UNT basketball madness review

North Texas didn’t have its regular wireless network at the Super Pit going tonight during its annual tip-off event. I couldn’t blog live. Here is the story that will appear in the paper in the morning.



Shane Tamara leaped over teammate for a thunderous slam to capture the dunk contest and punctuate what both North Texas basketball coaches described as a successful debut Thursday at Mean Green Madness.

The annual event at the Super Pit served as the unofficial opening of UNT’s basketball season.

Well over a thousand UNT students filled the stands for the event that featured the introduction of both the men’s and women’s teams, scrimmages and a 3-point shootout in addition to the dunk contest.

“This is always great,” UNT men’s coach Tony Benford said. “We had a great crowd and great energy. It’s great for the fans to see us. They can see that we have a lot of talent. We can play small ball, big ball, can shoot and have athleticism.

“I really like this group. We have had 14 practices that have been very competitive. One of our strengths will be our depth.”

That depth was on display during the men’s scrimmage. Returners Rickey Brice Jr. and Allante Holston and newcomer Derail Green all scored eight points for the Black team in a 43-29 win over the Green in a scrimmage.

Freshman A.J. Lawson scored eight points to lead the Green, while Jeremy Combs added seven.



The UNT women also saw several newcomers shine in their scrimmage. The Green team beat the White 35-30 behind 11 points from Terriell Bradley and 10 from Grace Goodhart, a pair of sophomore transfers.

Micayla Buckner, another newcomer, tied veteran Candice Adams to lead the White team with 10 points.

“The event gives the fans a chance to see the girls, their faces and what we have to offer,” UNT women’s coach Jalie Mitchell said. “We had a good turnout tonight. Hopefully they will come back and support us at our games.”

Mitchell and Goodhart were big winners in two of the contests that were included in the event.

Goodhart won the women’s 3-point shooting contest and took on highly regarded SMU transfer Keith Frazier head-to-head for the overall title. Goodhart won the final by a 9-6 score.

UNT officials also invited fans, a few players and a members of the Mean Green women’s coaching staff to participate in a game of knockout.

Mitchell won, which wasn’t all that surprising. She a member of the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame, is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,764 points and has her No. 44 jersey retired.

Both Mitchell and Benford spoke to the crowd and asked them to return for what they expect to be a successful season.

“I would like to think there is some excitement out there with our returners and transfers,” Mitchell said. “We will be exciting to watch once we come together as a team.”

MGB video: Eric Jenkins talks about UNT’s game against Army, win over Marshall

North Texas cornerback Eric Jenkins has played a key role in the Mean Green running out to a 3-3 start heading into their game at Army on Saturday.

Jenkins returned an interception for a game-clinching touchdown in UNT’s win over Marshall in its last game. He also has 11 tackles and four pass breakups on the season.

My Thursday feature this week was on Jenkins’ path to UNT.

By the time Jenkins and I finished talking about his background, everyone had cleared out on UNT’s only day of media availability. Jenkins was nice enough to hang around and chat a little about where the Mean Green stand, the challenge Army presents and how big a win over Marshall was.

Prediction: UNT will pull the stunner at Army

North Texas coach Seth Littrell and defensive tackle Demonte Hood walk by fans in the stands following a win at Apogee Stadium earlier this season. UNT will face Army on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas coach Seth Littrell and defensive tackle Demonte Hood walk by fans in the stands following a win at Apogee Stadium earlier this season. UNT will face Army on Saturday. (Denton Record-Chronicle/Jeff Woo)

North Texas at Army

When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Michie Stadium

Records: UNT 3-3, 2-1 C-USA; Army 4-2

Last game: UNT 38, Marshall 21; Army 62, Lafayette 7

Last meeting: Army 24, UNT 0 (2010)

What’s on the line?

UNT is sitting at .500 after a surprisingly successful first half of the season under new coach Seth Littrell. The Mean Green have a chance to make a run at becoming bowl-eligible with six wins, but will have to pick up three more victories against the tougher half of their schedule. UNT has just two home games left and five games against teams that are at least .500. A win over Army would increase UNT’s chances of becoming bowl-eligible significantly.

Army is in a similar spot to UNT. The Black Knights have four wins, but have games against Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Air Force and Navy coming up. A win over UNT would significantly improve Army’s bowl hopes.

When UNT has the ball:

UNT got its running game back on track last week during its win over Marshall. The Mean Green rushed for 252 yards in their win over the Thundering Herd after managing just 5 rushing yards in a loss to Middle Tennessee. UNT is averaging 265 rushing yards per game in its three wins, but only 25 in its three losses.

Army features one of the best defenses in the country when it comes to stopping the run. The Black Knights are allowing 84.2 rushing yards per game. UNT will try to establish its running game behind junior Jeffrey Wilson early.

When Army has the ball:

The Black Knights run a triple-option offense and are averaging 366.5 rushing yards a game. Few teams in the country run the ball as effectively as Army. The Mean Green will have to be assignment sound to contain the Black Knights.

Army has eight players who have rushed for at least 100 yards on the season, including fullback Andy Davidson and quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw. Davidson has rushed for 545 yards and seven touchdowns, while Bradshaw has 463 yards and three touchdowns.


UNT is a huge underdog heading into its game against Army, which is favored by 19 points. The Black Knights have one of their best teams in years and have already doubled their win total form last season. The Mean Green have also improved dramatically since last season and have had a bye week to not only get healthy, but also to prepare for Army’s option attack. UNT will take advantage of that time and pull off the stunner.

UNT 24, Army 23

Fun with lists — UNT men’s hoops at 175, UNT shut out on top 247 college players

North Texas coach Tony Benford enters his fifth season with the Mean Green this fall. (DRC file photo)

North Texas coach Tony Benford enters his fifth season with the Mean Green this fall. (DRC file photo)

Sports fans love lists. Two came out in the last day or so that I wanted to point out here on the blog.

The first is CBS Sports’ rundown of all the college basketball programs in Division I. 

UNT checks in at a surprising 175.

“One of the real mystery teams to me. I’d say it could finish anywhere from fourth to 10th in Conference USA this season. The defense is sure to improve. Jeremy Combs will be the standout.”

Well, yeah. That makes sense.

Combs is a terrific player and UNT has some other good pieces, including J-Mychal Reese and Deckie Johnson.

The question will be if those parts adds up to a winning team, something UNT hasn’t had the last four seasons.

UNT was terrible last season at handling the ball and finished last in Conference USA with an average of 11.3 assists a game.

UNT was also 10th in points allowed at 78.3  Coach Tony Benford expressed confidence in UNT’s ability to score and said he is putting his focus on the defensive end.

The Mean Green will soon find out if that approach will pay off and help the Mean Green improve on a 12-20 finish. UNT is ranked ahead of C-USA rivals Charlotte and Southern Miss. Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky are ranked No. 76 and No. 138, respectively. Louisiana Tech comes in at 134.

247 Sports also came out with a list today — the top 247 players in all of college football.

UNT didn’t have anyone on the list, but there are several players from Conference USA, including UTEP running back Aaron Jones, Southern Miss running back Ito Smith, Louisiana Tech safety Xavier Woods and wide receivers Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson, Middle Tennessee running back I’Tavius Mathers, and wide receiver Richie James, Western Kentucky wide receiver Taywan Taylor and tackle Forrest Lamp.

Lamp is the highest rated player at No. 19 and will likely be a high pick in the NFL draft.

Five things UNT fans should know about Army

Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw puts a spin move on UTEP defensive back Dashone Smith during a 66-14 win over the Miners earlier this season. (El Paso Times/Mark Lambie)

Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw puts a spin move on UTEP defensive back Dashone Smith during a 66-14 win over the Miners earlier this season. (El Paso Times/Mark Lambie)

North Texas will open the second half of its season on Saturday when the Mean Green travel to Army. UNT is 3-3 on the season and is 2-1 in Conference USA play heading into its last nonconference game of the season. Here are five things UNT fans should know about the Black Knights.

1. Army is efficient in their triple-option offense

The Black Knights run the triple option, an offense teams rarely use in college football today. It’s a scheme that fits the service academies well due to the players those schools attract. Army’s players are disciplined and athletic, but are not particularly big. Army is averaging 366.5 rushing yards a game.

2. The Black Knights are surprisingly good defensively

Army is off to a terrific start defensively and is allowing just 14.0 points a game. No team has scored more than 23 points against the Black Knights this year. Buffalo beat Army 23-20, but that game went into overtime. Army has 14 sacks and eight interceptions on the year.

3. Army does not have a lot of size on either line

Army never has much in the way of size along its offensive and defensive lines. This season is no different. The Black Knights do not have a starting offensive lineman who weighs 300 pounds. Right guard Mike Houghton and right tackle Brett Toth check in at 257 and 259 pounds, respectively. Army’s starting nose tackle Andrew McLean weighs just 272 pounds. UNT’s biggest advantage will be its size. UNT’s starting interior offensive linemen — center Creighton Barr (302), right guard T.J. Henson (315) and left guard Sam Rice (297) — are all either close to 300 pounds or weigh in over that mark.

4. Army hits on big plays in the passing game

Army doesn’t throw the ball often, but typically hits on big plays when it does connect on passes. Army has completed just 27 passes on the season and has averaged 18 yards on those throws. Army has four touchdown passes on the season.

5. Army will use two quarterbacks

Army has used both Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter at quarterback this season. Both will likely see time against UNT. Bradshaw has rushed for 404 yards and three touchdowns, while Carter has rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Both have also been involved in the passing game with Bradshaw throwing for 235 yards and Carter 176.

American Athletic Conference to push ‘Power Six’ narrative

It looks like conference realignment is dead after the Big 12 elected not to expand. The story was one we tracked here on the blog because of the potential trickle down effects on Conference USA and thus North Texas.

The interesting fallout from nothing happening thus far is what American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco had to say today.

Joseph Duarte from the Houston Chronicle has the story. The AAC plans to push the the storyline that there is really a Power Six that includes their league.

One can see where the argument starts. The AAC has Houston, Cincinnati and UConn, which seemed to be the most likely expansion candidates. The AAC could be the strongest Group of Five conference. The next goal is closing the gap on the Power Five.

If one assumes that everyone is staying put in the leagues of which they are currently a member, UNT really needs C-USA to avoid having the AAC establish itself as a far and way better league.

SMU is sitting right down the road, has historically had the upper hand on UNT and is a member of the AAC. There are also plenty of AAC schools that recruit DFW.

Unless something changes, it’s all about each school fighting to improve the conference they are in. C-USA has been great for UNT. It’s up to UNT now to help make C-USA better as leagues begin jockeying to establish themselves as the best the G5 ranks has to offer.

Seth Littrell press conference notes



North Texas coach Seth Littrell held his weekly press conference today in advance of the Mean Green’s game at Army on Saturday.

The main topic of conversation was UNT’s defense and how it will fare against the Black Knights’ triple-option offense.

“The challenges are that you don’t see the option much,” Littrell said. “You have to be extremely disciplined and make sure your eyes are in the right spots. As soon as they are, you had better look out because a play-action pass is coming. If you are not careful people will be running wide open.”

The good news for UNT is that it has had an extra week to prepare, thanks to a well-timed bye.

UNT is also coming off one of its best performances against an opponent’s running attack last week. Marshall managed just 13 yards on 28 carries in a loss to the Mean Green.

Army will be an entirely different challenge, but it is one UNT believes it is ready to face.

And in other news …

– Litrrell said the off week did UNT a ton of good in terms of allowing players to recover from everything from a few bumps and bruises and some significant injuries. Littrell doesn’t typically comment on injuries, but UNT was without linebacker Fred Scott and wide receiver Rico Bussey Jr. in their win over Marshall.

– Littrell also spoke highly of Army’s defense. The Black Knights are one of the best teams in the country statistically. Army is allowing only 14 points a game. The Black Knights are really good against the run and are allowing only 84.2  yards a game.

– Littrell credited UNT’s defensive performance against Marshall last week to the schemes coordinators Mike Ekeler and Troy Reffett drew up, the fact the Mean Green’s players were in position and made plays when they had the opportunity.

– Littrell said UNT still has room to grow as a team and has yet to play well in all three phases of the game at the same time.

UNT picks up commitment from OL Dakoda Newman

North Texas picked up a commitment tonight from offensive lineman Dakoda Newman.

Newman is a center at Mansfield Timberview. There isn’t a whole lot about him out there.

Here is Newman’s recruiting profile on 247 Sports and his Hudl highlights.

Newman is a big guy at 320 pounds and probably projects as an interior lineman.

I swapped messages with Newman tonight. He wanted to talk things over with his parents and coaches before talking about his decision to commit to UNT publicly.

I should have more on him in the next couple of days.

What we learned — C-USA West is stacked, realignment is dead (for now)

North Texas will be a part of a tight race down the stretch in Conference USA's West Division. (JDenton Recoord-Chronicle/KJeff Woo)

North Texas will be a part of a tight race down the stretch in Conference USA’s West Division. (JDenton Recoord-Chronicle/KJeff Woo)

Mondays are usually a day we have a lot to talk about, from how North Texas fared in its last game to what happened in the rest of Conference USA.

That changed a little with UNT on a bye week, but there are still a few points worth going over today, including the fact that C-USA’s West Division appears to be stacked at the top.

Louisiana Tech won its third straight by knocking off UMass, UTSA continued its surprising season by beating Rice, while Southern Miss hung with LSU early before being blown out.

When it all shook out, UNT, LA Tech, Southern Miss and UTSA are all sitting at 2-1 in league play.

UNT is 3-3 and has a shot to get to a bowl, but will have to win at least three of its last six. The Mean Green have a host of tough games coming up beginning with a trip to Army this weekend.

The Mean Green are a 16- to 18-point underdog in their game against the Black Knights, depending on where one looks.

UNT also still has games with the three other teams tied atop C-USA’s West Division. The Mean Green also have just two home games left.

UNT has improved throughout the season. What transpired over the weekend showed the Mean Green will have to continue that trend to ensure they play in a bowl.

And in other news …

We learned today that the Big 12 will not expand.

That’s probably what UNT should have been hoping to see happen. If the Big 12 had expanded, it could have set off a new round of realignment that quite frankly the school was probably not in position to capitalize on.

UNT is improving in football, but still has posted just one winning season in the last four years in the three high profile sports — football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

That streak might end this year, but the bottom line is UNT still has a long way to go. A pair of UNT consultants reviewed the state of the program this summer and issued a scathing report.

Whether that report provided a clear and accurate picture is up for debate, but it wouldn’t have been a big selling point if UNT was competing against a school like Middle Tennessee for a spot in the American Athletic Conference. MTSU could point to a huge upset of Michigan State in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, a highly successful women’s basketball program and a football program that is a bowl regular.

UNT has played in a bowl game just once in the last 11 years.

Now UNT can go about aggressively improving its program under new athletic director Wren Baker and hope that it has its ducks in a row if the issue of conference realignment comes up again.


Buckle up — It’s Big 12 expansion (or not) day

The Big 12 board of directors is meeting today in Dallas to discuss expansion. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will appear at a press conference this evening to discuss the league’s plans. (Associated Press/Tony Gutierrez)

The Big 12 board of directors is meeting today in Dallas to discuss expansion. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will appear at a press conference this evening to discuss the league’s plans. (Associated Press/Tony Gutierrez)

After months of talks, presentations and endless speculation, today is finally the day. We are about to find out what the Big 12 plans are as far as expansion goes.

Well, maybe.

The league’s presidents are meeting today down in Dallas to mull over the options. Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News reported that all options are still on the table heading into today’s meetings.

The Big 12 could expand by adding teams. Houston and Cincinnati are the popular guesses. The league could also stand pat at 10 teams.

The decision is one that should interest UNT fans because of the potential trickle down affect that we have pointed out here before.

If the Big 12 were to take Houston and Cincinnati from the American Athletic Conference, the AAC could respond. Middle Tennessee, one of UNT’s rivals in Conference USA, has already reached out to the AAC about joining the league.

UNT could try to make a play for a spot in the conference, but its chances would be pretty much nil with SMU already in the league.

If the AAC did grab a couple of C-USA schools, C-USA would have to decide if it wanted to reload. The Sun Belt would be the obvious place to look considering a big chunk of C-USA is made up of former Belt schools, including UNT.

The general consensus is that the Big 12 will likely stick with its current lineup, or at least table discussions of adding schools until later.

Whatever the league decides to do, it will have a big impact on the landscape of college football in the region and UNT.

The Big 12 has a press conference scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today.  News of what the decision is will likely leak just before that.

Stay tuned.