By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The Mean Green losing by eight or less would be surprising. A victory would be, well, madness. Or would it?
Sure, UNT's present includes sloppy ball-handling and crappy free-throw shooting, and its past includes the dreadful Vic Trilli era and an 18-point loss as a 15th seed to North Carolina back in 1988. But the Mean Green has won five in a row and a school-record 23 this season. Seven of their 10 losses were by four points or fewer. Like Memphis, they prefer an up-tempo, low-structure style that should maximize the team's athleticism. The game is on St. Patrick's Day Eve, so New Orleans—same city that hosted all four of UNT's football bowl games and close to Jones' hometown of DeRidder—should be saturated with green. Before Friday the team will get inspirational speeches from Avery Johnson, Todd Dodge and, who knows, even Mean Joe himself?
And if nothing else convinces UNT that Cinderella can don green, there's always George Mason.
"North Texas has a shot to scare somebody, even win a game," says ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas. "They go about nine deep, including the leadership of an Iraqi war veteran. They're athletic. And they have no fear. They're pretty impressive. I'll be surprised if they don't make some noise."
Memphis may be Big 'n' Rich.
But North Texas has Rich Young.