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COLUMN: Men’s basketball’s NCAA Tournament win will transcend sports programs at North Texas

COLUMN: Men’s basketball’s NCAA Tournament win will transcend sports programs at North Texas

COLUMN: Men’s basketball’s NCAA Tournament win will transcend sports programs at North Texas
April 02
09:00 2021

The men’s basketball team’s triumphant victory against No. 4-seed Purdue University in the NCAA Tournament was one of — if not the best — moments in Mean Green sports history. The victory transcends the sport of basketball, and even sports in general, garnering the university attention it would have otherwise not received.

North Texas is not a renowned sports school. Competing in Conference USA, sports teams at North Texas are often viewed to be underdogs — living with the stigma of being considered the unlikely winner in most of their matches outside of the conference.

Across all major team sports at North Texas, this stigma exists. Despite some program’s dominance within C-USA, the Mean Green typically do not find themselves in the top 25 standings of any sport.

However, North Texas is often found to be major competitors — or even favorites — in C-USA. Success has been found often throughout North Texas’s eight-year stint in C-USA, most notably in soccer, which has won eight conference titles. Even with the conference success, Soccer has not been able to win in the NCAA Tournament, getting ousted in the first round of every bid.

Often the bridesmaid, never the bride, North Texas has been yearning to find success on a national level for years.

Cue the 2020-21 men’s basketball team. Coming off of a crushing 2019-20 campaign that saw their strong NCAA Tournament bid end after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the post-season, the Mean Green were hungry.

Winning the C-USA Championship tournament via upset against Western Kentucky University, North Texas earned a program-best 13-seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, drawing Big Ten No. 4-seed Purdue. In a miraculous show of heart and hustle, the team prevailed against the Boilermakers in overtime, finally giving the university a signature win on a national stage.

The impact of the game reverberated throughout the university, as social media exploded in excitement.

National media outlets across the country were talking about the underdog Mean Green, praising the team for their elating victory and eccentric fanbase. A North Texas sports team finally got the recognition it was searching for.

The victory could mean more for North Texas than just a basketball success.

North Texas does not typically get national recognition for sports. The university’s attention for sports is often through viral clips — mainly 2018’s football highlight that entailed a punt return touchdown from Keegan Brewer after fooling the entire Arkansas defense with a fake fair catch.

Winning on the national stage, men’s basketball could potentially have propelled other sports teams at the university to more mainstream credibility.

The tournament win switches the narrative for the Mean Green. Other sports teams can capitalize off the success, using the victory as a springboard to advance their own sports in the same direction men’s basketball has found itself in — which they could very possibly do.
While sports are impacted positively by the victory, the win additionally puts North Texas on the map for potential students.

The impact of national coverage cannot be understated. With all eyes on the university, putting the name and likeness can endear the school to sports fans and non-sports fans alike, causing those who may not have ever heard of North Texas to entertain the idea of attending the Denton establishment.

The men’s basketball team should be not only proud of their performance at the highest college level, but also put into perspective what the win means for the university as a whole. Beating Purdue was not just a win — it was a trailblazing moment in Mean Green history that could define the university and sports programs for years to come.

Featured Illustration by Pooja Patel

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

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