Monday afternoon notes and thoughts (basketball and football)

I am still here in Nashville and will make the quick drive over to Murfreesboro later today for the UNT-MTSU men’s basketball game, the last installment on the “Sun Belt Road Trip of Death.”

Hasn’t gone well so far. UNT is 0-3, although the UNT women came close twice, losing at MTSU and WKU.

The UNT men are 0-2 in conference play and are one of just two teams in the league without a Sun Belt win. Troy is 0-3 and is the other winless team.

The Mean Green is still very much in the Sun Belt West Division race where every team already has two losses.

UNT fans will be reminded of this — a lot — over the next few weeks, especially if UNT falls tonight.

This team had a lot higher aspirations than just being competitive in the Sun Belt’s West Division, though. And that has to be the concern at this point.

UNT started out the year talking about winning 25 games and getting to the NCAA tournament whether it won the Sun Belt tournament are not. You have to wonder about the mental state of this team at this point.

Righting the ship isn’t going to be easy tonight against a really good MTSU team that has 10 wins already, especially if Chris Jones does not play tonight, which is a real possibility.

On the football front, how about Alfred Morris?

There were a lot of UNT backers who were stunned that the former Florida Atlantic standout was drafted, but Lance Dunbar was not. Lance made it as a free agent with the Cowboys and has been a solid contributor his rookie season. Morris has been great. He has 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year after rushing for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Cowboys yesterday.

Just interesting the way it turned out. The Redskins knew what they were getting in Morris.

I am going to take a look at all the bowl teams on UNT’s 2013 schedule after the bowl season is over. Georgia plays Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day.

But Rice looked really good in its win over Air Force.

The obvious topic of conversation for UNT fans is how young Rice is. There are only eight seniors on the roster.

If you look back at the last couple of years, you could see the Owls’ run of success coming with the way Rice really started to pick it up as far as recruiting goes.

Driphus Jackson came off the bench to throw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He was a three-star recruit with more than 10 FBS offers coming out of Cedar Hill.

And he was just one of the highly rated recruits Rice signed the last couple of years who started or were at least on the depth chart for that bowl game.

Here’s a look at the Rice starters or backups who were three-star players from the last few recruiting classes:

2009 – K Chris Boswell, QB Tyler McHargue (the guy Jackson replaced)
2010 – S Gabe Baker, CB Bryce Callahan, LB Cameron Nwosu, LB James Radcliffe
2011 – DT Christian Covington, S Julius White
2012 – WR Dennis Parks

Landing higher rated players in recruiting matters. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise with a spiel based on citing individual success stories or the failure of a few highly rated players who didn’t pan out.

Teams that land higher rated classes across the board fare better in the long run.

Rice is just the latest example.