HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - From what Marshall men's basketball coach Tom Herrion has seen of his team's opponent tonight, there are plenty of similarities between the North Texas Mean Green and the Thundering Herd, speed and athleticism among them.
The similarities, though, stop at a very important point - depth.
The Herd (6-11, 0-2 Conference USA) will try to keep up with North Texas (9-7, 0-2 C-USA) starting at 7 p.m., though the Mean Green has the edge right now in able bodies.
"They play about nine or 10 guys," Herrion said. "They have great balance."
In its last game, a loss at the University of Texas at El Paso, the Herd played every able body outside of Kevin McNair and Austin Loop. And that only totaled eight players. A shallow bench has become a bigger problem for Marshall, hurting not only the size of the roster, but also the team's size on the floor. With 7-foot-2 center Yous Mbao's return to the court doubtful, that could keep three Herd players standing 6-9 or taller out of tonight's game. Center J.P. Kambola (eligibility issue) has not yet played this season and forward Elijah Pittman (suspension) hasn't played since the Penn State game.
That hurt Marshall against UTEP, when the Miners' dismissals - three players were booted due to gambling allegations - forced the team to play a taller lineup. The result was Marshall losing the rebounding battle, 43-34, and trailing UTEP by as many as 18 before finally losing, 66-56.
Though against North Texas, Herrion figures the Herd will have more traditional matchups.
"They're really fast," he said. "Their speed really jumps out at you. They're explosive in transition, probably one of the fastest teams we'll see. They'll open the floor up and they're dangerous off the miss or the turnover. They have good athleticism."
The Mean Green presents a balanced scoring attack. North Texas features two double-digit scorers - senior guard Alzee Williams at 13.0 points per game and junior guard Jordan Williams at 11.3 points per game - but six players in all average at least 7.4 points. It's also a strong rebounding team, averaging 40 per game.