North Texas Daily

COLUMN: Men’s basketball must find their stride before it’s too late

COLUMN: Men’s basketball must find their stride before it’s too late

COLUMN:  Men’s basketball must find their stride before it’s too late
January 28
12:00 2021

The North Texas men’s basketball team has not gotten off to the start everyone expected out of them. Many analysts predicted them to repeat as conference champions, and even our writers here at North Texas Daily predicted a much better start than what has been showcased so far. While there is still plenty of time for the team to make another run at the conference championship, the Mean Green most certainly have to make changes in order for this to happen.

North Texas opened up the 2021 season with one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in Conference USA. Three out of the eight games played were against Power Five programs – Arkansas, Mississippi State and a spur-of-the-moment matchup against the now No. 14 ranked West Virginia. All three of these games ended in a Mean Green loss.

While heading into a Power Five school’s arena and beating them is not the easiest feat to accomplish, North Texas was able to keep every game relatively close until the waning moments of the second half. However, the Mean Green could have stolen a win from at least one of the three Power Five matchups.

Where North Texas struggled in their non-conference schedule was not necessarily their matchups against Power Five schools, but their games against lower-tier conference schools such as Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Lousiana State-Alexandria.

In the majority of these games, North Texas struggled to find their game early on. Slow starts plagued the Mean Green both offensively and defensively, and in many instances, the team entered halftime nearly tied with their opponent.

As a team that was projected to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament last season, the Mean Green should not have struggled early on with schools such as Arkansas Pine-Bluff. While the team was able to find their footing and explode in the second half of numerous games, many matchups that have been seen as easily winnable have been far too close for comfort.

The Mean Green’s early-game woes have followed them into conference play as well. In both games against UTSA, North Texas struggled to pull away from the Roadrunners — a team that currently sits last in their division in the conference.

Several players have also regressed from strong outings last season, most notably guard Javion Hamlet. The senior guard from Memphis has not been shooting as strong as he was in the 2019-2020 season. He currently holds a field goal percentage of 39.2 which is 10 points less than what he recorded last season.

The Mean Green proved early on they have the potential to be a deep team,  however, players coming off the bench have not contributed to their fullest potential. I believe this Mean Green team can be dangerous when everyone is on their A-game. If players coming off the bench can contribute just as much as they did in non-conference play, the future of this Mean Green team will be looking very bright.

While there are still plenty of games left to be played in Conference USA, the Mean Green have concerned many with their play early on. This team cannot afford to struggle anymore with opponents they should not have trouble against. North Texas does not look like the Conference winning team it looked like just one season ago. In a conference with teams that wield powerhouse squads such as Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech  — the Mean Green have to find their stride quickly before it is too late.

Featured Illustration by Olivia Varnell

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Milo Mihaltses

Milo Mihaltses

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