North Texas Daily

Conference USA provides new competition, new opportunities for men’s basketball

Conference USA provides new competition, new opportunities for men’s basketball

Conference USA provides new competition, new opportunities for men’s basketball
November 20
10:43 2013

John Lugo / Staff Writer

After joining Conference USA last summer, the Mean Green men’s basketball team has found plenty of benefits in the change, from getting UNT more exposure to preparing for the new range of competition.

So far in the short season, East Carolina University and Middle Tennessee State University are on top of the 16-team conference with a 4-0 record. Not only does C-USA provide new competition, but it also helps UNT in other aspects of the sport. Head coach Tony Benford said he believes the conference switch has helped in the recruiting process and with getting more exposure.

“It’s a great league for us. It’s more exposure we’ll get, more games on TV for the league and for us. It’s been huge in recruiting because people can identify with that,” Benford said. “They see those games on TV, they see those teams on TV, so that’s really been beneficial to us.”

Benford said the team has done plenty of work studying opposing rosters and star players, seeing who they are recruiting and coming up with playing methods to find an advantage.

“My coaches have already broken down who they’re going to scout, the opponents in conference play. We’ll be familiarized,” Benford said. “There are a lot of different teams, Nobody really knows what to expect, but we’ll be prepared when the conference comes.”

Though the team is focused on taking the season day by day, it instills habits and methods in practice that will help them in the long run when conference play comes. Benford focuses on good guard play and defense.

“We just have to guard. He preaches ‘defense, defense, defense,’” junior guard T.J. Taylor said. “He doesn’t care about offense because if you take care of defense, the offense will come. It’ll take care of itself.”

With 11 games before conference play starts, it will take some time before the team shifts its focus to the key teams in the conference.

“It’s a new conference, so I don’t really know too many teams or players on the teams,” junior forward Armani Flannigan said. “I’m just ready to play when conference play starts and have a good season.”

Last season, the University of Memphis won the C-USA championship, but then left the conference this summer to join the American Athletic Conference. The team Memphis defeated, the University of Southern Mississippi, is still in the conference and is currently undefeated at 3-0. UNT will face Southern Miss in the conference play opener at home on Jan. 9.

A new sense of motivation has come with this move. With more preparation than last season, the team is looking forward to seeing how it will fare this year.

“We’re not in the Sun Belt anymore,” Taylor said. “We have to come with it every night.”

Feature photo: Senior guard Alzee Williams blocks a Nicholls State opponent during Thursday nights home game at the Super Pit. The mean green won the game 92 – 78, making it the fourth win for UNT this season. Photo by Harris Buchanan / Staff Photographer 

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