The SMU Mustangs return four of their five top scorers from their 2014-15 season. They are the defending champions of the American Athletic Conference, both in conference play and in the end-of-season tournament. The team had a win over UCLA in the bag until a phantom goaltending call gifted the Bruins with a victory in the opening round. The Mustangs had not been in the NCAA tournament but looked like a sure lock to make it back this NCAAB betting season.
Then, of course, the NCAA stepped in. Never mind the ongoing academic fraud that seems to be part and parcel of North Carolina basketball. Never mind the legion of strippers that Louisville appears to have brought in to service their recruits. One assistant coach helping one player out with one online course was enough to get SMU banned from postseason play this season. Never mind that the assistant coach is gone, so neither will have the consequences that have fallen on the rest of the team.
How SMU’S PostSeason Ban Affects Their NCAA Hoops Odds
— SI College Hoops (@si_ncaabb) November 11, 2015
Nic Moore returns for his senior season, though, to give the Mustangs some solid leadership. Ranked #22 in early polls, the Mustangs will rely on Moore to provide their moivation. He led the team in points, steals and assists last season. From downtown he led the whole conference – and he also was the AAC’s best free throw shooter. They also bring back AAC Sixth Man of the Year Markus Kennedy, who will have to shoulder more of the rebounding and interior defense since the team will be smaller. Incoming freshman Malik (Shake) Milton will be another backcourt talent.
An X-factor will be junior guard Keith Frazier, known for his solid shot. Of course, he is also the player whose online course led to the academic fraud case in the first place. It remains to be seen how he will handle the emotional toll that that knowledge has for him the whole season.
SMU’s primary competition in the conference will come from Connecticut and Cincinnati. Tulsa had a strong beginning to their AAC slate but then faded down the stretch. Bringing up the rear in the AAC will be USF, UCF, Tulane and East Carolina. Houston should be better than last season’s 4-14 conference record.
What does coach Brown have to say?
What does head coach Larry Brown have to say about this year’s Mustang season? He said this to SI.com: “I don’t think you’re ever real good unless you have good seniors, so Jordan Tolbert, Markus and Nic have to step up. Nic is so competitive that when things don’t go right, he lets his emotions take over. He’s gotten better at handling that adversity. We’re much deeper than last year. We can play 10 or 11 guys, we can play big, we can play small, we can play slow or fast. The concern last year is last year we had more rim protectors…Markus Kennedy should be a pro. He is in the best shape of his life. He just has to bring it every day.”
The hope is that the Mustangs will rally up to their potential and then reload with some more talent to qualify for the NCAAs again… in a year.