A Schedule for the Ages

20151230_211056_600The 2017-2018 UT Arlington basketball schedule was released recently, and all I can say is that it’s the best single-year home overall schedule that I can ever recall the Mavs putting together. It’s loaded with winnable games against well-known teams at home and on the road that should generate some buzz at the arena’s box office and help the Mavs’ chances for the postseason via strength of schedule and potential RPI ranking.

Mid-major scheduling is never easy: big schools pays mid-majors up to $100,000 to play on the road, and mid-majors with considerable smaller athletics budgets usually scheduling other mid-major or smaller-conference schools to fill out their home slates. In other words, a school’s relative position on the basketball food chain largely determines who it plays on the road––and who it is able to host. And when you win consistently, big schools with big paycheck generally (and understandably) avoid you. The Star Telegram wrote a good piece a couple of weeks ago about UTA’s scheduling difficulties, and this article from 2010 is quite interesting and still very relevant seven years later. You may even recall last year’s non-conference schedule that Texas Southern had to endure, playing in Arlington at 7:00 on a saturday night and then appearing for a lunchtime game in Delaware less than 24 hours later. So, a good strategy for top-50 RPI schools like UTA is to line up home-and-home series with other successful mid-major schools in similar situations. And for the upcoming season, this strategy appears to have worked to perfection.

Over the years, UTA has welcomed well-known non-conference teams like TCU, Air Force, Oral Roberts, Lamar and New Mexico to the stage at Texas Hall. More recently, the Mavs have hosted some impressive squads like Oklahoma and Boise State in College Park’s Center first full home season.

Our fans and players will appreciate that we have some very good home games against quality opponents. Playing in College Park Center gives us a significant home court advantage, especially with the enthusiasm we experienced in last year’s NIT run.
–UTA head coach Scott Cross

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Mavs Defeat Little Rock, Take Sole Possession of 1st

award_ribbon_blue_1st_tThe Mavs continue to defend their home court, remaining undefeated at College Park Center this season and have been rewarded with sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt, now with a record of 19-6 and 9-3 league play.

How’d we get here? The 3-0 homestand started a week ago saturday on 2/4 in front a big afternoon crowd of 3483 (lower bowl mostly full, folks sitting in the upper level too). They were treated to an entertaining game against a much improved Texas State team that resulted in a 76-61 victory. Continue reading

UT Arlington Mavs Earn NCAA-Leading 5th Road Win at Bradley

UTA 56, Bradley 51
In Peoria, Illinois last night it was cold outside (in the 20s with a chance for wintry mix), and the shooting was similarly cold inside. I’m sure noone has used that cliche to describe a basketball game, ever. 

But the UT Arlington Mavs, coming off the big win at then-#12 St. Mary’s after defeating Texas and North Texas, were victorious in a game in which both defenses played well, and a result both teams shot 33%FG with neither team seeming to find much offensive rhythm. It was their 8th win in a row and their NCAA-leading 5th road win.

UTA started out well, opening the game with a couple of Erick Neal threes to help build a 15-2 lead just seven minutes into the game and looking like this was going to be a relatively Continue reading

Mavs Play Solid Defense for 40:00 to Defeat #12 St. Mary’s by 14

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Perhaps building on momentum from convincing wins over Texas and North Texas last week, the Mavs used a solid 40:00 of swarming, collapsing defense and precise execution of Coach Scott Cross’ unguardable pinball-style offensive attack to defeat #12 St. Mary’s 65-51.

It was their seventh win in a row, and their first win over a ranked team in the school’s history and adds to the argument that even if UTA doesn’t win the conference tournament, at least so far this season they’ve proven themselves worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Mavs (8-3) used a 18-3 run in first half to establish a big lead that was 13 at halftime (36-23). UTA got off to another great start for the second half (similar to UT and North Texas games) to add to the lead, up as much as 20 at 11:30 in the second half but the Gaels (7-1 with wins over Stanford and Nevada) would make a run of their own to get as close as 11 but the game never really seemed in doubt in the final 5:00 or so.

This might have been UTA’s best defensive performance in recent memory. The Mavs forced 15 turnovers, leading to 23 points. Despite good ball movement by St. Mary’s, every pass was contested. Most drives to the paint quickly defended by 2 or 3 Mavs. Threes were contested. The Mavs had more rebounds (36-30) and steals (10-4). And this effort was continuous for a full 40 minutes. And any time the Gaels made a couple of baskets and the momentum was about to change, the Mavs had an answer with a three or a quick basket or two of their own and never really let the crowd become a factor. The Gaels were held to just 31% shooting, and 8-27 from outside (30%).

On the other end of the floor, the offense was executed to near perfection, seeming to be a step ahead of the Gael defense most of the night. The Gaels have a tall, athletic team but as we’ve seen many times, UTA used crisp passing to find those better-than-good scoring opportunities for higher-percentage shots. And the 10 steals/15 turnovers lead to easy baskets as well. The Mavs had a great shooting night, going 25-51 for 49%. They also outrebounded 36-30. Kevin Hervey had 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting with a three pointer and four free throws and got 7 rebounds; Erick Neal had 13 points and 8 assists; Kaelon Wilson had 10 points on 4-5 shooting.

Up next: at Bradley (4-5) next friday

Game story at UTA Athletics

Game story at St. Mary’s Athletics

 

Mavs Fly Past Rival University of North Texas Eagles 77-61

UTA 76, UNT 6120161203_160103_800w

It was my first time seeing a game in the Super Pit. We fought chilly, dreadful misty, rainy driving conditions up I-35 but once we got there, seeing  a game there for the first time was a pretty enjoyable experience…a huge parking lot right across from the facility adjacent to Fouts Field, ticket booths located at the entrances inside the building, a good game-day presentation, great seat pitch where you could easily see over the row in front of you, a bright 4-sided video board over center court and no lines at the plentiful concession stands and restrooms. At $5, a general admission ticket is a bargain. The big bowl-style arena seats about 10,000, with a concourse dividing the upper and lower halves of the arena. For an arena almost 50 years old, it has aged well.

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Good seat for only $5

The two questions going into today:

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UT Arlington Defeats UT Longhorns. Significant.

UTA (5-3, 1-0 vs. Big 12 in 2016) 72, Texas (3-3) 610

Much will be written about this game. First time beating Texas after several close losses the last few years. Another huge win for Coach Cross. Adding to the momentum and national following the team has gained the last few years. Overcoming a cold-shooting first 8-10 minutes, chipping away at nearly double-digit lead by Texas and building off a 3-point halftime lead. A legendary show of skill by junior forward Kevin Hervey—nearly unstoppable and showing off his immense skills as he backed down Texas defenders with NBA-like post moves and seemingly scoring at will with his springy, fluid jumper and nearly automatic free throws. The no-look pass from Neal in the corner in the second half to set up an open three.

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Mavs Improve to 3-3 in Interesting Matchup of Styles

UTA (3-3) 80, Mount St. Mary’s (1-5) 71

20161123_205519bI’ll admit I was intrigued by this matchup for the last few days. UTA still trying to recapture the offensive flow and smooth ball movement that worked so well for them last year and overcoming the well-documented frequent second-half offensive lulls this season; Mount St. Mary’s plays an very uptempo offense with a trapping, pressing defense. I figured it would be Continue reading