One of the more heartbreaking stories of college basketball this season is the fact that undefeated Southern Methodist, currently ranked No. 8, is ineligible for the 2016 NCAA Tournament due to academic violations regarding former player Keith Frazier.
The Mustangs are still playing great basketball despite that, and ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg spoke on a conference call and said that were it not for the postseason ban, SMU would definitely be in the Final Four conversation.
“I think they’re terrific. What do you need to be a terrific basketball team? You need to be efficient offensively. They are. You need to be able to make shots. They do. You need to have an elite point guard. They have one. You need to have post guys that can carve out space, pass the ball, and play off ball screens. They do. You need to be able to defend. They can. They’re coached by a Hall of Fame coach that manages the game probably as good as anyone. You need to execute at the end of the game. They do,” he noted.
“Look, at Memphis, at Cincinnati, at Connecticut, at Temple, those are going to be tough games. There’s no doubt about it. But this team is a team that because of the way they play and I know Coach [Larry] Brown always talks about “playing the right way,” they can play the right way. And do they have a cause now? Yeah, they do have a cause. Would that cause have them play well in the NCAA Tournament? Yeah, I think it would. They’re a team that could have been in the conversation to make it to the Final Four because the pieces fit. You don’t need more than seven. They do it all in preparation and practice and having guys that can play multiple positions is a great help to them.”
It’s certainly hard to argue with Greenberg’s sentiment. Sure, SMU doesn’t play in a top conference and the American Athletic Conference (AAC) isn’t exactly stacked from top to bottom like the Power 5 conferences are, but being undefeated this far into the season certainly counts for something.
It’s also worth noting that SMU ranks 11th in the nation in assists per game and 13th in points allowed. Watching this team is like basketball ballet, with the communication and chemistry near perfect. Were they allowed to participate in the big dance this year, keeping them from making a deep run would certainly be tough.
Hopefully, the Mustangs’ momentum carries over into next season so that fans can get a chance to see how well this Larry Brown-coached squad does.