Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown is entering his second season with the SMU Mustangs. The only coach to win both an NCAA title and NBA championship, Brown is trying to build on his first season in which he led the team to a 15-17 overall record. SMU’s competition will be escalated in the newly-formed American Athletic Conference.
Brown has a lot to be excited about. Freshman guard Keith Frazier will look to get major playing time right away as he averaged 23.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists a game as a senior at Dallas Kimball High School. He was ranked as a top-five shooting guard in the 2013 class by multiple media outlets.
SMU’s top-three scorers, redshirt senior Nick Russell (14.0), junior guard Jalen Jones (14.0) and junior guard Ryan Manuel (12.1) are all returning. Junior Cannen Cunningham averaged 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a year ago, and also recorded 59 blocks.
Frazier’s play will determine what direction this team goes. Coach Brown’s legacy appealed to Frazier as he turned down multiple offers elsewhere to play for the legendary coach and the Mustangs. He is a player that Brown can build around, and since he is a local talent from Dallas, recruits from the inner city will be knocking on SMU’s door because of him. He is a program-changer.
Add Russell, Jones, Cunningham, and Manuel to the starting lineup with Frazier, and this team has a very strong core of players to lean on. Illinois transfer Crandall Head, Villanova transfer Markus Kennedy and Illinois State transfer Nic Moore are all eligible to play this season after sitting out the 2012-13 campaign.
Redshirt senior Shawn Williams put up 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds a game last year and will add depth to the forward position. The No.1 junior college prospect Yanick Moreira, who averaged 18.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocked shots and 1.2 steals, also signed with SMU and should get immediate playing time at the center position. Freshman forward Ben Moore will also add depth down low.
I like this team from top to bottom, and I think Brown is a quality coach who can lead these players to a surprising start in the conference. They can be a dangerous team for the upper echelon squads to face throughout the season. The 2013-14 campaign will not result in a tournament berth, but things will look upwards for the Mustangs for years to come.
I have them going 15-16, surprising a high-caliber team like Connecticut or Memphis once this year. If Frazier, who will be the AAC Freshman of the Year, stays for his sophomore season, this team can move right to the top of the conference.