BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Mustangs trailed the James Madison University Dukes for most of the game Saturday night.  For a moment, it appeared the Ponies had rallied for a fairy tale ending to SMU’s 100 year anniversary homecoming game, as they scored a pair of touchdowns in the final six minutes to overcome a 10 point deficit and lead 45-41.  Unfortunately, there was a bit more than two minutes left in the game when they took the lead, and the Dukes easily executed their two minute offensive drill after receiving the ensuing kickoff to put the winning touchdown on the board with just seconds remaining in the game.  That gave JMU a 48-45 win.

There is disappointment in the Mustang nation over losing to an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) team.  It was just the fifth time this season that an FCS team (formerly known as Division I-AA) has beaten an FBS team (Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A), but this James Madison team is very good and is capable of beating a lot of FBS teams.  The Dukes clearly dominated this game statistically as their prolific offense racked up 729 yards.  JMU is 4-0, and has amassed at least 600 total yards on offense in each of the four games.

JMU’s quarterback, Vad Lee, romped seemingly at will against the porous Mustang defense.  The Georgia Tech transfer, who was a third team FCS All-American last year, ran for 276 yards on 20 carries and passed for 289 more, as he completed 20 of 33 passes.  His quarterback rating for the game was 146!   The 565 yards of total offense smashed the old school record of 478, which Lee had set previously.  He was named FCS “Player of the Week” for the second time this season with the performance.

The good news for the Mustangs came on the offensive side of the ball.  They scored a season high 45 points, as each week, the Ponies have scored more than their previous game.  The record reads 1-3, but SMU has scored 134 points in those four games, one more point than they scored in 12 games last season.

Courtland Sutton continues to establish himself as one of the top receivers in the conference, if not the country.  He caught five passes for 137 yards.  One went for a touchdown, his fifth of the year.  He has scored a TD in each game so far this year.

Quarterback Matt Davis was 18-30 for 262 passing yards.  He also ran the ball 17 times for 95 yards and two touchdowns.  It was the third straight game in which he scored two touchdowns.

The two freshmen running backs also had nice games.  Xavier Jones ran the ball 17 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns, while Braeden West gained 61 yards on eight carries.  One of his runs went for a touchdown.

The Mustangs host East Carolina University this weekend to open American Athletic Conference play.  Game time is 3:00 PM Saturday.  The Pirates are 2-2 on the season coming off a 35-28 win over Virginia Tech last weekend.  A check of seven Las Vegas betting lines has ECU favored by five points on three, 5.5 points on three and six points on one.


*     Field goal kicker Chad Hedlund hit a career long field goal of 52 yards.  That ties him for the seventh longest field goal in SMU history.

*     SMU’s defense did have three interceptions, and the Mustangs also recovered an on-sides kick.  All four resulted in SMU scores.

*     JMU moved up to number six in the FCS Top 25 poll this week.


BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

TCU won Saturday night 56-37 to retain the Iron Skillet for another year, but make no mistake about it; the Horned Frogs knew they were in a ball game.  For SMU, a loss is still a loss, and that’s not good; but Saturday night’s performance is one of the best losses in Mustang history.  The team obviously came to play.  They weren’t intimidated by the opponent ranked number three in the nation.  In many ways, the 37 points and 508 total yards they racked up against the Horned Frogs were more impressive than beating the University of North Texas a week earlier.

Even head coach Chad Morris said afterward, “I told our guys there are winners and learners.  We learned a valuable lesson.”

The Mustangs took the opening kickoff and marched smartly down the field for a touchdown.  TCU had not previously been scored upon in the first quarter this year.  The Horned Frogs quickly came back to tie the game when they got the ball.  However, the Mustangs moved the ball again on their second possession to drive for a field goal that put them ahead 10-7.

From there, the tide turned to the Frogs.  They proceeded to score 21 unanswered points.  For recent editions of Mustang football teams, that would have been the knockout punch.  Not these Mustangs.  They scrambled for another TD late in the first half that cut the half time deficit to 28-17.

The Frogs appeared to have delivered the knockout punch for good when they scored touchdowns on their first two second half possessions to run their lead to 25 points at 42-17.  This Mustang club still didn’t quit though.

SMU scored on their next four possessions (two touchdowns and two field goals) to get within five points at 42-37.  However, the Frogs closed out the game with two touchdowns to secure the win.

Freshman redshirt Courtland Sutton continues to impress.  The 6′-4″, 215 receiver caught four passes for 115 yards.  One of the passes was good for a touchdown, such that he’s now scored four on the season with at least one in each game.  He also made a SportsCenter quality catch that was nullified by a holding penalty.  One national writer has nicknamed him “Megatron”.  He’s a great athlete, and the sky is the limit for how good this guy can become.  Make no mistake about it though, he’s good right now!

Quarterback Matt Davis continues to be a great leader as well as a fine player.  He was responsible for 392 yards of total offense, one yard shy of his career high set against Tulsa last season.  He threw for 330 yards, rushed for 62 more, and scored two touchdowns for the second straight game.  Morris tried hard to get Davis to come to Clemson four years ago.  The coach/quarterback partnership finally happened in Dallas instead of South Carolina.  It’s working well.

At the end of the day, the Mustangs are 1-2; but both losses are to teams ranked in the top five in the nation.  It’s the most difficult schedule in the early going of this year’s college football season.  A win next week against FCS, the former Division 1-AA, James Madison is a must to give the Mustangs a chance of going to a bowl game.  Plus, next weekend is Homecoming and the celebration of SMU’s 100th birthday.  Don’t expect an easy game though.  The JMU Dukes are 3-0 and made the FCS playoffs last year.

After last year’s 1-9 season, the terms “SMU” and “bowl game” didn’t fit into the same sentence; but with what the Mustangs have shown in three games to start the season, a bowl game has to be considered a reasonable possibility.  Some national writers are so impressed, that they have speculated that the Mustangs could challenge for the American Athletic Conference title.  That’s still a stretch, and going to a bowl game may be too; but the SMU players are making both look at least possible.


*     37 points scored is the most the Mustangs have ever scored against a top 5 team.

*     SMU did not commit a turnover Saturday night which snapped a streak of 27 games for TCU in which the Frogs had created at least one turnover.

*     Matt Davis completed 17 passes in 31 attempts for 330 yards, eclipsing his previous career high of 212.

*     Kicker Chad Hedlund was perfect on seven kicks.  He scored a career high 13 points by going 4-4 on points after touchdowns and by kicking field goals of 22, 21 and 32 yards.

*     Corner back Horace Richardson had an interception for the second straight game.  It was the only turnover of the game.

*     Saturday’s crowd was 48,127, the third largest crowd in Amon G. Carter Stadium history.

*     Wide receiver Ryheem Malone had 90 receiving yards on three receptions, one of which went for 63 yards.  Both 90 and 63 are career highs.


BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU beat North Texas State Saturday night 31-13 for the first win of the season and the first win for new Head Football Coach Chad Morris, who experienced a Powerade Shower from his players.  A year ago, North Texas pounded the Mustangs 43-6, so Saturday’s result represents a 55 point turnaround.  The win matched last year’s SMU win total for the season and was the first home win in almost two years.

For sure the difference is Morris.  He is known for his energy, and that has trickled down to his players.  There was clearly a different, more upbeat demeanor on the bench and on the field.  He told the media after the game, “I tell our guys all the time this game is fun, but the fun is in the winning.  This is the first of many to come.”

The Mustangs put up 444 total yards of offense, almost double North Texas’ total of 240.  However, the game was far closer than the final score and stats suggest.  SMU appeared to have the game well at hand early, but continually cost themselves points with turnovers.  Two fumbles in the red zone cost the Mustangs at least 10 first half points, and two others gave North Texas a short field for a pair of field goals.  Indeed the Mustangs’ defense did well to hold the Mean Green to three points on those two possessions.

North Texas actually rallied to take a 13-10 lead late in the third quarter.  The Mustangs responded though with touchdowns on their next three possessions to put the game away.

The offense under Morris looks far different from the June Jones spread.  The execution is far crisper.  “We have to run the ball to be successful,” Morris said on his post-game radio interview on KTCK 1310 AM, the “Ticket”.  Freshmen Xavier Jones gives the Mustangs quickness and speed at running back.  Upper classman Prescott Line provides power running inside.  It’s a good combination to go along with scrambling quarterback Matt Davis.

Davis led the Mustangs with 125 rushing yards Saturday night and ran for two touchdowns.  It was his third straight 100 yard rushing performance.  He has now reached 100 yards in four of his seven starts at SMU.  Jones added 94 more rushing yards, as the Mustangs ran for 275 in the game, more than North Texas’s total offense.

In the passing game, Davis was 17-24 for 171 yards and two touchdowns.  Ryheem Malone (six) and Courtland Sutton (five) combined for 11 of the 17 receptions.  One of Courtland’s receptions went for a touchdown.  He has three on the season, after catching two TD passes against Baylor.

It was indeed a delightful night for football.  The temperature fell into the 70′s during the game.  Former President George W. Bush was on had for the coin toss.  A crowd of 25,401 attended.

Morris said about the crowd, “Our student section and our fans were outstanding again tonight.  This is two weeks in a row.  They came early and stayed late.  Hats off to them.  They were the difference.”

The Mustangs travel to number three TCU next weekend in the battle for the iron skillet.  The next home game is September 26 against James Madison University, which is SMU’s homecoming game.

COCTAIL CONVERSATION:  The Mustangs wore royal blue helmets, which will be worn for special occasions in the future.  The special occasion Saturday night was a remembrance of the people that died and the police and fire responders 14 years ago in New York at the 9/11 Twin Towers tragedy. 


BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The first football game of new head coach Chad Morris’s regime is less than two weeks away, but this past weekend, another SMU sport took the spotlight.  Golfer Bryan DeChambeau made history by winning the U. S. Amateur last Sunday.  The senior beat University of Virginia junior Derek Bard 7 and 6 in the 36 hole final at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Illinois.

DeChambeau became just the fifth golfer in history to win the U. S. Amateur and the NCAA individual title in the same year, joining select company.  The other four are Jack Nicklaus in 1961, Phil Mikelson in 1990, Tiger Woods in 1996 and Ryan Moore in 2004.

“It’s an honor to be in that field,” DeChambeau told the Associated Press.

DeChambeau is also the fourth SMU golfer to win the U. S. Amateur.  The other three are Hank Kuehne in 1998, Colt Knost in 2007 and Kelly Kraft in 2011.

He beat some impressive opponents in the match play event.  They included Paul Dunne, who played particularly well as an amateur in the British Open, Maverick McNealey of Stanford, the NCAA Player of the Year, and All-American Matt Nesmith from the University of South Carolina.

By virtue of his play last week, DeChambeau gets exemptions into the 2016 U. S. Open, the 2016 British Open, and likely an invitation to the 2016 Masters.

Last week, the athletic department announced the non-conference Men’s basketball schedule.  The first game is at home November 14 against Sam Houston State.  Game time is 7:00 PM.  The two highlight games in the home portion of the non-conference schedule are Michigan on December 8, which will be televised by ESPN2 (8:00 PM start time) and Gonzaga on Saturday, February 13, which also will be televised on ESPN2 and which has a 9:00 PM start time.  (Times referenced are Central.)

Another home game of interest is Brown University on Sunday, November 29 at 2:00 PM.  One of the Brown players is Junior Steven Spieth, the younger brother of Jordan Spieth of PGA tour fame.  Unfortunately, big brother will not be in town to see little brother play basketball, as he has committed to play in the Australian Open that weekend.

SMU had earlier announced that the Mustangs were entered in the Las Vegas Classic on December 22 and 23.  The Mustangs open with a game against Kent State on December 22.  The other game in the classic pits Colorado against Penn State.  On December 23, the winners from those two games play for first place, while the losers play a consolation game.

SMU Athletics, the Mustang Club, and the SMU Alumni Association have secured special seating in Orleans Arena for the event.

There are a total of eight non-conference games at Moody Coliseum.  The Mustangs also play in Ft. Worth against TCU on Wednesday, December 2.

Another notable game on the schedule is game two of the season.  The Mustangs play at Stanford.

As for football, the Mustangs open the season against Baylor at Ford Stadium.  The game will be televised on ESPN on Friday, September 4, the Friday before Labor Day.

A pair of Mustangs have made the watch list for prestigious post season honors.  SMU senior center Taylor Lasecki was named to the Remington Trophy Fall watch list, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding center in college football.  The award is named after Nebraska’s outstanding center, Dave Remington, an All-American in 1981 and 1982.

This is the third consecutive year that Lasecki has made the watch list.  He has made 36 starts on the offensive line in his SMU career, 34 of which have been at center.  There are 63 centers on the list, 17 of which have been nominated previously.

Senior defensive lineman Cameron Smith made the Wuerffel Trophy watch list.  The Weurffel trophy is known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service”.  It is presented by the All Sports Association in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and it is named after Danny Wuerffel, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner.  The Wuerffel Trophy is awarded to the FBS (Division 1-A) player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.

Smith, a senior has appeared in 36 games for the Mustangs including all 13 in his freshman year in 2011.

As for the team itself, incumbent Matt Davis has won the quarterback competition.  The junior led the Mustangs last season in rushing with 613 yards and passing with 855 despite starting just five games.  Prescott Line returns at running back, but head coach Chad Morris noted that true freshmen Xavier Jones and Braeden West have been outstanding.  Morris is also expecting significant contributions at wide receiver from incoming freshmen Kevin Thomas, Alex Honey and Xavier Castille.  Two are likely starters.  James Poche was expected to be part of that group, but he has been ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA.  He can practice this fall and sit on the bench at home games, but will not be allowed to travel with the team.


*     Tight end Jeremiah Gaines was awarded the number 23 jersey this season.  Since 2009, a deserving player on the team has been chosen to wear number 23 in honor of Jerry Levias.  Gaines wore number 84 last year.


BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

BASKETBALL:  Summer basketball practice is taking place now.  It began with the first summer school session which is winding up shortly.  Teams are allowed two hours per week of practice on the court with the coaches plus time in the weight room.  These practices are closed to the public and media per NCAA rules.  Players can also play on their own, and they do.  There actually were not all that many players working out during the first summer school session.  Nic Moore for example has been playing with Kansas.  Some of the incoming freshmen did not participate as their high school spring semesters had not ended when the first session of summer school began.

The second session of summer school begins July 6.  More of the players are expected to participate then.

Keith Frazier has been seen in the weight room and is participating.  Officially, SMU has no comment on his status after he sat out the spring semester for academic reasons.

The NBA draft takes place this week, and there is considerable interest in Emmanuel Mudiay.  Mudiay was the SMU 2014 commit that decided to forego his scholarship to accept an offer to play in China, citing financial reasons.  As luck would have it, he was injured and played only 12 games for the Guangdong Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association.  That computed to about $100,000 per game played.

He was essentially out of sight in China, but not out of mind for NBA teams.  He is projected to be selected among the first 10, and very likely among the first five picks in the draft.

Head Coach Larry Brown still wonders “What if” in regards to Mudiay playing at SMU.  “If we’d had him on our team, we might have been playing for the national championship.  In my heart, I believe we’d have been as good as anybody,” Brown told the Dallas Morning News this week.

GOLF:  SMU’s Bryson Dechambeau claimed the individual championship in this year’s NCAA Golf Championship in Bradenton, Florida.  The junior finished eight under par beating Washington’s Cheng-Tsung Pan by one stroke.  His four day total was 280, a new SMU record.  He became the first SMU golfer to win the individual National Championship.

He qualified for the U. S. Open at a qualifying event in Columbus, Ohio and has earned exemptions to two other PGA Tour events – The Fed-Ex St. Jude Classic in Memphis and the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois.

FOOTBALL:  This month has been a banner month for new head coach Chad Morris’s recruiting efforts.   The Mustangs commits rose to 14 on June 15, when they landed two linebackers from Mansfield Timberview – Michael Badejo and Craig Jim-Lawson.

Billy Embody, an SMU recruiting expert, was interviewed in the Dallas Morning News.  Among his comments about Morris and his staff’s recruiting efforts so far, “It’s so much better than it was a year ago from a talent standpoint.  It’s different in terms of the momentum they’ve built and how active they are on social media.  The recruits are excited.

He particularly sited Badejo as a player that can have an immediate impact.  He also noted that quarterback David Moore is a “ringleader”.  “he’s reaching out to prospects and trying to get others to commit.”

Embody particularly noted the interest high school coaches are showing in SMU and the reception they are getting from Morris and his staff to assist them in their coaching jobs.

Verbal commitments are not binding, and the school does not comment on verbal commitments.  For sure though, there is a buzz to SMU football recruiting that’s been absent for a long time.

He thinks wide receiver Joshua Shelmire can be a sleeper impact player.  He’s 6′-2″ and is a track star with elite speed.

Reader Ryan Phillips wrote with an interesting note.  He sent a list of the top 101 NFL players of the 2014 season.  There were more than 2000 players last season among the 32 teams, so the top 101 represents less than 5%.  There are about 125 division one schools, so the top 101 NFLers mathematically doesn’t allow every D-1 school to have a player on the list.  SMU has two!

Kelvin Beechum, left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, came in at 67.  A key stat for his play was his pass blocking efficiency.  He was second best among all left tackles.

Emmanuel Sanders, a wide receiver with the Denver Broncos, checked in at 42.  His key stat was a drop rate of 1.04, second best of all wide receivers.


BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – Renewals for basketball season tickets went out over the past couple of weeks.  The athletic department isn’t saying, but they already have a good idea of how many are going to be renewed.  At this time, there are very few seats available to be purchased on a season ticket basis without a corresponding Mustang Club donation.  The donations were due March 15 in order for current season ticket holders to renew their seats.

The price of Larry Brown and the success he has brought to the Hilltop doesn’t come cheap.  In most cases, the donation level was doubled to maintain season tickets.  One friend reported that his donation level is now $5,000 per seat for two seats located under a basket on the floor.  With the cost of the tickets added to the donation, he will be paying almost $350 per ticket per game to retain those seats, based upon an 18 game home schedule.

Last season, every ticket available on a season ticket basis was sold.  There are no reports yet on the retention rate, but the betting here is that the doubling of the Mustang Club donations in most cases will deter few from renewing their tickets.

Last week, the American Athletic Conference announced the format for the conference basketball schedule.  With 11 teams in the conference, a school plays eight of the other 10 schools twice, home and home, and just one game against the other two.  For SMU, the “other two teams” are Central Florida at home and Temple on the road.  The Mustangs will play Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, South Florida, Tulane and Tulsa home and home.

The AAC men’s basketball post-season tournament will be hosted by Central Florida at the Amway Center in Orlando on March 10-13.

Michigan and Gonzaga are two of the teams that will play in Moody in non-conference play.  The Michigan game is set for Tuesday, December 8, but the date of the Gonzaga game has not been announced.  An 18 game home schedule is anticipated, so the Mustangs expect to announce seven more non-conference opponents in the near future.

The Mustangs also signed another player, Simeon Carter.  He’s a 6′-8″ power forward from West Charlotte High School in North Carolina.  Carter will join Markus Kennedy, Ben Moore, Jordan Tolbert and Semi Ojeleye as the big men under the basket.  He’s a three star rated prospect that averaged 14.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per game for West Charlotte.

Carter also joins Guards Shake Milton and Sedrick Barefield as well as wing Jarrey Foster as the other freshmen in this year’s recruiting class.

The Mustangs have one available scholarship at this point.

Nic Moore has been named to play for Kansas in the World University games in South Korea this summer.  Kansas head coach explained that they could take 12 players and were short because Svi Mykhailiuk can’t go because he is not a US citizen, and Brannen Greene is recovering from recent hip surgery.

Self noted that the Mustangs do a lot of the same things Kansas does, so he felt Moore would be a good fit.

Jordan Tolbert is also planning to play in Europe this summer.  The summer experience of playing for the Angola national team certainly improved Yanick Moreira’s play last year, and almost certainly the experience of international play will help Moore and Tolbert.


BY:  Richard W, Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – There’s an old saying that the two most important sports in Texas are football and spring football.  This past Saturday, there was a spring football game at Ford Stadium for the first time since 2007.  Former head coach June Jones eschewed the practice, but new head coach Chad Morris utilized the game to garner support for the program.

There was an estimated crowd of 5,000 in attendance on a perfect day weather-wise.  The game rules were modified considerably as was the scoring.  The defense for example could earn two points for a sack or a tackle for a loss, while the offense could earn two points for a run of 15 yards or more or a completed pass of at least 20 yards.

Morris said about the offense, “We simplified things and built from the ground up.”

At the key positions, incumbent Matt Davis is the apparent number one quarterback.  He took the field first with Prescott Line as his running back.  Freshman Ben Hicks a mid-term high school graduate that enrolled at SMU this spring is the second team quarterback.  Davis completed 8-13 with no interceptions for 134 yard and two touchdowns.  Hicks was 3-9 with no interceptions for 47 yards and one touchdown.

Line led the running backs by gaining 69 yards on nine carries.  His longest run was 25 yards and he scored one touchdown.  Daniel Gresham had the most carries – 10 – gaining only 14 yards, which included one carry for a six yard loss.  Darrel Colbert netted 24 yards on eight carries, and Darius Durall netted six yards on nine carries.

Courtland Sutton, a redshirt freshman from Brenham, had the biggest day among the receivers.  The 6′-4″, 215 wide out caught six passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns.  Anthony Buffini and Shelby Walker each caught three passes.

The defense looked well ahead of the offense, certainly a good sign for one of the most porous defensive teams in the country last fall.  Kyran Mitchell led with seven unassisted tackles including a sack.

Morris did note though about the defense, “We’re a long way from being where we want to be.”

The offense was ragged with way too many procedure penalties, but the offense improved over the course of the game.

Morris hasn’t officially named anyone as the starting quarterback or running back.  Even if he had done so, he noted before the game, “Nobody’s signing along term contracts on starting.”

For sure though, the excitement over the new coach and the future of SMU football was evident.  Morris spoke about the high school football coaches that came to watch practices.

“The reception of high school coaches, we knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t think it would be this big.”  He estimated that about 1,000 high school coaches came to look at the program during the course of the 14  spring training practices.  “We’ve had as many as 250 to 300 a day come out to practice, and a lot of them stay after to talk football.  It’s been fun.  It’s been unbelievable.”  He’s confident that it will pay off in recruiting.

A number of recruits attended the game Saturday, including four-star prospects Frisco offensive tackle Jack Anderson and Plano East linebacker Anthony Hines.

Three former Mustang players currently in the NFL – Richard Crawford (Chargers), Sterling Moore (Buccaneers) and Kelvin  Beachum (Steelers) were also in attendance.  Head basketball coach Larry Brown took the field and the microphone to thank the fans in attendance and to urge their support of the football team.  He was also presented a framed jersey of the latest All-American player that he coached – Nic Moore.

“There’s so much energy right now,” Morris said.  “Just the participation, the donations; people want to be a part of a winner and we’ve got to put a product on the field to make people feel excited about.  And if we do that, there will be more and more of them coming out.”

Through 14 practices, we’ve actually gotten better, a LOT better,” Morris said.  “I’m excited about the guys we’ve got.  These guys are going to five us everything they’ve got.  They’ll play hard.  We’re going to coach them hard.”

As for how successful the team can be this fall, Morris said about a bowl game, “There is no reason that can’t happen.”

For sure the energy was felt Saturday just being there.  It’s a new day in SMU football.


BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

UCLA plays Gonzaga tonight in Houston in the NCAA round of 16.  The Bruins had little difficulty dispensing with Alabama-Birmingham after the controversial goal tending call provided the winning points over SMU in their tournament opening game.  It’s been more than a week since the Mustangs bowed out of the tournament, but the disappointment, which was described by one SMU fan in Louisville as devastating, hasn’t gone away.

The call is surely the most controversial one from the first 56 games in the tournament.  When the last 11 games have been played, that will likely still be true.  Opinions of the so called expert commentators run the gamut.  Some tell us it was the right call under the rules.  Others think it’s one of the worst calls in NCAA Tournament history.

I don’t claim to know the nuances of the goal tending rules.  However, irrespective of the view from the camera above the basket, I believe there is serious doubt the shot would have hit the rim, which seems to be the basis that the call was correct.

We now know that a goal tending call is not reviewable on video.  However, referees frequently huddle to discuss a call among themselves.  Often, calls are reversed.  It is disappointing that the referees didn’t huddle in this case.  The ref that made the call was a good 30 feet from the basket.  Perhaps one of the other two closer to the basket would have had a different opinion.  From the referees’ standpoint, given the importance of the call, it’s amazing they didn’t huddle to discuss it just for appearance’s sake.

The bottom line though is that I’m not joining other SMU fans in Houston to see the Mustangs play Gonzaga tonight.  People from Los Angeles have taken our place.

The call aside though, this game was clearly in the Mustangs’ control, and they let it get away.  The crushing play was the errant pass with 25 seconds remaining.  SMU had the ball and a two point lead.  Getting the ball to Nic Moore, an 88% free throw shooter was imperative.  Instead, the pass was thrown away, not even close to the intended target, and UCLA had the ball with the opportunity to take the lead.  They were just a goal tending call away from taking the lead for good.

Even after UCLA scored on the goal tending call, there were 13 seconds left in regulation.  Nic Moore got two good looks at the basket, but neither shot fell in.

For sure, it was one of the poorer games played by the Mustangs this year.  For much of the game, the Ponies looked lethargic and unenergetic.  Both teams seemed to have the jitters at the start.  More than two minutes elapsed before either scored.  The second half started even more slowly.  Neither team scored in the first three minutes, and SMU didn’t score for 5-1/2 minutes, when Markus Kennedy hit a pair of free throws.  The Mustangs scored just five points over the first 10 minutes.

However, after UCLA took their largest lead of the game (10 points) with 12:56 remaining, the Mustangs paradoxically scored the next 19 points to take their biggest lead of the day at nine, as UCLA didn’t score for more than eight minutes.  The game looked all but in the bag for the Mustangs holding a seven point lead with 1:25 remaining.

We all know what happened from there.  As bad as we all feel about it, we can only look toward next year.  Three seniors depart from the eight man playing rotation that finished the season – Ryan Manuel, Cannen Cunningham and Yanick Moreira.  They were significant contributors and will be missed.

However, the other five return – Nic and Ben Moore, Markus Kennedy, Sterling Brown, and Ben Emelogu.  They’ll be joined by Keith Frazier, who surely will regain his eligibility, and transfers Jordan Tolbert (Texas Tech) and Semi Ojeleye (Duke).  Tolbert and Ojeleye are inside players listed at 6′-7″ and 6′-8″ respectively.  Particularly, Ojeleye will be expected to fill the gap left by Cunningham and Moreira’s departure.

The Mustangs have signed three freshmen:  Shake Milton, Sedrick Barefield and Jarrey Foster.  Milton is the most highly regarded, but Barefield is a terrific long range shooter.

That leaves two available scholarships.  The coaches are surely looking for another inside player.

This year’s team was better from last year’s experience.  Failing to make the NCAA Tournament proved to be positive motivation.  Last year’s team had bad losses at Temple and South Florida in conference play and to Houston in the conference tournament.  Winning perhaps just one of those games might have made the difference in receiving an NCAA bid.  This year’s team took care of business in the trap games.  They had no bad losses.  They probably had the bid in hand after winning the regular season conference championship, but made sure by taking the conference tournament.

The experience of finishing second in the NIT helped this year’s team too.  The NIT provided three extra weeks of games and practice.  It provided three more home games in the newly renovated Moody Coliseum to bond with Mustang fans.  There were quality wins over teams from the ACC, PAC 12 and SEC.  The NIT experience was undoubtedly more beneficial to this year’s team than a one and done scenario in the NCAA Tournament would have been.

Likewise, this year’s NCAA Tournament experience should benefit next year’s team greatly.  Getting in the tournament was a worthy goal this year.  Next year though, an NCAA bid is expected, and a one and done scenario in the tournament will be a disappointment.  Going farther into the tournament is an expectation, not a hope.

SMU basketball has come a long way in the three years since Larry Brown accepted the head coaching job.  The best part is that the good times have just begun.


BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

SMU’s trip to the NCAA Tournament proved to be a short one, as they lost to UCLA Thursday afternoon 60-59 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.  The Bruins went on an 8-0 run over the final 1:25 of the game to erase a seven point Mustang lead and advance to Saturday’s round of 32.

The final UCLA basket was scored on a controversial goal tending call.  The hectic shot from Bryce Alford, who had already hit eight three-point shots in the game, appeared to be short and to the right of the rim, but was called goal tending when Yanick Moreira swatted it away.  The rules do not allow for a television review of a judgment call.  There were still 13 seconds remaining in regulation play, and the Mustangs got two shots at the end for the win, but neither fell.

SMU finishes the season with a 27-7 record.  27 wins ties last year’s team for the second most in a season, and 54 wins over two consecutive seasons is an SMU record.  All seven losses were to teams that received bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Nic Moore’s 24 points led the Mustangs.  Six of his seven baskets were three-point shots.  He was 4-4 from the free throw line.  Markus Kennedy also scored in double digits with 16 and led the Ponies with nine rebounds.

Alford, the son of Bruins’ head coach and former Dallas Maverick Steve Alford, hit nine three-point baskets on 11 tries to set a new UCLA record for three-point shots made in a game.  His 27 points led all scorers in the game, and Norman Powell was the other Bruin in double digits with 19.  Kevon Looney was the game’s leading rebounder with 10.

Larry Brown was suffering from bronchitis.  He considered turning over the reins for this game to Associate Head Coach Tim Jankovich, but decided to tough it out.  Brown looked bad on the SMU bench and had little voice when interviewed at halftime.  He did not appear on the local radio broadcast after the game as is customary.

The Mustangs trailed by four points at half time (34-30) and started slowly in the second half.  UCLA built a 10 point lead by out-scoring SMU 6-0 over the first 5-1/2 minutes after intermission.  A pair of free throws ended UCLA’s scoring run, but the Mustangs still looked sluggish and trailed by 10 points at the 13 minute mark.

Suddenly, the Ponies came alive.  They went on an improbable 19-0 run that erased the 10 point deficit and built a nine point lead, their largest of the game.  Nic Moore scored 11 of the 19 points to spearhead the surge.  They appeared to have the game well in hand when a Ryan Manuel dunk gave SMU a seven point lead at 59-52 with 1:25 remaining.

Over that 1:25, the Mustangs missed three shots and threw the ball away on another possession to open the door for the Bruins.  Powell hit a pair of free throws and Alford hit two three point shots with the second one being ruled good on the controversial goal tending call.  The win that had looked to be in hand with little more than a minute remaining, was suddenly gone and SMU’s season was over.

It’s a bitter ending for all the Mustang nation, but especially for three seniors – Moreira, Manuel and Cannen Cunningham.  They’ll be replaced next year by hopefully an academically eligible Keith Frazier, and transfers Jordan Tolbert (Texas Tech) and Semi Ojeleye (Duke).  The Mustangs also have three freshmen committed, all of whom could contribute.  Shake Milton from Oklahoma is the most highly regarded on the trio.  SMU still has two scholarships available assuming everyone returns.  Returning players include Nic Moore, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Markus Kennedy, a second team All-Conference selection for the second year in a row.



BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

SMU claimed complete dominance of the American Athletic Conference Sunday afternoon by adding the post-season tournament championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament to the regular season championship they earned last Sunday.  They won the rubber match over Connecticut, 62-54 at the XL Center in Hartford, after the teams had split the regular season series with the home team winning each game.

The Mustangs seemingly had this game in hand all the way.  They ran the lead into double digits at 20-10 with 6:20 remaining in the first half, led by 14 at halftime, and held a 17 point lead in the second half with less than 14 minutes left in regulation.  That’s when momentum shifted to the Huskies, who cut the lead to as a few as five points.  The Mustangs however made 10 of their final 11 free throws over the final two plus minutes to salt the win away.

Head Coach Larry Brown said after the game, “I just want to admire what Connecticut was able to do after we got such a big lead and the character they showed to come back.  It’s never easy playing against Kevin (Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie), and it’s amazing when you play in an atmosphere like this and you realize the tradition they have and you understand why.”

As for his team, Brown continued, “These seniors have been amazing.  Matt Doherty should be up here with me because he left me with an unbelievable group of guys.”

Markus Kennedy led the team in scoring with 14 points and was named tournament MVP.  Nic Moore and Yanick Moreira were also double digit scorers with 11 points.  They made the All-Tournament team.  Ben Moore was the fourth Mustang in double digits with 10, and Sterling Brown was the top rebounder in the game with 12.

SMU’s record improved to 27-6, tying last year’s team for the second most wins in school history.  The 1987-88 team won 28.  Connecticut finished at 20-14 and became the sixth defending National Champion that failed to receive a tournament bid in the following year since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

SMU was placed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament with a six seed.  They will open play next Thursday at approximately 2:15 PM (Central) against 20-13 UCLA in Louisville, Kentucky. The game will be televised on TruTV.  The American Athletic Conference claimed one more bid with Cincinnati getting the eight seed in the Midwest Region.  Temple (one seed), Tulsa (two seed) and Connecticut (four seed) received bids to the National Invitation Tournament.

The Mustangs viewed the NCAA Selection show as a group with family and friends from a private room in the XL Center. This year they watched to see where they would be playing in the NCAA tournament as they were assured of a bid from winning the conference tournament.  It was a stark contract from last year, when they were joined by fans in Moody Coliseum to sadly watch the selection show in which an NCAA bid never came.

Head Coach Larry Brown issued a statement to Mustang fans after the game, saying, “I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to say except that SMU is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993 because of these guys.  I am very proud of this team and I know you are too.  Thank you for your support.  It means a ton to me and the whole team.”

There is no question that the American Athletic Conference does not receive the respect it deserves from the selection committee.  Last season, AAC Champion Louisville was ranked in the top 10 for most of the season and received just a four seed.  This year, Louisville has moved on to the Atlantic Coast Conference.  They have lost four impact players from last year’s team and are clearly not as good, yet Louisville again received a four seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The AAC should have received at least one more bid, if not two.  Temple and Tulsa can’t be feeling very chippy about the selection process at this point in time.

But that’s another story for another time.  This weekend, if the Mustangs beat UCLA, and they will most surely be favored on the betting line to take the Bruins, they will face the winner of three seed Iowa State and 13 seed Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday.  The Mustangs need to win both games to set a new school record for wins in a season, not to mention to reach the “Sweet 16″ in Houston.

Despite what the selection committee thinks, this team has a realistic chance of going deep into the tournament.  They have a front line of four big men that present problems for most teams, and with four post players, they are not sidetracked by foul trouble.

“We have four big people that we feel can contribute.  They all can catch, they all can pass, they’re all a post presence,” Brown said.

Guard play is also extremely valuable in the NCAA Tournament.  SMU is led by point guard Nic Moore, their leading scorer and assist man, who is also the AAC Player of the Year, and a first team All-Conference selection for the second year in a row.  The other two usual starters – Ryan Manuel and Sterling Brown – are good athletes that are very good defenders and have some offensive skills.

This team is good, and it’s balanced.  They will present match-up problems for a lot of opponents.  The tournament isn’t always won by the best team.  For evidence thereof, look no further than last season.  Connecticut ran the table taking six games despite being a seven seed.  SMU beat them twice in the regular season last year and didn’t even get an invite to the tournament.  They probably weren’t even a top 20 team, but they came home with the championship trophy.

When Ron Washington was the manager of the Texas Rangers, he said about post-season play that the best team doesn’t always win.  A team just needs to be the best team on the day they play.  For SMU, the message is clear.  They need to be the best team on six days to bring the NCAA Tournament Championship back to the AAC this year.  It’s a long shot, but it is in the realm of possibility.  Larry Brown has coached an NCAA champion before.  He could do it again this year.