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NCAA Basketball

Preview and Predictions for SMU Mustangs Basketball

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Keith Frazier

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Prediction:

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.

Dan Karpuc is an American Athletic Conference writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_karpuc, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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NCAA Tournament Profile: SMU Mustangs

Record: 27-6

RPI: 13

BPI: 24

Conference: AAC Conference

How They Qualified: AAC Conference Tournament Champions

Region: No. 6 seed in South

Can you imagine how good the SMU Mustangs would have been with Emmanuel Mudiay on the team this year? Just in case you are out of the loop, Mudiay should go in the top five in the upcoming draft. Even without him, the Mustangs have put together a solid resume. Most importantly, and unlike last season, they are not being snubbed to the max when it comes to making the NCAA tournament.

The Mustangs haven’t had the toughest schedule, but they did challenge themselves some by playing the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Indiana Hoosiers, Arkansas Razorbacks and Michigan Wolverines in their out-of-conference schedule. It’s games like those that help prepare a team for the tourney.

 

What You Need to Know:

Leading Scorer: Nic Moore (14.3 PPG)

Leading Rebounder: Yanick Moreira (6.4 RPG)

Leading Passer: Nic Moore (5.3 APG)

Bad Losses: None

Good Wins: Tulsa (twice), Temple (x3)

 

This team may be lacking in star power, but none of that matters in the tournament. Heck, the Duke Blue Devils had one of the biggest stars in college basketball last year (Jabari Parker), and they ended up going down to the Mercer Bears right away. I don’t remember Doug McDermott leading his team to a title last year either.

No offense to those players, but the NCAA tournament does not reward teams just because they are well-known and have — you guessed it — star power.

Larry Brown is the head coach, so I guess there is one star for ya. All that aside, Moore and the other three guys who are averaging 10+ points per game have to show up. Entering the season with a decent amount of hype, SMU isn’t necessarily a dark horse pick, but at the same time, not many people are expecting a Final Four run by Brown’s team.

Let’s remember that the Mustangs have only lost six games in 2014-15.

The SMU Mustangs are dancing!

Trevor Lowry is a Content Associate at RantSports.com. If you’re a tweeter feel free to follow him @TheTrevorLowry, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

The SMU Mustangs may have been snubbed out of last year's dance, but no one should lose focus of them this time around.

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