North Texas Daily

Roundtable: Basketball season expectations

Roundtable: Basketball season expectations

Benford Ryan Vance | Senior Staff Photographer

Roundtable: Basketball season expectations
November 11
12:52 2015

Editor’s Note: The North Texas Daily sports staff discusses their expectations for the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball seasons. The women begin their season Friday, Nov. 13 at 5:00 vs. the University of San Francisco at the Super Pit, and the men’s team begin immediately afterward, hosting Jarvis Christian University at 7:30.

Our staff: Scott Sidway (SS), Reece Waddell (RW), Torie Mosley (TM), Alex Lessard (AL), Brady Keane (BK) and Clay Massey (CM)

1) What does the men’s team need to improve heading into the season?

SS: The men’s basketball team needs a definitive identity, especially on offense. The team was littered with hybrid players last season, many of whom hovered in the 6’5 through 6’9 height range, and all of them played a similar style of basketball. The team needs to establish clear roles for the roster from point guard to center, and I think Tony Benford has the necessary players to do it.

RW: I worry about this team’s ability to score the ball. Last year, especially when they were in half-court sets, they often struggled finding the open man. And even when they did, they struggled to make an open shot. Jordan Williams, who led the team in scoring last year, is gone. He did most of the heavy lifting in 2014, so it will be interesting to see who fills that void.

TM: The Mean Green needs to play better on the road. Going 3-10 on the road last year killed North Texas and contributed heavily to their final 14-17 record, even though the Mean Green went 11-6 at home in front of its Super Pit crowd.

2) What does the women’s team need to improve heading into the season?

AL: Frankly, the women’s team needs to improve at everything. The only aspect of its game that was anywhere near a quality level last year was the scoring defense, which ranked sixth of 14 teams in Conference-USA. Most of all, the offense is in desperate need of a boost. Putting up the fifth lowest average of 343 Division I teams in the nation with 51.8 points per game last season was simply inexcusable.

BK: Consistency. Last season, the team had a few opportunities where they were either tied or leading in the second half and could not pull off a victory. Coach Mitchell mentioned the team has been focusing on consistency, and that will make a big difference in conference play if the team can close out close games in the second half this season.

CM: There are a lot of things that the team must work on, as they ranked near the bottom third in most statistical categories in C-USA. But the biggest thing is to boost their three-point makes. The team only averaged three makes per game, which was low enough for last in conference by quite a margin

3) Who on the men’s team should we keep an eye on this season, either as a surprise or someone to have a breakout year?    

SS: Junior guard J-Mychal Reese is the most intriguing player to keep an eye on given his clout coming out of high school and the mysterious end to his Texas A&M career. But personally, I am most excited to watch the development of sophomore forward Jeremy Combs. He was in the conversation for C-USA freshman of the year last season, and if he was able to develop some semblance of a jump shot in the off-season to go along with his grit and raw athleticism, watch out.

RW:  J-Mychal Reese, the highly touted transfer out of Texas A&M University. He was the top rated point guard in Texas coming out of high school in 2012, but issues at College Station seemed to deter his basketball career. I wonder if Benford can turn him around and get him to play like the top-echelon talent he was just a few years ago.

TM: The added depth in the North Texas front court will be really exciting to watch this year. Graduate transfer forward Eric Katenda, who stands at 6’9, should create a tough match-up in the paint for opposing teams, especially when teaming up with Jeremy Combs. Freshman center Rickey Brice Jr., who stands at 7’0, also makes his Mean Green debut this season, giving the North Texas bench much more depth heading into the season.

4) Who on the women’s team should we keep an eye on this season, either as a surprise or someone to have a breakout year?    

AL: Keep an eye out for a potential breakout year from forward Acheil Tac. She is one of three seniors on the roster and is the tallest player on the team at 6’2. Newly hired head coach Jalie Mitchell was the one who originally recruited Tac to North Texas out of high school, and Tac showed flashes of dominance in the paint last year with three double-doubles and a 19 rebound performance against Florida International University.

BK: Junior guard Candice Adams. She was the third leading scorer on last year’s team and is the highest returning scorer this season. The offense is bound to flow through Adams, and it will be interesting to see how she responds to being the go-to option.

CM: Junior guard Terra Ellison is an intriguing player heading into the season. She earned more minutes down the stretch last season, scoring in double-digit four times. She could play a bigger role in the squad this season and begin to average more points.

5) How do you see the men’s season playing out?

SS: Tony Benford’s fourth season could be make-or-break. Similar to Dan McCarney in football, the roster has his fingerprints all over it. Benford has a complete roster with what looks like clearly-defined position roles also: Reese at the pure point guard, Brice as the pure post-up center, and athletes scattered in between. However, my faith in Benford isn’t as strong as some, so I’m expecting a similar result as last season: glimpses of greatness, stretches of inconsistency, and a first-round exit in the C-USA tournament. 16-15.

RW: It’s hard to say. Last year the team had a crushing, blowout defeat to Rice University in the Conference USA tournament to end the season. They lost two of their three best players in Williams and Colin Voss to graduation. This team is young and has potential, but is unproven. They should end up in the middle of the pack, so I’ll predict something like 13-17, a 5th place finish in C-USA and a first round exit in the conference tournament. But it’s really anyone’s guess.

TM: North Texas should play much better if they can improve on the road. They’re a proven tough squad to play at home in the Super Pit, but they should win several more games on the road this year with the added depth and continuing emergence of Jeremy Combs’ talent. 18-13.

6) How do you see the women’s season playing out?

AL: This season can’t possibly be worse than last year. Mitchell’s energizing culture will take awhile to sink in, so expect the team to play at its best toward the end of the season. I foresee the Mean Green taking their win total from five to 10 this season, but only one goal should be stressed: don’t finish last.

BK: Mitchell seems to have brought a lot of mojo to the program. Last season was pretty bleak, and just about everyone outside of the locker room has picked the Mean Green to finish in last place in C-USA. There will definitely be gradual improvement from last season, but I think Mitchell leads the team to a nine or 10 win season

CM: Expect first year head coach Jalie Mitchell to have a positive first year, improving on the performance from last year. She brings some nice experience to the table and a hand-picked coaching staff. The squad improves on last season, but do not expect a drastic change.

 Featured Image: Tony Benford speaks to the North Texas Men’s basketball team during a time out. Ryan Vance | Senior Staff Photographer 

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