Men’s spring preview: Sun Belt Conference

North Texas head coach Brad Stracke entered the fall expecting big things out of his team.

“This is the year I’ve been waiting for,” Stracke said last August. “It’s going to be exciting.”

And his team has delivered so far. The Mean Green opened the season with a sixth-place finish at the Gopher Invitational, where it finished ahead of four teams that advanced to the NCAA Championship last season: Iowa, Lamar, Memphis and Oklahoma. North Texas then was T-2 at the Inverness Invitational, third at the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate and second at the Lone Star Invitational.

Much of the team’s success can be attributed to an experienced lineup that is led by seniors Carlos Ortiz and Rodolfo Cazaubon. The Mean Green lost just one starter from last year and return six of their top seven players from a year ago, when North Texas won its first conference title since 2003 and made back-to-back NCAA postseasons for the first time since 1974-75.

North Texas has had just one four-time all-conference selection in school history, Alan Magill, who achieved the honor from 1994-97. But the Mean Green has a chance to add two players to that list this season, as Ortiz and Cazaubon enter the spring looking to add fourth all-Sun Belt honors.

The two are coming off a victory at the Copa de las Americas in which they helped lead Mexico to the team title. Cazaubon is especially on a roll after closing the fall with two individual titles. He shared medalist honors at Shoal Creek, his first collegiate individual crown, and won the Lone Star by two shots over Ortiz, who finished second.

Cazaubon and Ortiz combined to finish inside the top 25 seven out of eight times during the fall with Cazaubon finishing no worse than 18th in four events. Like Cazaubon, Ortiz closed his fall strong, finishing T-8 at Shoal Creek before the runner-up showing at the Lone Star.

Last season, four shots separated North Texas and an NCAA Championship berth. And with four seniors on the roster, including Ortiz and Cazaubon, you can bet the Mean Green will do anything to avoid a similar fate. Advancing to the NCAA Championship would do.

• • •

Where it stands now

Top of the class: North Texas

Best player this fall: Rodolfo Cazaubon, North Texas

• • •

Past champions

2012: North Texas

2011: Denver

2010: South Alabama

2009: Middle Tennessee

2008: Denver

• • •

Conference capsules

Show Hide