North Texas (16-12) at Denver (20-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, February 26th, 3:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Denver, Colorado. Television: None. Home Record: UNT 10-4, Denver 13-2. Away Record: UNT 5-7, Denver 7-6. Neutral Record: UNT 1-1, Denver 0-0. Conference Record: UNT 9-6, Denver 10-5. Series Record: North Texas leads, 16-9.
GAME NOTES: The 2011-12 regular season concludes this afternoon for a couple of Sun Belt Conference foes, as the North Texas Mean Green pay a visit to the Denver Pioneers at Magness Arena.
North Texas is 16-11 overall and currently sits in fifth place in the Sun Belt with a 9-5 conference record. Regardless of today's outcome, it will be either the fourth or fifth seed in the upcoming conference tournament, meaning it would earn a first-round bye. The Mean Green has won two of its last three games, including an impressive 75-67 triumph at West Division leaders Arkansas-Little Rock on Thursday.
Denver is experiencing one its best seasons ever at 20-8, which is tied for the most wins in the school's 89-year Division I history. It is 10-5 in the Sun Belt and it's also assured of a first-round bye regardless of today's outcome. The Pioneers have won three straight, including a 76-57 romp over ULM last Saturday, and they have been especially dominant at home, winning 13 of 15 bouts at Magness Arena.
North Texas owns the all-time series with Denver by a 15-8 margin, which includes wins in seven of the last eight meetings. The two teams tangled in Denton a little more than a month ago, with the Mean Green prevailing in a 75-74 final in overtime.
North Texas in anchored by its star forward, Tony Mitchell, who is a Lou Henson Award finalist for mid-major Player of the Year. It would be hard for anyone to argue that Mitchell has been the Sun Belt's most dominant force this season, as he leads the conference in scoring (15.6 ppg), rebounding (10.8 ppg) and blocks (2.9 bpg), all while shooting an outstanding 58.8 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from three-point range. The freshman continued his stellar play in the recent win over UALR, recording his 10th double-double in 19 games with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Alzee Williams tallied 25 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor in the win, and he has really stepped up his game in recent weeks, averaging 17.7 ppg over the last six games. UNT has been strong at the defensive end of the court lately, holding its last three opponents to under 33 percent field goal efficiency.
Denver possesses one of the most efficient offenses in the country, ranking fifth in field goal percentage (.495) and 11th in both three-point field goal percentage (.404) and free-throw percentage (.761). The Pioneers continued with those trends in the recent win over ULM, hitting 55.3 percent of their total shots, and tied a Magness Arena record by draining 16 three-pointers. Brian Stafford was on fire in the victory, logging 25 points while tying a season-high with six treys. Stafford averages 14.3 ppg and leads the conference in three-pointers per game (2.4), and his 257 career long-range buckets are fifth all-time in the Sun Belt. Chris Udofia, who played high school basketball with UNT's Mitchell, is a force to be reckoned with in the paint himself, averaging 14.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 2.4 bpg while shooting 54.4 percent from the field.
With both teams guaranteed first-round byes in the SBC Tournament, there may not be a lot of urgency on the court, but with Denver honoring its seniors in their last games at Magness Arena, the Pioneers will have a little extra incentive to win this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 74, North Texas 69
02/26 10:31:48 ET