North Texas Daily

Column: Why the men’s basketball team will win the Conference USA Tourney

Column: Why the men’s basketball team will win the Conference USA Tourney

Column: Why the men’s basketball team will win the Conference USA Tourney
March 05
14:00 2020

Going into the season, North Texas men’s basketball was predicted to finish seventh in Conference USA for the leagues preseason poll. A lot of people underestimated the Mean Green this year, myself included. However, the team carried those doubts and used it to fuel them…shattering many program records along the way. The Mean Green put the cherry on top when they claimed the regular season Conference USA title, the team’s first overall regular season title in 31 years.

Now, North Texas heads into the Conference USA tournament next week as a No.1 seed and I sure as hell won’t pick against them this time.

The things this team has been able to do this year have been astonishing. They’ve been competitive from the jump due to a very tough non-conference schedule that featured several matchups against Top 25 teams. *Add teams* But the team has hit another gear entering conference play, going 13-3, with all three losses being decided by ten points or less. 

Head coach Grant McCasland deserves a ton of credit. He put together a lot of talent this past year and he’s done an excellent job of guiding that talent on the floor. The team has one of the deepest rotations in the country with so many recognizable names off the bench such as junior forward Thomas Bell and senior guards DJ Draper and Roosevelt Smart. You could even add freshman guard Jalen Jackson and junior forward Jahmiah Simmons to the mix as they’ve had their moments as well.

When you add that depth to a consistent starting lineup that’s continuing to improve, you’ll most likely get good results. 

One of the things McCasland has emphasized over the years is defense, and this year’s defensive unit might be his best one yet. The team is currently ranked in the top 50 nationally and No.1 in conference when it comes to scoring defense, allowing only 63.5 points per game. Their offense helps in that department as well since the Mean Green are close to last when it comes to possessions per 40 minutes.

By slowing down the pace of the game, North Texas has caused many opponents to get caught off guard. It doesn’t help that the Mean Green are efficient on their possessions. The team is currently shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from the 3-point line, respectively ranked ninth and eighth nationally.

But one of the biggest things that will get this team over the hump is the play of star junior guard Javion Hamlet. It seems as though he has a switch that goes off in his head when it’s time to take over games. It really showed when he scored the game winning shot against Louisiana Tech in Ruston to win 51-50 on Jan. 18.  He’s a guy that can break down the defense in many ways and will open up scoring opportunities for himself or his teammates and he’s doing it at a remarkable level. He plays with a lot of energy that gets his team and the crowd hyped up. His play recently won him C-USA co-player of the week as he averaged 19.5 points, 8.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and a 2.8 assist/turnover ratio during the first week of pod play.

With everything said, I’ve spent the past month and a half deciding whether this team was the real deal and I think I finally got that answer on Sunday when the team was able to beat Western Kentucky for the first time in eight years. That’s 11 losses that the Mean Green have endured over that span, so to snap that is the ultimate tip on the scale when it comes to sizing up just how good this team is compared to past teams.

I think the fact that North Texas has played in a lot of close games…especially recently, has built a lot of resilience moving forward. That first taste of winning and holding up the trophy in Sunday’s win won’t be the last as I have the Mean Green leaving Frisco with another Conference USA championship trophy along with an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Illustration by Miranda Thomas 

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Deondre Jones

Deondre Jones

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