The North Texas Mean Green came into this year off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 2001-2002 season, but with last year's leading scorer Terriell Bradley gone, it was hard to get a read on UNT's chances of making it three winning years in a row. Sure, they returned four of the six players who played 20-plus minutes per game last season, but where would the offense come from? Bradley averaged 15.9 points per game and shot over 37 percent from three last season; you don't just replace that production.
And, well...that's true, especially when it comes to Bradley's shooting, as the Mean Green scored 25.2 percent of their points from three last year and now are getting just 18.2 percent of their points from there this year, which ranks 328th out of 351 teams.
But the Mean Green – who sit at 4-5 on the year and have played Texas and North Carolina State close already – have found another way to stay in games: senior center Anisha George.
Last year, George ranked sixth on the team in minutes per game, but was the only player other than Bradley to average double-digits in scoring, putting up 10.2 points per game on 59.0 percent shooting. She averaged 7.5 shot attempts per contest.
This year, George is playing more and shooting about the same amount of shots, but with an even bigger increase in efficiency. Her 68.2 field goal percentage currently ranks 10th in the nation and has helped George to average a team-best 11.6 points per game.
Per Synergy, George has been especially good on post ups, ranking in the 96th percentile in points per possession on those possessions. The 6-foot-2 post isn't the world's tallest big, but she positions herself well inside to make plays:
On this play, for instance, George doesn't really win because of size. Instead, the Mean Green do a good job of drawing Lousiana's attention to the left side of the floor with the Callie Owens drive, and George has the deep position and is able to get the pass from Owens and get the ball up.
Meanwhile, this video is from last season –
but it still shows why George is so good in the post, as she's just so strong down low. Couple that strength with some solid footwork in the post and you can see how George is able to work the ball into good positions and get the shots that she wants.
George is 15th in the NCAA in points per scoring attempt, and the Mean Green do a good job of getting her the ball and letting her work. This isn't a team that runs pick-and-rolls – George has logged just two plays as a roller – and it isn't a team that moves the ball around particularly well, as they want very close to the bottom of college basketball in assists per game, and honestly if I said those two stats out loud with no context I'd think this team had no chance of being successful with a post-heavy offense in a world where post ups are becoming more and more phased out due to the relative inefficiency of the shot – y'all saw the Rick Carlisle words on post ups, right? – but UNT using them as a key part of their offense seems to be working out fine for them. Sure, they aren't the best offense out there, but Anisha George's post play isn't the reason they rank 205th in Her Hoop Stats offensive rating. The team's inability to hit threes and to get consistent offense from other parts of the team have a lot more to do with that.
But while post ups might be George's best offensive skill, she's actually gotten more of her looks this year off put back opportunities. Her 3.7 offensive rebounds per game rank 42nd in DI, and Synergy logs her as having 35 shot attempts off offensive rebounds this season. George is an incredible rebounder, which creates extra chances for the Mean Green, which they really need when they're shooting like this team has been shooting.
Ideally, North Texas is going to shoot better. Jazion Jackson is a freshman point guard who's playing over 30 minutes per game, and she's also 0-for-12 this year from three. That's bound to improve. Trena Mims shot around 34 percent from three last year; she's not going to keep shooting 8.3 percent like she is right now.
If UNT can even play like a slightly below average team in terms of shooting, George's efficient offense and knack for grabbing rebounds could make the Mean Green a dangerous opponent for Conference USA teams. The expected top team in the conference was Rice, but they've struggled to open the year, sitting at 5-6 right now. Old Dominion is the only team in CUSA to already have double-digit wins, and this is shaping up to be a season in which the middle of the conference is really, really close to each other.
But again, it's hard to really get a read on how this team can compete because...well, it's a weird team.
Remember all that talk about George being good at post ups? Well, as a team, the Mean Green are 18th in post up efficiency, but they only run post ups five percent of the time. Over half of their offense comes from spot ups and transition looks, even though they rank in the sixth percentile in spot-up efficiency.
In fact, their best playtypes – post up, hand off, and isolation – are all run five percent of the time or less. Again, a weird team, and there's no telling if they A) could retool their sets and emphasize these plays they've done well on at this point in the year or B) the efficiency on those plays would scale up.
But what they do know for sure is this: giving Anisha George the ball is working, even if the rest of the offense stills seems to be developing an identity. And as long as she remains an incredibly consistent and efficient post player – and we have last year's numbers as some solid evidence that this efficiency isn't just an illuson – then North Texas should continue to play a lot of teams close. George needs more shot attempts than the six combined (minus attempts that led to free throws) against Texas and NC State if the team wants to make any actual noise and a lot of other stuff needs to get figured out too, but for now, she's giving the Mean Green something they can hold onto as they get ready for conference play and try to make a run at a third consecutive winning campaign.