#19 SMU Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

SMU Mustangs

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #19
Conference Rank: #1 American

SMU Team Page#19 SMU Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy SMU Basketball Tickets

Head coach Larry Brown has brought the Southern Methodist Mustangs to heights the school hasn’t seen in decades. As with all of his previous college stops though, the presence of Brown seems to bring with it the hint, and eventually the existence, of rule breaking. This time, this year, for SMU, the rule breaking pertains to unethical conduct and academic fraud in regards to junior guard Keith Frazier. Because of NCAA violations, the team has been banned from postseason play, among other sanctions levied. Even if Brown was unaware of such improprieties, and his nine-game suspension implies otherwise, he doesn’t really deserve the benefit of the doubt. Which begs the question, was hiring Brown worth it for SMU?

2014-15 Record: 27-7, 15-3
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Larry Brown
Coach Record: 69-34 at SMU, 241-94 in NCAA

Who’s Out:
SMU is going to be very good this year, hence the high preseason prognostications. There are not a whole lot of major pieces gone from last year’s 27-win team. Even the player at the heart of this scandal, Frazier, is eligible to play this season according to a statement made by Brown. The main players who are out are 6-11 and 6-10 senior centers Yanick Moreira and Cannen Cunningham. After two seasons at SMU, Moreira moved onto the pros, where he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. He was a major force in the paint for the Mustangs despite low minute totals. Last season, he led the club in rebounds and blocks while averaging double-figures scoring in fewer than 25 MPG. Cunningham also moved on after three seasons. He never improved upon his first year at SMU but was still a piece on the interior for an otherwise undersized squad. Outside of the two bigs, the only other departure from SMU’s deep nine-man rotation is guard Ryan Manuel. Manuel didn’t put up the biggest stats, but he filled in the box score, shot very well from the floor and actually finished second on the team in minutes in 2014-15, trailing only Nic Moore.

Who’s In:
While Brown brought in a three-player recruiting class of players 3-star and above, the main ingredients added to the Mustang attack this year are former Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye and former Texas Tech player Jordan Tolbert. Ojeleye and Tolbert left Duke and TT respectively in 2014 and joined SMU but had to sit out the year. They are now eligible for this season and should have a major impact. Ojeleye is a junior, though never played more than scraps as a Blue Devil. However, he was very highly regarded coming out of high school in 2013. He was rated as a 4-star prospect with a good body and good skills. For SMU, he should slide in as a wing/power forward who can bang inside. Tolbert is much more experienced, having played more than 700 minutes each of his two seasons as a Red Raider. At 6-7, he is a bit undersized for power forward (like Ojeleye) but put up good numbers in the spot. He averaged at least 10 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot over 54 percent from the floor both years at his old school. Joining them are a pair of 3-star freshmen, small forward Jarrey Foster and point guard Sedrick Barefield, as well as 4-star point guard Malik Milton. Unlike play-making PGs like Nic Moore, Milton is a large and long guard who looks to create offense for his teammates.

Who to Watch:
Everybody else! Seniors Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy are back; as are upper-classmen Frazier, Ben Moore, Sterling Brown and Ben Emelogu. While last year’s team had the two giant centers to rotate in, this year’s team is going to be strictly forwards and guards. No one returning or entering is taller than the 6-9 Kennedy, and he can’t control the paint on his own. The group has been and will continue to be a lot of fun to watch though. Nic Moore, at just 5-9, has led the team in scoring each of the past two seasons. Emelogu is an interesting watch as well. He transferred from Virginia Tech and contributed sparingly as one of the nine Mustangs players to garner at least 15 minutes per game. But as a freshman at VT, Emelogu was a very solid player. He was actually named a team captain as a freshman and scored in double figures while averaging a shade over 27 MPG. It will be interesting to see, now having had the time to acclimate, what type of leadership role he can carve out for himself at SMU.

Final Projection:
SMU has come out and said it will not appeal the ruling of a postseason ban for this season. The players released a statement essentially begging the university to do otherwise, but SMU is holding fast with its agreement of the punishment. Well, with its agreement of that punishment. Other penalties are being challenged, such as scholarship losses and vacated wins. As always with the NCAA, the only people truly being punished are kids that weren’t involved in the wrongdoing. As for this season’s outcome, the Mustangs have the talent to finish with the best record in the American Athletic Conference if they can shake off the news whirlwind surrounding them.

Projected Postseason Tournament: None

Projected Starting Five:
Nic Moore, Senior, Guard, 14.5 points per game
Sterling Brown, Junior, Guard, 5.2 points per game
Keith Frazier, Junior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Ben Moore, Junior, Forward, 7.1 points per game
Markus Kennedy, Senior, Forward, 11.9 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.1 (124th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 59.8 (20, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.5 (26, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.1 (5, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 4.3 (329, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.3 (82, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.3 (129, 2)
Rebound Margin: 6.7 (17, 1)
Assists Per Game: 15.4 (24, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.5 (173, 5)


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