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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tony Mitchell Begins Sun Belt Play After Quiet OOC

Tony Mitchell and North Texas went up against the class of the Sun Belt, Western Kentucky, in a rematch against last year's Sun Belt Championship game. Mitchell has a strong history against WKU, having scored a combined 39 points on only 6 missed shots, in his two games against the Hilltoppers last season. This game did not go as well for Mitchell.

North Texas got down early in the first half and trailed at halftime 37-26. Mitchell and North Texas rallied to begin the 2nd half and brought the game within a bucket before Mitchell picked up his fourth foul with 10:17 remaining. The Mean Green didn't fold with their star on the bench. Mitchell didn't return until the 4:29 mark and when he did, it was still a one possession game. Down the stretch, North Texas was unable to make any shots - the sole field goal coming on a Mitchell 3-pter. But Mitchell was hardly involved in the offense all game.

Mitchell finished with 7 points as Western Kentucky devised a gameplan to stop him. They fronted him in the post and used a sagging zone defense to deny post entry passes. As I discussed before, it is difficult to run an offense through Mitchell when he is the center of attention because he isn't a good passer. He turned the ball over twice on forced passes tonight. So while you'd like to see Mitchell more involved in the offense, its hard given his skillset. He lacks any post moves, is uncomfortable on the perimeter, and struggles to make plays for his teammates. Mitchell scored his 7 points on that 3-pter, a 15 foot jumper, and a putback dunk. He doesn't shoot the ball like the 40% 3-pt shooter he was last year, lacking range, but his midrange jumper has potential.

Defensively is where Mitchell makes his greatest impact for the Mean Green. He is a strong post defender who uses his length and body to force tough shots in one on one defense. He does a good job trying not to foul - keeping his arms straight up and down - despite the 4 fouls he collected tonight (one was a questionable charge foul, and a few were due to being late rotating). Mitchell is also a terrific weakside shot blocker. And while he lacks the motor of an elite rebounder, he is able to pull down rebounds in traffic that few college athletes can.

His hustle is still questionable. Mitchell is always late into the frame getting back on both offense and defense. He has little sense of urgency in that regard. He did show some positive effort closing out on shooters, however.

With Mitchell, I've been waiting to see more - something to get really excited about. I expected him to be much improved in his first full year, but he's still the same player from a year ago. The new coaching isn't helping him. He hasn't shown any new skills. His shooting doesn't hold much promise even though he is gravitating outside even more for perimeter jumpers. If Mitchell dedicates himself to the post, he can be a great defender at the power forward position and learn the necessary post moves, but it is up to him which direction he wants to go.

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