Here are 5 things to know about the North Texas basketball team, Wisconsin’s NIT semifinal opponent

·4 min read

The Wisconsin men's basketball team and North Texas face off for the first time ever with a trip to the NIT championship game at stake in Las Vegas.

Here are five things to know about North Texas (29-7), the Badgers' opponent in the semifinal Tuesday night.

Where is North Texas University?

The university is in Denton, Texas. The population is about 140,000. The city is in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro and about 45 minutes to the north of both major cities.

North Texas' nickname is the Mean Green, and its mascot is an eagle. What is that all about?

North Texas' nickname was originally an eagle, but it later changed to the Mean Green. The origin of the Mean Green nickname dates to the 1960s when Sidney Sue Graham, a fan of the university's football team, began using it in the stands in the 1960s. The name caught on with the football team before the university later adopted it for the rest of its athletic programs in 2000. Scrappy the eagle remains the school's official mascot.

North Texas guard Kai Huntsberry is the Mean Green's second-leading scorer. Wisconsin plays Huntsberry and the North Texas Mean Green in the NIT semifinals Tuesday night.
North Texas guard Kai Huntsberry is the Mean Green's second-leading scorer. Wisconsin plays Huntsberry and the North Texas Mean Green in the NIT semifinals Tuesday night.

What should I know about the North Texas basketball roster and star Tylor Perry?

The Mean Green have an experienced roster with three fifth- or sixth-year players and two fourth-year seniors. Six of their players are from Texas.

The team has had consistency in its lineup as well all year. Of its five main starters, all of them have started at least 34 of the team's 36 games.

Wisconsin will have to find a way to slow down senior Tylor Perry, the Conference USA Player of the Year. The 5-11 guard leads the Mean Green at 17.3 points per game and he also shoots at a high clip of 41.9% from the field, 86.8% from the free-throw line and 43.4% from three-point range.

Fellow starters, senior Kai Huntsberry (12.0) and junior Abou Ousmane (11.1), also average in double figures in points. Ousmane, who has missed the last two games, isn’t expected to play.

Sophomore Aaron Scott is the team's most efficient shooter at 58.4% for players who average at least 10 minutes per game.

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How to watch: Wisconsin vs. North Texas in NIT semifinal, time, livestream and radio

What conference does North Texas play in and is it the same as NCAA Tournament Final Four bound Florida Atlantic?

The Mean Green are in Conference USA, the league that Marquette was part of for 10 years prior to joining the Big East in 2005. The conference is certainly showing itself to be a basketball powerhouse in postseason play this year. In fact, the five Conference USA teams playing in postseason tournaments — Florida Atlantic, North Texas, UAB, Charlotte and Rice — are 15-1.

Joining the Mean Green in the NIT Final Four is UAB. UAB plays Utah Valley in the other semifinal game Tuesday.

But, of course, that's not all. The conference's regular season and conference tournament champion Florida Atlantic (35-3) is one of the surprise teams in the Final Four of this year's unpredictable NCAA Tournament. The Owls, the No. 9 seed, are two wins from becoming the lowest seed to win the title since 1985.

Meanwhile, Charlotte already won the 16-team CBI Tournament, the third-tier tourney, last week. The 49ers defeated UW-Milwaukee in the second round on the way to the title. Rice went 1-1 in the CBI.

North Texas went toe-to-toe with FAU during the regular season, losing both games by four points. In one of its defeats, it held FAU to just 50 points, well below its season average of 78.0.

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Speaking of defense, the North Texas basketball team is very good. But how good?

It's the best.

North Texas holds opponents to 55.7 points per game, which is ranked No. 1 in all of college basketball. The Mean Green has held nine opponents this season below 50 points (eight in the 40s and one in the 30s). Their team defense is a big reason the Mean Green posted a school record in wins this season.

In the tournament, they have held all three of their opponents below 60 points. Reserve junior guard Rubin Jones leads the team with 45 steals.

The Badgers (20-14) are also solid on the defensive side, allowing just 63.8 points per game, which is 30th in scoring defense in the country. Don't expect this to be a high-scoring affair. The first to 60 might win.

More: Max Klesmit has emerged as a playmaker and fiery leader in his first season with the Wisconsin men's basketball team

More: Wisconsin's long season has taken a toll on freshman Connor Essegian, but he remains locked in mentally heading into the NIT semifinals

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Where is North Texas University? 5 things to know about Mean Green.