SMU's Nic Moore Was Just Named The American Athletic Conference's Player of the Year.
Before this season even started, the Southern Methodist University men's basketball team and its fanbase alike were expecting great things.
Specifically — and on the back of can't-miss point guard prospect Emmanuel Mudiay — the team was looking forward to top-three rankings and a renewed energy surrounding the program. Mudiay, as the incoming floor general, would lead the way there; junior point guard Nic Moore, already a lead contributor on the floor, would transition to shooting guard and enjoy the ride.
Of course, that's not how things worked out: Mudiay left SMU at the altar and jetted off to China for a pro career; and the Mustangs, for all their preseason hype, were left with essentially the same rotation they featured last year.
That said: Moore remaining at the point guard position was never reason for concern. He came into the season as a unanimous All-AAC first-team selection and contributed this season just as such a highly regarded player would be expected to: He led the Mustangs to a 24-6 regular season record and a conference title. He also led the team in scoring (14.4 points per game), assists (5.3 per game), steals (1.4 per game) and free throw percentage (87.5 percent).
Better yet: After being named a unanimous selection to this year's AAC all-conference team earlier this week, Moore was just named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year today.
It's a well-deserved honor. Moore earned the award with consistent play throughout the season, leading the team on its push for the AAC regular season title and a possible, and likely, NCAA Tournament berth for the team. To be sure, the Mustangs' front court play was a big factor, with players such as junior Markus Kennedy, senior Cannen Cunningham and senior Yanick Moreira arguably outshining Moore's contributions at points, but the guard's 43 percent three-point shooting rate, clutch free throw abilities and overall tenacity still played a huge role in keeping the Mustangs ahead in close games down the stretch.
That said, Moore's hardly the only Mustang being decorated of late: Kennedy has been named the AAC Sixth Man of the Year, Moreira has been deemed the conference's Most Improved Player of the Year, and both players were named to the second All-AAC teams.
So, y'know, in case you haven't yet received the memo: Similar as this year's roster is to last year's, the Mustangs aren't a team to be overlooked. The nationally No. 20-ranked SMU heads into this weekend's AAC championship as conference tournament's No. 1 seed. After a bye, the team will face the winner of the first-round game between No. 8 Eastern Carolina and No. 9 University of Central Florida on Friday.