It’s a first-round matchup on the college hardwood in the Sunshine State as Conference USAtakes on the Big 12in the ESPN Events Invitational. The North Texas Mean Green are the “road” team as they take on the #4 Kansas Jayhawks Thursday afternoon. North Texas comes in off a 64-36 victory over UT Arlington at home in their most recent contest last Thursday. Kansas wiped out Stony Brook 88-59 at home in their previous contest last Thursday. These teams have met just once previously with the Jayhawks picking up a 93-60 home victory in that contest back on November 7, 2010.
North Texas Mean Green Looking to Pull Massive UpsetNorth Texas took down UT Arlington in their most recent contest as they bounced back from a loss to Buffalo. The Mean Green enter this game 2-1 on the season and look to pull off a major upset in this contest. Against UT Arlington, North Texas jumped to an 8-0 lead and after the Mavericks hit a three to get on the board, went on an 18-0 run to go up 26-3 with 7:40 to play in the first half. The Mean Green cruised from there as they were up 43-12 at the half en route to the victory. North Texas shot only 35.2% from the field, including nine of 29 from three-point range and held UT Arlington to 28.6% from the floor. Thomas Bell led the Mean Green with 19 points and six boards in the win.
The Mean Green puts up an average of 71.3 points per game on the season, which is 211th in the nation. North Texas hauls down 37.3 boards per contest and passes out 12 assists per game. The Mean Green is stifling on the defensive end of the floor, ranking 7th by allowing 52.7 points a night. North Texas is led by Tylor Perry, who leads the team with 17.3 points plus 2.7 steals per game on the year. Thomas Bell (15 points, 8.7 rebounds), Mardrez McBride (11.3 points) and Abou Ousmane (10.3 points, six rebounds) are good scoring options. JJ Murray, Rubin Jones, Hameir Wright and Aaron Scott all have to contribute for the Mean Green to have success. North Texas is shooting 42.4% from the field as a team this season. The Mean Green hits nine three-pointers a night while shooting 32.5% from beyond the arc. North Texas is struggling at the free throw line as they shoot 67.2% as a team at the stripe.
Kansas Jayhawks Try to Remain UnbeatenKansas rolled past Stony Brook in their previous contest to remain unbeaten on the season. The Jayhawks improved to 3-0 on the year and look to avoid getting upended here. Against Stony Brook, Kansas trailed by three with 6:57 to play in the first half before going on a 17-8 run to take a six-point advantage at intermission. The Jayhawks pulled away in the second half as they outscored the Seawolves 50-27 en route to the win. Kansas shot an even 50% from the field, including 10 of 28 from three-point range, and held a 40-30 advantage on the glass in the win. Ochai Agbaji led the Jayhawks with 25 points in the victory.
The Jayhawks are averaging a solid 87.7 points per game this season, putting them 17th in the nation in scoring offense. Kansas collects 37.3 rebounds per contest and dishes out 18.3 assists a night. The Jayhawks are 125th in scoring defense as they allow 65 points per contest this season. Ochai Agbaji is one of two Jayhawks in double figures as he puts up 26.3 points plus four rebounds per game. Christian Braun (10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds) is the other player averaging in double figures this season. Remy Martin, David McCormack, Jalen Coleman-Lands, Zach Clemence, Bobby Pettiford, Mitch Lightfoot, Dajuan Harris and Joseph Yesufu all have to contribute on the offensive end of the floor. The Jayhawks shoot 52.1% from the field as a team this season. Kansas knocks down 8.3 three-pointers a night while sinking 38.5% from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks are average at the free-throw line as they convert 74.5% so far this season.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
North Texas stifled UT Arlington in their previous contest but the task at hand is much more complicated here as they face a Kansas team that is explosive on the offensive end of the floor. The Jayhawks are an efficient team that shoots the ball well and Bill Self knows how to get the most out of his players. North Texas let a lead slip away in their home game against Buffalo in what was their toughest competition to this point of the season. That doesn’t bode well for the Mean Green in this one as the Jayhawks are the #4 team in the nation. Agbaji has another big showing offensively and the Jayhawks punch their ticket to the semifinals by prevailing here.
Full-Game Total Pick
North Texas stayed under the total in both their games against Division I foes this season. With that said, they are facing a Kansas team that has posted combined totals of 161, 150 and 147 points in their three games this season. It’s proven difficult to slow the Jayhawks down even with only two guys scoring in double figures on the year. This total isn’t overly high, mainly due to the way North Texas has played defense in the early going, but they’re going to give up some points here. Look for Kansas to crack the 80-point mark and help this one wind up over the total as North Texas manages to do enough to help get past the number.