North Texas Daily

Column: Fans, students have embraced McCasland’s team, and it’s fun to see

Column: Fans, students have embraced McCasland’s team, and it’s fun to see

January 22
14:35 2018

At first, you all were hesitant. Very rarely did you all stand up for the team if the game was not in its final seconds. But just like the men’s basketball team, you were all learning in the early stages of the Grant McCasland era.

Now, in comparison to years past, the crowd and community engagement for the men’s basketball team has actually been nothing short of an impressive feat.

This year’s team has been more enjoyable and exciting to watch than most, if not all, of the teams in Tony Benford’s five-year tenure for a multitude of reasons. Several close games, a new and more engaged coach and, of course, the playing style of sophomore guards Ryan Woolridge and Roosevelt Smart.

While a lot of that was expected, something unexpected that has made the team more enjoyable is how absorbed the North Texas community has been — especially during games.

It starts with people actually showing up to the games ready to cheer on and help the team. While the size of the crowd is nowhere near the years of Johnny Jones and the teams that were winning 20+ games per season, the quality of the crowd has been notable. 

For whatever reason, the numbers show this season’s attendance average is reported to be lower than every year in Benford’s tenure. But those numbers are not accurate. As mentioned in a previous column regarding football attendance, those are announced numbers and very often don’t tell the entire story. 

But let’s imagine, just for a second, these numbers are real. Let’s fantasize and say last year’s 8-22 team drew more than 2,000 people per home game as reported. That simply means the fans who are going this season’s games deserve even more credit, because the Super Pit sounds like an entirely new arena. 

Last year, the crowd was a joke — but it is not really its fault. The few students in attendance reclined back in their chairs and used the open seats in front of them as a footrest while spending most of the game’s 40 minutes scrolling through their phones. It is pretty comfortable actually — I was even guilty of doing the same as a student at least once or twice last season as the Mean Green trailed by 15 to whomever the opponent was.

However, that’s not the case this year. In the section behind the North Texas bench, the fans are packed in yelling at refs and giving loud ovations for the team’s effort. No longer is the Mean Green Brigade the loudest section in the crowd, despite continuing to bring a high level of energy to the atmosphere. 

Do not get complacent, Mean Green faithful. This season has been an up-and-down ride for McCasland and company, and the team has played just two home games in the last 47 days. They are at a critical stretch in their schedule with five of their next seven games at home against tough opponents, including Western Kentucky and Marshall.

On the court itself, Smart, Woolridge and company will continue to entertain the crowd with dazzling dribble moves and a barrage of 3-pointers. 

McCasland has quite literally yelled at the crowd, asking them to get on their feet and cheer at points during the season — most notably in the opening game against Eureka College. He’s an intense coach and he expects the same intensity on the court and even in the crowd.

As a result of all of that, less people are hanging out on their phones over the nine home games this season, and that highlights my main point. The crowd for this season’s men’s basketball team has been very good for a rebuilding program with new players across the board. At the very least, things have been much better than last season. 

If I notice it, then players notice it tenfold. You have done a good job in the stands, and it has been fun to see.

Featured image: Mean Green Men’s Basketball head coach Grant McCasland encourages his team during a game against Eureka College. Madison Gore

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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