North Texas was supposed to be one of the nation’s best mid-major programs coming into the season.
With Tony Mitchell ready to play his way into the lottery and some impressive talent surrounding him, the Mean Green were a trendy preseason pick to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
But the sleepers apparently haven’t woken up yet.
After getting drilled by Creighton 71-51 in their opener on Friday, North Texas went and dropped their opener in the Preseason NIT. To Alabama-Huntsville. That’s a Division II school.
This isn’t exactly the way that Tony Benford saw his tenure starting, I’m sure.
The issue on Friday was simply execution. The Mean Green looked overmatched against a very good, very experienced Creighton team. The Bluejays have had the same core intact for a couple of years now, meaning they know the system that Greg McDermott wants to run inside and out. That was Benford’s first game, and it was on the road in one of the tougher environments to play in. UNT looked discombobulated offensively and too often lost track of their man on the defensive end.
That happens with new teams.
But the loss to UAH is a bigger concern.
I didn’t actually get to see the game, but the box score is telling. Tony Mitchell — a former top 20 recruit, a guy that played on the U-19 national team, an all-american, a future lottery pick — got just four shots in 31 minutes before fouling out. Point guard Chris Jones? He was 3-15 from the floor. That’s not exactly ideal.
In fairness to the Mean Green, UAH is known for being disciplined in running their Princeton offense, and, like Creighton, makes them a tough matchup for a relatively new UNT group. But that doesn’t change the fact that a team that some believe has the talent to play in the Sweet 16 should lose to them.
The silver lining?
UAH plays Kansas State tonight for a chance to go to the Garden for the semis of the NIT.