Last Thursday, on the only game of the week, North Texas dropped one to Charlotte in the Queen City, to seal their fate as 2nd place finishers. If you didn’t know previously, there was a slight chance that NT could catch and pass FAU 1 for first. The loss ended NT’s eight-game win streak, and ended any remaining talk of a bubble invite.
Now, the conversation around the bubble invite was stretching some versions of reality, and in a day and age when everyone can be a bracketologist by simply deeming themselves as such, it is a little difficult to separate the good from bad, the wistful from reality, and from clout-chasing from analysis.
All that to say, that while it is never fun to watch your team lose, that game didn’t have many real-world consequences. North Texas still has a good shot in at the NCAA tournament. They remain one of the three or four best teams in CUSA and have a great shot at winning the thing. That is what is important.
A Little About Charlotte
Hey so we did not write about the game last week. I assure you we wanted to, but we we also making the cash that makes this thing stay afloat and so priorities, man. NT played a very North Texas game, strangling Charlotte’s early lead down to nothing and then setting up the situation for Tylor Perry to shine. Only he did not shine. He kept missing and struggled as NT dropped one to CLT. The advanced numbers say TP put up an offensive rating of 73(Kenpom), his lowest since vs Nebraska Omaha, and before that the lowest vs CUSA competition since Tech in the tourney last year (69). TP is usuall around 110+ and has a “bad” (sub-100) game every four or five games. Those are typically 90-range so his bad is some other players’ very good. He’s very good at this game. He was not against CLT, missing five threes and going 2-5 from two.
That’s the quickest and most succinct we can put it. Being the best player on the team has some drawbacks and some of those include being the main reason NT lost. The good news is that TP is going to be angry and want to play better and when he is angry and has a burning desire to do something on the basketball court he usually does that very well.
A Little About Middle
Tonight, NT will take on Middle Tennessee, last seen in Murfreesboro at the beginning of the year. NT fell behind big, and TP was harrassed by lengthy MTSU defenders and that opened up room for Aaron Scott to begin his ascendence into Getting Buckets Time. He did, and NT won down the stretch, thanks to a big 20-minute period in which they held Middle to 13 points. They held Middle to 23 points in the final 30 minutes, after allowing 28 in the first ten. Yeah, a performance. Shout out to Rubin Jones who was also excellent down the stretch.
Middle is playing well enough, even if they are off the pace of last season’s stellar finish. They are in 4th place in the league, behind UAB, NT, and FAU in that order. Even losing twice this weekend would not jeopardize NT’s 2nd place situation, but it could mean that Middle could get up to third.
As it stands now, 6/11 (Rice/UTSA) winner would play the 3rd seed (UAB as it stands) and 2 (NT) would play the winner of 7 / 10 (WKU/UTEP).
Essentially, NT/Middle tonight (and the weekend’s games) will determine final seeding for the tournament. If you are the kind of person that likes to root for a specific set of matchups? Well I would say that facing some combination of the UTSA/Rice winner and Middle would be preferable to UAB. Also, maybe FIU over WKU as the 7th seed, and no UTEP, which can junk up a game.
A Little About Western
WKU has fallen down the standings pretty hard after NT won at Diddle arena (where my son’s jacket was lost). Dayvion McKnight remains a baller, a certified bucket getter, and a problem. NT will have to figure out how to defend against a Western that has tape on NT now, but without shooter Frampton. The Tops still have the problem where they are missing a good amount of depth. It is a top-heavy team, the kind of group a tournament will hurt, especially as a lower seed.
This whole weekend is about staying sharp and healthy. Both Middle and Western present unique challenges and NT will be tested by good players. It is the ideal warm up for the tournament as it will be filled with good defense (Middle, UTEP, FAU) and dynamic offense by certain players (McKnight, UAB’s Walker, etc) and these two teams have a little bit of both. Beyond Perry struggling a bit unusually vs Charlotte, NT has been playing good basketball.
Tonight, expect Middle to deny TP the ball a ton, but for NT to be ready to counter with more off-ball plans than simply “fake like you will cut but then don’t” and taking advantage of Middle’s focus on Perry. Last time Scott feasted, and Abou Ousmane was huge late. Mou Sissoko was less good in his brief appearance but has been steadily getting 10 minutes per. He will be interesting to watch in this one.
They would have to pass, as FAU beat NT twice, holding the tie-breaker ↩