Saturday Proved That SMU Basketball Is Officially Ready For The National Stage.
Saturday was a special day at Moody Coliseum for the Southern Methodist University men's basketball team.
First, ESPN's College Gameday was on hand, broadcasting its show live from the SMU campus to preview the Mustangs' matchup with its conference rival — not to mention the defending national champion — the UConn Huskies. Then, in front of a record-setting Moody crowd of 7,395, the Mustangs extended its undefeated record against the Huskies to an impressive 4-0 with a dominant 73-55 thumping of the Huskies.
Seems Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown has turned the corner that alumni and fans alike prayed he would when he took over the program three years ago. As of now, though, this was the program's biggest moment: At no point during ESPN's College Gameday broadcast, the nationally-televised game or the press conference afterward was SMU ever spoken of as an underdog.
Nope. The Mustangs are the leaders of the pack now. And with a record of 21-5 that puts them in first place — boasting a two-game lead, no less — in the American Athletic Conference and has earned the team a No. 21 ranking in Associated Press poll, the team now controls its own destiny. And, suddenly, those fan-hoisted signs boasting “We Want Kentucky” on Saturday maybe don't seem like silly Gameday cries for camera time.
If the Mustangs are going to continue this run of dominance — and avoid the end-of-season meltdown that plagued this team last year and cost the Mustangs their chance at the NCAA Tournament — the team's going to have to do so by relying heavily on its front court. On Saturday night, the Mustangs sure did: The team's four-man front-court rotation of Ben Moore, Yanick Moreira, Markus Kennedy and Cannen Cunningham combined for 38 of the team's 75 points; in the process, they took loads of pressure off of this team's clear leader, junior point guard Nic Moore, who is still plenty capable of putting the team on his back if need be.
So far, it seems that, so long as the Mustangs can avoid either the Cincinnati Bearcats, a team it's lost to twice now, or similarly physical teams like the Arkansas Razorbacks, who beat up on the Mustangs earlier in the season, SMU is positioned well for a run.
Ending up in the NIT last year — and not the NCAA Tournament — was surely a rude awakening for this team. In turn, it's a safe bet that this Mustangs squad will everything in its power to finish this season on a high note.
If any college basketball team in the country knows that nothing in this game is guaranteed, it's this one.