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West Champs — North Texas 56 Louisiana Tech 49

They showed Randy Travis on the sidelines and he was hyped. There was a record crowd. Tech made it interesting enough that Tylor Perry had to hit another big shot. That’s good entertainment value for your dollar, folks.

Your Mean Green are West Division Champs and also the undeclared regular season champs for CUSA, as they have a better record than Middle Tennessee, that surprising squad that also wrapped up the East division on Saturday. The two-division thing means that there is no official One champion (or even co-champs). The league announced the division winners separately.

What does that mean? Well you celebrate the milestones and do not take them for granted. West Division champion is not as big of a deal as a CUSA Tournament champion, but it is nonetheless an accomplishment. You get in the habit of celebrating wins and victories and they become a habit. Culture of winning and all that. On that note, MGMBB has won three banners in a row.

2019: Regular Season Champs (overall, when that was a thing)
2020: CUSA Tournament Champs
2021: (So far) West Division Champs with the league and national tournaments pending.

Depending on your favorite flavor of bracketology, the Mean Green are either 8th, or 13th in seeding and while I am never one to turn down an opportunity to express sports complaints, I believe in exhausting all avenues of the can be controlled before hoping the someones else will do the “right thing”. That is to say, there is a whole league tournament to win that will guarantee an NCAA bid. The seedings are not entirely in the team’s control 1.

The program (thanks Grant) is building up the national — yes, national – reputation for winning across multiple seasons and that is sticky. Check the NET, sure, but this isn’t an automated process. Right now NT is the team that people remember for winning CUSA.

INTERIOR: Selection Sunday

"I remember the 'Mean Green' [chuckles at the name]. They won the league last year and won the COVID year? Yeah good program."

"Yeah and beat Purdue in the first round"

"Yeah good program. That coach is going to get patched soon"

"Give them a 10-seed"

Program-building is how Gonzaga went from funny team from the West Coast conference to perennial top-ten squad.

Mac has laid the foundations for the culture. He’ll tell you that has been because of some incredible players as well. He’s right. All the guys that bought in and won games — that CBI for example, guys like Roosevelt Smart, and even Umoja Gibson, et al — were a part of building this up. Bell, Hamlet, and Perry have done the recent work but is all a larger program.

Just as there would be no Drew Timme (at his current level of prowess for that squad) if there were no Adam Morrison, Kelly Olynk, Ronny Turiaf, etc 2

I don’t want to forget the players that were part of the program during the Benford-era, but you and I know there wasn’t a whole lot of winning taking place to celebrate and remember. The average NT hoops fan remembers Josh White and Tristan Thompson better than Jeremy Combs. We know why. Eight-thousand were at the Pit on Saturday to make memories of Tylor Perry hitting big shots. In ten-years, we’ll bring Bell and these guys back to celebrate and remember and there will be more good times had. That’s how it goes. That’s how it is supposed to go.

Okay The Game

Boys and Girls, that was fun. Yours Truly was watching on Stadium 3. Some notes:

  • Stadium does a good job. The broadcast team is knowledgable, have watched these teams play before, and have talent, which is nice
  • I could *hear* the 8K strong chanting, which make it feel like a real college basketball game. The last time I was at the Pit for a big-crowd was the Texas Tech game in 2010. MGN was a nascent operation then, but it was in operation and we blogged about it. Yes, this site is old enough to remember when the Maniacs were called the Pit Crew.
Pit Crew

Josh White had 32 in that game. He remains, the best.

  • Louisiana Tech made a run, pressing NT and forcing a few turnovers that lead to buckets. Later in the tournament prep, we’ll mention that. It is a little bit of an Achilles’ Heel 4 The squad is going to have to fight through some teams that have watched UAB and Tech implement the press with success. Be prepared, team.
  • Abou Ousmane had 13 and 9 against Lofton and his 13 and 9. That’s not just holding your own, but being a force by yourself. I can see a trend line that has Ousmane as 2023 CUSA POY.
  • Perry and Bell had 19 between them but did big things in big moments. They were not *perfect* handling the ball either, with Bell throwing the ball away late but sprinting the floor and being there for the rebound. Tech’s fast break layup attempt rolled around and out. Still, NT controlled the game throughout.
  • I absolutely love that NT closed the game out with defense. They hit big shots (Perry) but got to those big shots with hustle and defense. I also do not mind that our stars are not clicking on offense. We need them to win a tournament championship, but that is a couple of weeks away and there is plenty of time to ramp up for when it absolutely counts.

Win streaks (and losing ones for that matter) are made up of moments of belief. You are down a couple of points, or the oppositions has made a run. Do you believe? Do you think you can win? Do you think that your effort in a seemingly unrelated task (blocking out, denying the shooter, fighting through the screen) will be enough to add up to a win? That’s how you overcome obstacles. Everyone on this squad thinks the work they put in is enough to get wins. They absorb runs (the other teams are good, too, after all) but they keep on fighting and keep on trusting their process. That has equaled wins. That is also how they keep making their own luck. Perry does not get a chance with the ball to win the game (vs UAB) or put the game out of reach (vs Tech) if everyone is not fighting for rebounds, or sprinting down the floor, or executing the offense.

There are two more games left vs not-as-good opponents. This is about preparation for the tournament and that includes staying healthy. I am not a fan of backing off, as that is building up bad habits. Still, you want to find a happy medium, somewhere in their where everyone is still getting basketball repetitions and staying sharp but also not losing a key guy in a game that will not win us any hardware.

  1. We’ve seen mid-majors get high and low seeds with good and bad reputations and really, just winning games is the only answer. Don’t let them lock you out entirely — go win an outbid

  2. Or even Ryan Woolridge. GMG

  3. Again, MGN HQ is in the midwest, and will be down for Frisco times but couldn’t make it for this one. Alas, I am not *that* rich

  4. I encounter people who do not know that this is a reference to the story of Achilles, that he had been dipped in the River Sytx by his mother to give him immortality but was weak in only the spot from which she held him: his heel. So it is shorthand for “the only weak spot”. I repeat this because I’ve heard people say “it is like an Achilles Knee, Foot and Leg” which is kind of funny until you realize they don’t know the reference so it is just random words.

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