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SMU Mustangs Solidify NCAA Tournament Resumé By Destroying Cincinnati

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Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

The SMU Mustangs took a major step toward inclusion in the NCAA Tournament Saturday night with a statement blowout of the seventh-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats 76-55 in Dallas, Texas. Having not lost on their home floor this season and with wins now over three ranked teams, the Mustangs (19-5, 8-3 AAC) have served notice to the country that they aren’t a bubble team from a new conference, but rather a team that’s a forced to be reckoned with in its conference and one that might make some noise nationally come March.

SMU’s 21-point destruction of Cincinnati was its second win over a top 25 team in eight days. On Feb. 1, the Mustangs also put a solid beat down on then-No. 22 Memphis, 87-72. In between, the Mustangs won a game they were supposed to by a convincing margin, blasting Temple 75-52. Earlier this season, also at home, SMU knocked off then-No. 17 Connecticut, 74-65. Those three wins would shine on any team’s resumé. But when you consider that the Mustangs have that perfect record at home and who they have lost to, the case for including SMU in the NCAA Tournament is now a pretty easy one.

Of SMU’s five losses, one came on a neutral floor by just three points to Virginia. The Cavaliers are currently ranked 20th in the country and are in second place in the ACC with a 10-1 record, trailing only top-ranked Syracuse. SMU has road losses to Arkansas, Cincinnati and then-No. 12 Louisville. A 78-71 conference loss at South Florida (3-8 AAC) on Jan/ 28 is the only result on SMU’s schedule that might make the Selection Committee scratch their heads a bit. But wins over three ranked teams and the near miss vs. Virginia should erase any doubts.

Head coach Larry Brown‘s team has, as of the current rankings, three more games vs. top-25 opponents. The Mustangs host Louisville and play road games at Connecticut and Memphis. With the Bearcats, Tigers and Cardinals joining SMU as the top four in the AAC, even a loss or two in that stretch shouldn’t hurt SMU’s postseason chances. The Mustangs put four players in double figures on Saturday, including 15 points each from guard Nick Russell and forward Ben Moore. Nic Moore leads the team in scoring at just short of 14 points per game. SMU’s success has been fueled by shooting. The Mustangs are in the top 10 in the country in field-goal percentage (49 percent).

If SMU keeps up its current form, it has a chance to run up 23 or 24 wins before conference tournament play even starts. That should be more than enough for the Selection Committee to view the Mustangs favorably not just for getting into the tournament, but for drawing a quality seed.

Ed Morgans is an ACC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @writered21 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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