10 Jamiah Simmons: F 6’4″ RSO

Simmons came along with Grant McCasland from Arkansas State. He is a burly forward that is rebounding well — his defensive rebounding rate is just about where Zach Simmons is at 17.7%.

Numbers: 4.6 PPG 4.3 RPG 0.8 APG | 101.0 ORtg 16.2 %Poss 47.9 eFG% 53.2 FTR

55 DJ Draper: G 5’10” JR

DJ is a fan favorite shooter. He has not been getting the same kind of time as he was last season, but he’ll come in and hit a three and sit down. Occasionally, he’ll make a great play that isn’t shooting and twitter will go wild. This is as it should be.

Numbers: 4.6 PPG 1.0 RPG 1.2 APG | 141.9 ORtg 8.7 %Poss 63.5 eFG% .478 3PT%

20 Tope Arikawe: F 6’8″ SR

Tope is big and powerful but does not get a ton of minutes. McCasland mostly prefers Zach for playing the big spot and four guards around him. Tope will come in and set screens and rebound. He has some touch around the basket but he is not scoring at the same rate he was last season. He’s only getting about 10% of the minutes so we won’t list numbers here.

13 Mark Tikhonenko: F 6’10” FR

Mark can shoot the ball but has not appeared in the recent games. He played well in the early season as NT was running throuhg some lineups and beating up on some minnows. Ideally he would be a stretch-four but with the four-guard lineup NT is running now, this is unnecessary.

35 Shakeem Alcindor: F 6’8″ FR

Another big-body forward who got minutes in a blowout. Good size.

The Season

North Texas has the third-best adjusted efficiency margin in the league — again, according to KenPom — at +5.39, just behind über talented Western Kentucky at +6.38 and defensive monster Old Dominion at +8.73.. Things will settle into a different rhythm once everyone is deeper into league play. Right now NT’s league-only offensive rating is 126 — number one in the conference — and that is heavily influenced by destroying the worst team defense in Rice on the road.

North Texas was expected to finish somewhere behind Western, Marshall, ODU, and maybe Tech. Thus far, the advanced numbers from the non-conference season and the first week of league play have bore that out.

The Mean Green are playing like a good team, with a balanced scoring attack reliant on spreading the floor and controlling the tempo. FIU (leads the nation!), Marshall, and UTSA play at a super-high pace, while NT plays fairly deliberately.

When NT is hitting threes, they are nigh-unstoppable, as most teams are. Usually, one or two of NT’s primary scorers are on, while the other is struggling a bit. This is fairly common in the game. The metronomes are Zach Simmons and Ryan Woolridge. While some of the other guys can get to the rim, Simmons and Woolridge are the two that can get inside and make things happen with consistency.

NT will face a few challenges in this league campaign. Louisiana Tech is talented — we all saw how DaQuan Bracey broke down the NT defense. Western Kentucky has 5-star freshman 6’11” Charles Bassey, 245 lbs, and dominant.

ODU is physically imposing and has two talented senior players in Ahmad Caver and BJ Stith. Marshall has Jon Elmore and CJ Burks, two of the best players in the league but has not been as efficient on either end without the departed Ajdin Penava.

The non-conference schedule was soft, so even a 1-loss season mixed with a conference tournament exit will not guarantee an NCAA bid. NT needs to win the tournament, and so this league season is about getting a good placement there. In a single-elimination tournament, any squad can get hot and upset someone. We saw Southern Miss eliminate Middle last season.

Whatever happens, this should be a fun season. North Texas basketball is back.

Schedule

The league schedule is Thurs/Saturday in league play. After February 16, the league switches to pod play. NT will be grouped according to their finish to have an 18-game schedule. More information can be found here.

January

  • Saturday Jan 5 – Southern Miss
  • Thursday Jan 10 – @ UTEP
  • Saturday Jan 12 – @ UTSA
  • Saturday Jan 19 – Rice
  • Thursday Jan 24 – UAB
  • Saturday Jan 26 – MTSU
  • Thursday Jan 31 – @ ODU

Feb

  • Sat Feb 2 – @ Charlotte
  • Thu Feb 7 – Marshall
  • Sat Feb 9 – WKU
  • Thu Feb 14 – @ FAU
  • Sat Feb 16 – @ FIU

Kenpom has NT winning all of these with the exception of the ODU game.

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Basketball Basketball Recaps

North Texas Men’s Basketball Falls to Oklahoma 73-57

Mean Green basketball was 8-0 coming into this game and had a big regionally televised game against Oklahoma on the road tonight. NT had every reason to figure it could compete reasonably well in this one.

Last year, NT went to Norman and only lost by ten to a Trae Young-led Sooner squad. It could be argued that if were not for the future-NBA first round pick NT would have triumphed then.

Tonight, NT did not play nearly as well. NT shot 29% in the first half … and the second. Meanwhile, Oklahoma figured out how to shoot in the second half.

NT was down just two at the end of the first half thanks to the shooting of Roosevelt Smart — he had 11 in the first — and then sort of fell apart in the final seven minutes.

Why Did They Lose?

Poor shooting.

Oklahoma is better than the teams North Texas beat up on to this point. There is a little debate among the Mean Green fans about this — we knew they had not played anyone of note just yet but there is some value in doing this. It allows you to get a nice run out and work on some things with a little bit of a safety net.

Whatever the situation, the Sooners were more athletic, and more skilled than the previous competition and it sure seemed like that caused some of the early turnovers. North Texas had to go to their second and third options on offense and did not make those decisions quickly enough.

As they settled into things (both teams) stopped turning the ball over a ton, and NT started playing NT basketball, hitting shots, getting to the rim and pushing the pace.

In the second half, the Mean Green fell into the same traps, but couldn’t defend Oklahoma as well. Zach Simmons dunked and put NT up by two briefly (for :13) before Oklahoma went on a run.

What Does It Mean?

In the long run? Not much. This is mostly a learning experience. NT could have used the hype of a win in Norman but the path to any kind of notoriety for this team was always going to come via the CUSA Tournament and a possible NCAA bid through that path.

The non-conference schedule is weak, but again the CUSA Bonus Play rounds will attempt to fix that if NT can win early in league play.

Who Played Well?

Roosevelt Smart came back from injury and put in 13, but did not shoot well overall. He is working his way back into the groove. Zach Simmons did not score as well, but rebounded well. Ryan Woolridge played really well in certain aspects, but was a little loose with the ball as he tried to make things happen late. He finished with 17.

Next Up

Indiana State on the road and UT Arlington at the Super Pit.

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Basketball Basketball Recaps

North Texas Wins 2018 CBI Tournament 88-77 Over San Francisco Dons

North Texas basketball won the CBI Tournament Final 88-77 in a game that meant very little nationally, but very much to the program.

Cheap jokes were made, but the uninformed only ever have surface level observations. To truly understand a moment one has to pay attention to the details.

The CBI is not prestigious, but North Texas basketball was not playing for prestige. It was playing for respect, and for themselves, and for the fans, and mostly again for themselves.

The CBI need not be covered like the NCAA tournament, but it is silly to think that the effort and competition were somehow less intense or less meaningful.

Tonight, was memorable.

Every so often in the life of a program there is a very special game that sticks in the collective minds of the fans. The Johnny Jones era of Mean Green ball had the Texas Tech victory game in which North Texas beat a Big 12 team. It was not quite a culmination of of things, but it stood out as a glimmer of what the program could be while also validating the success of previous campaigns. NT had won 20 games four straight years (and would go on to win 20 again in that 2010-2011 season) with two NCAA Tournament appearances in that time.

Beating Tech during the season was supposed to kick off the next era.

As far as collegiate basketball venues go, the Pit is decent. The greatest venues are great not because of sight lines, but because of memories.

The Tech game was a highlight but supposed to be supplanted by new and better memories. Tony Mitchell, Chris Jones, and Jordan Williams were supposed to carry the program to new and higher heights. Instead, well, you know what happened. North Texas followed six straight winning seasons (including five straight 20+ win seasons) with four losing seasons and one .500 year.

This was never about the CBI. This was always about returning the program to the path it was on from 2001-2012. The fans and supporters that endured the grind from an underperforming afterthought to a Tournament-bound, and consistent league contender were ready for the next step.

Winning the CBI means that basketball is back.

To know that you had to be paying attention.

The Game

North Texas beat a good team, let us acknowledge that here, but one that was at a disadvantage against NT. Frankie Ferrari is good, and has turned the Dons into a 20-game winner, with designs on returning the program to its previously lofty heights himself.

The Dons made 12 threes, on 37.5% shooting and 42% in the second period. Frankie the former Uber man made all five of his threes in the second half and fifteen of his nineteen in the second. USF made a nice little run to make things interesting but NT was able to put them away fairly easily.

North Texas was always the better team but San Francisco is the better executing squad. Tonight, the talent of NT and the improved offensive and defensive execution won the day. Roosevelt Smart had 25 in 39 minutes, wreaking havoc on the USF defensive plan, and Ryan Woolridge controlled the game.

AJ Lawson has struggled to find a consistent rhythm all season but looked like the slashing scorer NT needed. He had 12 huge points including 10 in the second half on 3/3 shooting and 4/6 from the line.

In one four-minute stretch he had an assist, two jumpers and a layup.

USF survived off second-chance points even without JR forward Matthew McCarthy, putting up 18 to NT’s 4. They also got points off of NT turnovers — scoring 19.

In the end, though, it was NT’s superior ability to get to the rim and really, wherever they wanted that was the difference. The Mean Green shot better — 40% from deep — in this one and that helped. In this series North Texas has won all but two halves — the first in game one and the final in this one, in which they simply tied at 50.

What It Means

North Texas basketball is back. Most people felt like Grant McCasland woud be able to right the ship. Few expected another 20-win season from the man who got Arky St to that number last season. Yet, here we are. NT has won 20 games for the first time since that aforementioned season wherein they beat Tech in the Pit.

The good feelings and new memories will carry over into the summer and build up the good will for the next season. It helps that the CBI has branded itself as the launching pad for NCAA tournament success. Things are looking up for this program, as you no doubt have seen written in this space this season. The league has had one of the better seasons in all of college basketball and North Texas competed well within it.

WKU, ODU, and Middle Tennessee all lost quality players. Marshall may lose more. The offseason will bring new faces into all of the league’s 14 programs, but North Texas has the one of the more intriguing returning squads of them all.

All of last offseason NT was selling hope and now the ticket sellers and outreach staff can sell results. That is big.

But you knew that because you, unlike some others, were paying attention to the details.

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Basketball Basketball Recaps

North Texas Men’s Basketball Wins CBI First Round Game Over South Dakota 90-77

North Texas has one postseason win. No doubt you read Greg’s CBI First Round preview of South Dakota. So you know how difficult this game was going to be.

Then a little March Craziness. South Dakota was favored by someting like 13 points and proceeded to get run out of their own building.

Mercer beat Grand Canyon on the road and will now face North Texas in the CBI quarterfinal round. From what I can tell, NT will host the game at the Super Pit on March 19th. Beyond that and the tournament is re-bracketed afterward so there is no telling who will be on the schedule past then.

CBI Bracket can be found here.

Roosevelt Smart scored 23 points in the second half as he demoralized the Yote’s radio announcer. The man was devastated with each additional three point haymaker.

Michael Miller incredibly added 19 points on 4/5 shooting from beyond the arc. Jorden Duffy added 19. North Texas stuck with a six-man rotation of Smart, Miller, Duffy, Simmons, Woolridge, and Draper. NT shot well from the line, but the real story was how poorly South Dakota shot.

In front of what looked like a very mediocre crowd, Matt Mooney and company shot only 37% from the field including an awful 18.2% from deep. USD made a valiant attempt at a comeback but the 22 poitn deficit was too much.

Zach Simmons had seventeen rebounds and nine points. Woolridge added nine assists.

NT improved to 16-17 on the season.

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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*

Copy_of_Copy_of_North_Texas_Go_to_Guy_4

North_Texas_Go_to_Guy_1


Copy_of_Basketball_Match_ups_Eureka_College_4


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
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 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

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