After laying a strong foundation last year, the men’s basketball team is taking aim at its goal to play deep into the 2019-20 season.
Head coach Chris Ogden’s first year at UTA consisted of a few lows and highs, the first of which came in the nonconference portion of its schedule. The Mavericks competed against tough opponents like Indiana University, UT-Austin and Gonzaga University.
This time around, UTA will square off against the likes of the University of Houston, the University of Oregon and, once again, Gonzaga. All qualified and competed in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
“We’re always gonna play a tough schedule, I believe in it. I wanna be seen on the level of these programs,” Ogden said. “We got seven guys who have played these games before. They’ll be more prepared, and then overall, top to bottom: we’re deeper; we’re more talented; we’re more athletic.”
Senior forward TiAndre Jackson-Young said he believes last year’s rough start to the season helped the Mavericks when entering Sun Belt Conference play.
UTA opened its campaign with a 4-11 record before turning around and finishing the year with a 17-16 overall mark.
Jackson-Young said he wants his team to pick up victories in these games, even though UTA may be considered the underdog compared to some of its opponents.
“We expect ourselves to go out and win,” Jackson-Young said. “I believe that we are also going to go out and execute in conference.”
Over the off-season, UTA welcomed eight new members to its squad after losing seven players. Senior guard Brian Warren said the newcomers have already started to gel with the team’s tenured members, bringing athleticism and shooting ability with them.
Warren, who is one of the team’s top scorers, will enter his last year of collegiate eligibility. He said he has individual goals, but he wants to lead UTA back to postseason play before he can focus on himself.
“I want to win the conference championship first and foremost, but I want to be conference player of the year and be on first team all-conference,” Warren said. “I want to make the tournament; this is my last year. I don’t get to do this again after this.”
UTA’s last appearance in the NCAA Tournament came in 2008 when it fell in the first round to the University of Memphis 87-63. The Mavericks have fallen one game short of the Big Dance the past two years, losing in the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament to Georgia State University.
Ogden said he believes UTA has what it takes to break into the tournament this year and feels the university’s time has arrived.
“We’re a deserving program. We’ve been knocking on the door for a long time,” Ogden said. “It’s UTA’s time, I just believe it.”
The Mavericks will tip off their season at 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 against UT-Dallas at College Park Center.