North Texas Basketball Preview: #99
Conference Rank: #2 Sun Belt
2008-09: 20-12, 11-7
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Johnny Jones (126-112 at North Texas, 141-128 overall)
North Texas had six players who started at least 11 games last year and all six of them are back. And it is not like the Mean Green was a bad team last year. They won 20 games and were one upset away from reaching the NCAA Tournament. Coach Johnny Jones and company hope to take the next step this year and win the Sun Belt West and make a postseason tournament of some sort.
Key Losses: G Collin Dennis, G Adam McCoy, F Harold Stewart
Coach Jones went nine deep last year and some of the newcomers may have to play a role on this team despite the return of so many experienced players. Junior college transfers Shannon Shorter and Richard Thomas are the likely candidates to see playing time and they should do a fine job replacing Collin Dennis and Adam McCoy and provide a spark off the bench. Cameron Spencer is the experienced option in the paint. The 6-8 transfer from SMU never played too much with the Mustangs, but he will give the Mean Green yet another big body to work with.
Having two players who can handle the ball was a big reason why UNT had a successful campaign in 2008-2009. Dominique Johnson led the way, dishing out 3.8 assists, but Josh White is also a quality ball handler who averaged 2.6 assists last season. Starting two 5-10 guards can be a problem at times, but it worked very well for the Mean Green who used it to their advantage and were not afraid to run up and down the floor. Despite the running, Johnson and White did a good job keeping the turnovers down and now that they are both upperclassmen, the turnover numbers should be even better. But those two are about a lot more than simply passing; they both averaged at least 11 points per game and are solid outside shooters.
A bulk of the scoring from this team may come from the perimeter, but it was forward Eric Tramiel who actually led the squad in scoring with 12.0 points per game. The 6-7 junior college transfer also emerged as a very capable rebounder and can stretch out the defense with his ability to hit the mid-range jumper. George Odufuwa will be his partner under the basket. Most of Odufuwa’s scoring comes from offensive rebounds, but he is a solid rebounder and defender. Kedrick Hogans, who earned 11 starts last year, will provide a nice option off the bench. The 6-7 junior is not much of a scorer, but he did lead the team in blocks with nearly one per game and his presence under the basket will be necessary against certain opponents.
Who to Watch:
White and Johnson are the point guards, but Tristan Thompson is the most dynamic scorer on the perimeter. Like White and Johnson, Thompson is a capable long range shooter, but he is much more aggressive getting to the basket. He only averaged 22.4 minutes per game last year, but still managed to score 11.4 points. With his ability to score in a variety of ways, Thompson should be in for a huge junior season.
North Texas might not surpass Western Kentucky as the best team in the Sun Belt Conference, but they should not be too far behind. The west division should be theirs for the taking and it will all come down to the conference tournament as far as a bid to the NCAA Tournament is concerned. Yet, the Mean Green should be good enough to reach a postseason tournament of some sort even if they fall short of Western Kentucky in the regular season and the conference tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Dominique Johnson, Senior, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Josh White, Junior, Guard, 11.3 points per game
Tristan Thompson, Junior, Guard, 11.4 points per game
Eric Tramiel, Senior, Forward, 12.0 points per game
George Odufuwa, Junior, Forward, 6.1 points per game