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SMU Basketball Program Already Turned Around Thanks to Larry Brown

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Nic Moore

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

SMU Mustangs head basketball coach Larry Brown is not used to losing. Last season, his first at SMU, he was able to lead the Mustangs to a 15-17 overall record. Surprisingly, in his eight full collegiate coaching seasons, it was the first time he did not lead his team to a 20-win campaign.

Brown had gone 22-10 and 20-7 with UCLA in the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons and 22-10, 26-8, 35-4, 25-11, and 27-11 during his five seasons at Kansas between 1983 and 1988. During his time coaching the Jayhawks, he also was able to win an NCAA Championship.

When Brown was hired to be the next Mustangs head coach, he knew the challenge that lay ahead would be a significant one. SMU has had only one season, in 1999-2000, in which they won 20 games. In that time span they have also only reached the NCAA Tournament once. In the complete history of the Southern Methodist basketball program, which spans all the way back to 1953, the team has only been able to record six 20-win campaigns.

Through the first two games of the season, the Mustangs are off to a perfect start at 2-0 and have shown to lead a very balanced offensive attack with nine players averaging over six points per game. The team has been undoubtedly led by Illinois State transfer Nic Moore. The redshirt sophomore has put up a team-leading 16.5 points per game in the first two contests. No other player is currently averaging double-figures.

Top prospect Keith Frazier will look to get significant playing time this season, and if he doesn’t declare for the upcoming NBA Draft he will be joined by another top prospect in 2014-15. Ranked in the top-5 of overall prospects, point guard Emmanuel Mudiay signed to play with the Mustangs due to coach Brown’s recruiting efforts.

The youthful yet talented roster will not face tough opposition in their non-conference schedule, with Arkansas and Virginia as the only two real threats. This weak schedule can easily result in SMU getting off to a 11-2 or 12-1 start going into AAC play. The foundation should be there for Brown to earn yet another 20-win season.

The Mustangs square off against the first of their two non-conference tests tonight when they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. Tip off is at 7:00 p.m. CT.

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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