Friday, February 22, 2013

Florida Atlantic Owls 57 at North Texas Mean Green 66 (OT, NCAA Basketball, Sun Belt Conference) - February 21, 2013

I'm back in Dallas after driving 2,000 miles over the past 10 days and watching a few sporting events in the process. When I planned this trip, the NHL was in the midst of a lockout, so I ignored their useless schedule and added the North Texas Mean Green as Thursday's game. After the lockout ended, the new schedule had the Canucks at the Stars tonight and it was tempting to see that instead, but I ultimately decided to skip it anyway as part of my very lame NHL boycott. Instead, I drove the extra 30 minutes north to Denton to watch the Mean Green host the Florida Atlantic Owls in Sun Belt Conference basketball action.

The Super Pit

The UNT Coliseum is where the Mean Green men's and women's basketball teams play, but the arena is more commonly known as the Super Pit. The nickname arose because the previous, smaller, gym was known as the Snake Pit. The Super Pit opened in 1973 and seems to be largely unchanged since then.

Parking at the Super Pit is free in a large lot just across North Texas Boulevard. The campus is right next to I-35E so getting there is no problem, although it did take a couple of minutes to get out as there is only one exit point from the lot.

Tickets are $12 for sideline seats or $7 for those on the baseline. With a capacity of 10,500 though, it really doesn't matter as you can pretty much sit where you want. The seating bowl is actually shaped like a bowl, which means there is not a bad seat in the house as you can see above. There are two seating levels separated by a walkway but it is still a compact venue.

The concourse is very wide and has a number of displays commemorating the history of North Texas sports. Did you know Mean Joe Greene was a Mean Green? Turns out that it is not a coincidence. The school nickname was adopted in 1966 as the North Texas football defense finished second in the nation against the rush. Greene was a sophomore that year and part of that defense. When he joined the Steelers in in 1969, fans there thought that "Mean Green" was his nickname while at North Texas and it stuck. Of course, the university also kept the name and to this day the two are intertwined.

Speaking of history, there are a number of banners hanging inside the arena which provide some background into the program. College teams change conferences quite often (or should I say conferences change teams, I'm not really sure) as you can see below. In fact, the Mean Green are leaving the Sun Belt Conference for Conference-USA starting next year, one of dozens of moves that have impacted the landscape of college sports over the past couple of years.

Concessions are basic with hot dogs and popcorn seemingly the most popular. My favourite is the pickle for a $1. Yep, just a big pickle. Never seen it at a sporting event before, but definitely better than the usual.

The band starts performing about an hour before game time and keeps it up during the game which really adds to the atmosphere. They also hassle the visiting team on a constant basis.

There are typical cheerleaders who dance with pom poms as well as a pep squad that tries to lead the crowd in chants. This might be interesting with a full house, but with perhaps 2,000 fans there (announced attendance was 2,532 but clearly overstated) it was mostly for show.

The biggest change in the Coliseum is that the seats were changed from orange to green to match the team name. There is a plaque honouring those who contributed to the effort but it is better so show the picture below - a great combination of the seats and the colours on the floor.

The only other thing to note is that there is no main scoreboard above the floor but scoreboards at both ends of the court as well as some hustle stats boards at the corners.

Overall, the Super Pit is a great old venue, simple in its design and offering a complete college basketball experience. I have heard that the fans there can be loud and proud, but for the game I saw, there weren't enough of them. Which is unfortunate, because their team won a pretty good game.

The Game

The visitors came in at 12-16, two games better than the Mean Green. In other words, not a battle of the titans. Tony Mitchell (#13 in white below) is the player to watch for UNT; he was a preseason All-American and considered a legitimate NBA prospect. (Update: Mitchell was drafted #37 overall to Detroit.)

The first half saw some nice plays for both teams but neither could build a big advantage and halftime arrived with the score knotted at 35.

6'10 Kenneth Coleman pretends he's an airplane.

The second half was an exercise in bad shooting. Florida Atlantic started on an 8-0 run to take the crowd out of it for a while, but UNT replied with a 10-0 run of their own to get back in it. After that, it got pretty ugly. The teams combined to go 17-52 and yet again nothing was decided. Both squads had a chance to win it in the last minute but neither succeeded and we went to overtime tied at 57.

Midway through the extra frame, Roger Franklin drained a 3 for UNT and that turned out to be the only FG in the period. FAU went 0/8 from the floor and resorted to fouling North Texas in a vain attempt to get closer. The final was 66-57 as the Mean Green outscored the Owls 9-0 in overtime.

Not a bad game at all, with 11 ties and eight lead changes. Mid-major basketball doesn't get a lot of play on the hype machine that is ESPN, but it is still entertaining. Mitchell is a great shot blocker and had four on the evening, but I wasn't completely impressed. He's only a sophomore though and bears watching.


It seems like news is following me around this week. On Tuesday, I was at Texas A&M and the insanely important news about Johnny Manziel taking courses online broke. Yesterday I went to the Rockets game and they made the big trade. Then today, Florida Atlantic was visiting and they were in the news for selling naming rights to their football stadium.

The tradition here when an opposing player fouls out is fun: fans yell "Sit....sit.....sit....sit...." as the player slowly walks back toward the bench, then finish with a "Siddown!" as the player takes his seat.

The leading scorer for FAU was Greg Gantt (below) with 18 points. I asked for his shot chart but nobody got the joke.

Next Up

I'm driving over to Allen tomorrow to watch a Central Hockey League game between the Allen Americans and the Wichita Thunder. Check back tomorrow for a recap of that one.



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