The college basketball postseason for the SMU Mustangs turned out to be pretty frustrating. First, SMU was left out of the NCAA tournament when many experts in the sport felt the Mustangs had done enough to get in, even if it meant playing one of the first-round games in Dayton, Ohio.
Instead, the Mustangs had to go into the NIT, where they earned a top seed and took advantage of it, advancing all the way to Thursday’s championship game at Madison Square Garden. There, however, frustration was waiting for SMU again, as the Mustangs lost to Minnesota 65-63.
SMU finished the season an impressive 27-10, 12-6 in the AAC. That conference was decent this year, as shown by the fact that Connecticut, which finished with the same conference record as the Mustangs, is preparing for Saturday’s national semifinal vs. Florida at the Final Four.
The conference also featured defending national champion Louisville, which made the Sweet 16, and Cincinnati, one of the best defensive teams in the country. How SMU got left out going 12-6 against that competition is anyone’s guess.
However, an NIT title would have been a nice boost for a program that has already had an amazing turnaround year for head coach Larry Brown. The 27 wins are the most in team history, and this was a rare deep run into a postseason tournament.
The 37 games were big for SMU’s underclassmen and that should be a big boost to the Mustangs next year in a reformed AAC that will no longer feature Louisville as the Cardinals are leaving for the ACC. Brown also has highly-touted point guard recruit Emmanuel Mudiay, a five-star recruit who is the nation’s best high school point guard according to Scout.com.
Mudiay is also from Dallas, which makes him a big recruit for Brown in terms of keeping a top local talent home for college.
The only wrench in the works for SMU is how long will Brown will have to coach the Mustangs. Famous for being a bit of a drifter who never stays in any job for that many years, the school has to hope that Brown enjoyed this season and coaching these players enough that he’s going to stay committed for another two to three years as Mudiay blossoms and SMU maybe even improves on this year’s record win total.
Brown is 73 years old, and SMU is the 13th college or pro team for which he has been the head coach. If Brown sticks around, if Mudiay is the real deal and if the current roster uses this 37-game slate as a teaching tool, despite the postseason frustration, SMU could be a force for years to come.