North Texas Daily

COLUMN: Men’s basketball will be this year’s March Madness Cinderella

COLUMN: Men’s basketball will be this year’s March Madness Cinderella

COLUMN: Men’s basketball will be this year’s March Madness Cinderella
March 18
12:00 2021

The North Texas men’s basketball team made history this year in the Conference USA tournament. They took home the conference title, taking down Middle Tennessee State University, as well as two of the top teams in Conference USA along the way in Louisiana Tech University and Western Kentucky University.

With the win over Western Kentucky, the Mean Green punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, when they last won their respective conference as a member of the Sun Belt. North Texas may be fresh off a grueling four-game winning streak, but they are definitely not done yet. The Mean Green can very easily be a dark horse this NCAA tournament, and we may just see a couple of upsets take place.

North Texas came up big in the Conference USA tournament. They showcased their explosive offense in game one against Middle Tennessee, as the big three of James Reese, Thomas Bell and Javion Hamlet combined for 55 points.

It’s no secret these three have been firing on all cylinders all season long, and the Mean Green will need them to continue to do so if they want to keep their season alive. While this team is known for its defense, Reese, Bell and Hamlet were a heavily underrated trio in Conference USA this year.

The Mean Green’s defense came up huge against the top team in the west — the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. They held Bulldogs to just 48 points in the conference semifinal. North Texas shut down star forward Isaiah Crawford and All-Freshman selection Kenneth Loften Jr., holding them to just nine and 10 points, respectively.

North Texas defended the perimeter well against the Bulldogs, as they went just 3-for-17 from beyond the arc.
The Mean Green’s true test in the tournament came against Western Kentucky though, where they took down the reigning C-USA Player of the Year in Charles Bassey.

In a back and forth game, North Texas came out on top over the Hilltoppers, drawing five fouls from Bassey and preventing him from finding his stride until late in the game.

Point guard Javion Hamlet made his presence felt for North Texas, in what was easily the biggest game of his collegiate career. The former C-USA Male Athlete of the Year recorded 20 points, five assists, and four rebounds while playing the entire duration of the game.Hamlet’s clutch performance against the Hilltoppers was not the only superb effort he displayed during the tournament. In fact, he proved me wrong.

Prior to North Texas’ first game of the C-USA tournament, I had said Hamlet needed to find consistency if the Mean Green wanted to make it to the NCAA Tournament. He’d had an up-and-down regular season, and the whole squad needed him to show up every game if they wanted to make a run and compete.

He did in fact find consistency and elevated his game to a whole other level. He averaged almost 20 points per game all while hardly ever coming off the court. The man put the team on his back.

Mean Green fans got the Hamlet they wanted, and the Hamlet they deserved — he delivered.

Hamlet, along with the rest of the team, needs to continue their superb play. The Mean Green’s confidence is at a sky-high level heading into Indiana, and I expect them to bring their A-game against Purdue University in their first NCAA Tournament appearance in over a decade.

Size may be an issue for North Texas against Purdue offensively, a team that has seven-foot-four center Zach Edey and six-foot-nine forward Aaron Wheeler. However, if the Mean Green does not rush the game and use the shot clock to their advantage like they have done all season, I think this team can put up a good fight against the Boilermakers.

North Texas has the potential to surprise a lot of college basketball fans and analysts in game one against Purdue. Taking down the fourth seed in the south region would be huge for the team’s momentum, which is already the highest it has ever been.

The Mean Green will need all hands on deck for this one, and this is a team that seemingly enjoys being the underdog. They can truly be a dark horse in this NCAA tournament.

While I’m not saying this team will win-out, I do have faith they can steal a couple more wins in the month of March. This team surprised many fans during the C-USA Tournament and there is no reason why they can’t continue to do so on the biggest stage in collegiate basketball.

Illustration by Robynn Aviles

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Milo Mihaltses

Milo Mihaltses

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