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What UNT's teams should be hoping for under the Christmas tree

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Brett Vito, Staff Writer

We are now just hours from Christmas morning, when people across the country will open presents.

UNT's coaches and players are no different, but what about the programs they play for or guide?  The Mean Green's teams could use a gift or two.

Here's a thought on what each could really use ... other than a pair of socks.

Football --  That elusive bowl win

UNT coach Seth Littrell has done pretty much everything right since he showed up in Denton and has taken the Mean Green to a pair of bowls. UNT broke through for a 9-5 finish this year in one of the best seasons in program history.

The tide also seems to be turning in recruiting. The Mean Green signed a solid group during the midterm period and are currently sitting with the sixth-best class in Conference USA.

What UNT could really use is that elusive bowl win.

Littrell named winning a bowl game as UNT's goal heading into his debut season.

The Mean Green came close a year ago, falling to Army in overtime. They had another crack at a bowl win this year, but were blown out 50-30 by Troy.

Bowl games are often a matter of getting a favorable matchup. UNT ran into a buzz saw in an experienced Troy team with a terrific senior quarterback in Brandon Silvers. Louisiana Tech -- a team UNT beat in the regular season -- drew an SMU team in turmoil after a coaching change and picked up its fourth straight bowl win.

Just getting to a bowl game in two straight seasons was huge. Taking the next step in 2018 would be another important step forward.

Falling short in three straight seasons, especially after Littrell has talked about winning a bowl being the goal for the last two years would be tough.

Men's basketball -- Continued success in C-USA

UNT is off to a terrific start in its first season under Grant McCasland and is sitting at 7-6 heading into its Conference USA opener at UTEP on Thursday.

One more win and the Mean Green will equal the eight wins they posted last season, when Tony Benford finished tearing down everything former coach Johnny Jones built while taking UNT to two of the three NCAA tournaments in program history.

McCasland has a good shot at leading UNT to a winning season in his debut campaign and has brought on a host of talented players, including Roosevelt Smart. The sophomore is averaging 17.6 points per game. 

A winning season would do UNT a world of good.

Women's basketball -- A winning season

It's been more than a decade since UNT last posted a winning season in women's basketball. Tina Slinker guided UNT to a 19-9 record in the 2005 -06 season.

UNT is on its fourth coach since that memorable campaign and finally seems to have hit on the right person in Jalie Mitchell.

UNT is 8-3 heading into its final nonconference game on Saturday against Oklahoma Panhandle State.

It seems highly unlikely that UNT could find a way to finish under .500 at this point. The Mean Green just have to finish the deal.

Women's soccer -- that elusive NCAA tournament win

The UNT women's soccer team is the perfect example of why being a really good program in a mid-major conference can be tough.

UNT has been to five NCAA tournaments and lost in the first round every time.

The Mean Green always end up being shipped out to play a team from a nationally prominent conference on that team's home field. That makes it incredibly tough to win and advance.

UNT fell to fourth-seeded Texas 3-0 this year. 

The Mean Green have lost two NCAA tournament games at Texas, one at SMU and two at Texas Tech.

Those teams were all loaded.

It would do UNT a world of good to break through for that first NCAA tournament win. Just getting a more favorable matchup that would give the Mean Green a better shot would be helpful.

Tennis -- A win over Rice in the C-USA tournament

The UNT tennis team is in the same position as the school's soccer team in terms of the NCAA tournament.

UNT has been there three times and lost in the first round each time.

At this point, the bigger problem is getting past Rice in the C-USA tournament. The Owls have beaten UNT in the conference tournament in three of the last four years.

Rice swept UNT  5-0 in the semifinals last season. 

All three of the Mean Green's NCAA tournament appearances came after they won the Sun Belt Conference tournament. UNT is looking to break through in C-USA and will likely need to beat Rice to get there.

Volleyball -- the ability to reload

UNT is coming off one of the best seasons in program history this fall. The Mean Green won the C-USA regular season title and finished 29-4, but lost to Western Kentucky in the finals of the conference tournament.

UNT was passed over for a berth in the NCAA tournament, despite a solid resume. The Mean Green went on to beat Oral Roberts in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, the first postseason win in program history.

The question now is if UNT can reload after losing four key players -- Holly Milam, Amanda Chamberlain, Alexis Wright and Mikali Myers. 

Milam and Chamberlain were both first-team All-C-USA selections, while Wright was a second-team pick. UNT has several key players returning, including first-team All-C-USA setter Karley York and  outside hitter Barbara Teakell, the Co-Freshman of the Year in the league.

UNT will face a significant challenge in terms of reloading even with York and Teakell coming back.