North Texas will find out pretty quickly where it ranks among the Texas teams in Conference USA in its second men’s basketball season in the league this fall.
UNT will play all three of its in-state conference rivals right away, starting when it opens conference play Jan. 2 at home against league power UTEP.
The Mean Green will turn around and host Texas-San Antonio two days later before traveling to Rice for its first conference road game.
That three-game series against Texas rivals is the highlight of UNT’s conference slate, which was released with the rest of the C-USA schedule by the league office Wednesday.
UNT finished 11th in the 16-team league with a 6-10 record in its second season under coach Tony Benford in the 2013-14 campaign.
The Mean Green finished 16-16 overall and lost to Tulane in the second round of the conference tournament.
“We feel like we were competitive in every game we played in our first season in the league,” Benford said in a statement. “Nearly every game came down to the last few possessions, and this year will be much the same. Overall it’s a pretty balanced schedule, and with the experience we have coming back we’ll be up for the task.”
UNT returns its leading scorer and rebounder in senior guard Jordan Williams, who averaged 12.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, but will rely on newcomers to fill several key voids.
Alzee Williams, who ranked second on the team with an average of 11.1 points per game, graduated.
Chris Jones, who led UNT with 127 assists and was the team’s third-leading scorer at 7.5 points a game, transferred to Angelo State, a Division II school.
Guards Vertrail Vaughns and Brandan Walton, who averaged 7.3 and 7.2 points a game, respectively, also graduated. Forwards Kelvin Gaines and Keith Coleman both left the program after their junior seasons.
UNT has just five players returning who saw time last season and will depend on a series of newcomers who Benford says can help the Mean Green improve.
“When you look around the league, the first thing you notice is tremendous guard play,” Benford said. “I would put the guards in C-USA against any league in the country. Also, the forwards are very versatile. Each team has frontcourt players that play both inside and out, which we call switchables. We feel like we’ve added both of those things — great guards and switchable forwards — to our roster.”
UNT to host cross country meet
UNT will host the Conference USA cross country meet again this fall.
The meet will take place Nov. 1 at the Eagle Point course.
The UNT men’s cross country team finished second last season, while the Mean Green women finished third.
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.
North Texas hoops C-USA schedule
The following is the North Texas men’s basketball team’s Conference USA schedule. Game times have yet to be announced.
at Old Dominion
at Western Kentucky
at Florida Atlantic
at Florida International