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Opinion: Darnell’s Declaration: Nine reasons why the No. 9 seeded Mean Green men’s basketball team will win the SBC tournament
Will Darnell / Staff Writer
Heading into the Sun Belt Conference tournament this weekend, the Mean Green are considered to be heavy underdogs, but here are some reasons why UNT could surprise everyone and make a run at the SBC title.
The Mean Green has momentum:
The team closed the season by winning four of its last six regular season games by an 11.25-point margin of victory and only allowed its opponent to score more than 70 points once during the stretch.
The Mean Green will be ready, angry and out for revenge from the opening tip of the tournament:
The last time the Mean Green played its first round opponent, the No. 8 seed University of Louisiana-Lafayette, it allowed the Ragin’ Cajuns to score 105 points, the highest total it has surrendered since 2001. UNT will be ready to exact revenge in Friday’s game.
Williams, a sophomore guard, scored in double digits in 11 of the final 12 games this season, averaging 18.4 points over that span. That average was more than four points more than his season average. If he had averaged 18.4 points per game for the entire season, he would have ranked third in the conference in scoring.
The Mean Green will control the boards:
UNT is the second-best rebounding team in the Sun Belt Conference with senior guard Roger Franklin and sophomore forward Tony Mitchell both in the top ten.
Middle Tennessee State University, the No. 1 seed and the Mean Green’s potential second round opponent, do not need to win the tournament:
MTSU has won 16 games in a row and can afford to rest players before the NCAA tournament, which it will almost certainly qualify for regardless of results in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
The return of sophomore guard Chris Jones from injury:
Before being sidelined for two months with a foot injury, Jones averaged more than 10 points per game and shot the ball at 44 percent from the field. Jones was impressive when he returned to action in the final game of the season against Arkansas State University.
There is a reason why Mitchell was considered a potential top five pick by ESPN at the beginning of the season. The second-team preseason All-American is a monster capable of otherworldly athleticism. Mitchell has not made a leap in his second season due mainly to increased perimeter offensive responsibilities. With senior guard Brandon Walton out with injury, Mitchell has doubled his three-point attempts while shooting at a much lower percentage. With that said, Mitchell is still a shot-blocking, rebounding and defensive superstar capable of absolutely dominating.
The Mean Green will finally abandon the 3-point shot, and will instead use its athleticism to take down opponents:
UNT does not shoot or defend three-point shots well, but it draws fouls and makes the most free throws in the conference.
The last two tournament winners had conference records below .500:
Anything can happen over four games, and with a bit of luck, keen strategic adjustments and playing to its strengths, the Mean Green will win the SBC tournament and will be headed for March Madness.