LESS THAN FIVE WEEKS!

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The first SMU men’s basketball game is less than five weeks away and practice opened this past Monday.  The Ponies were 27-10 last year (12-6 in conference), good enough for third place in the American Athletic Conference and second in the National Invitational Tournament.  They were ranked in four of the final regular season Top 25 polls, their first ranking since the 1984-85 season.

The 27 wins were second most in school history trailing the 28-7 record during the 1987-88 season.  18 of those wins came at home, 12 of which were won in Moody Coliseum.  Nine of the 13 Moody Coliseum games were sellouts, and the Mustangs set a new home attendance record of 107,412.  That record will undoubtedly last only a year, as this year’s Mustangs have 18 home games scheduled in Moody, all of which are already sold out.

The Mustangs return 10 players from last year’s team.  Point guard Nic Moore was first team All-AAC as he led the team in scoring (13.4 points per game) and assists (4.9).  Center Markus Kennedy was second team All-AAC as he led the team in rebounding (7.1 per game) and was second in scoring with 12.4 PPG.  Both made the All-NIT team.

Three other returning Mustangs played internationally this summer.  Yanick Moreira played for Angola in FIBA World Cup in Spain.  Sophomores Ben Moore and Sterling Brown played for the Global Sports Academy U. S. team in the Goodwill Tour.  They played games in England, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Brown is pleased with Moreira, who has obviously gained some needed weight.  “He’s healthy  You know last year, the second half of the year, he never was healthy.  He’s come back.  His attitude has been great.  He’s working hard.”

Seniors Ryan Manuel and Cannen Cunningham also return along with sophomore Keith Frazier.  The newcomer that will see a lot of playing time is transfer Justin Martin, who graduated from Xavier.  He averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season for XU.

“He’s played for a great program and a great coach,” Brown said.  “He’s another guy I’m trying to figure out how to use him.  We need every able  body we have especially guys that can play multiple positions.”  He likes Martin’s experience.  “He’s been to two NCAA Tournaments, so he’s obviously played big games.  He just wants to be coached.  That’s the fun part.”

Brown did scoff at the notion that SMU is the favorite to win the conference.  “I doubt we’ll be the conference favorite with the National Champs in our conference.  It really doesn’t matter what people think.  We just gotta come to practice every day and get better.  We owe it to our fans.  We owe it to the school.  We want to be a special program and that’s what we strive for every day.  We write the same thing on the board every day.  ‘Play hard, play together, play smart, have fun’.  It’d be nice if we defended and rebounded.”

It’s Brown’s third year.  He says he thinks the team is more comfortable with each other and what’s expected of them.  As for the NIT experience last year, he said, “We got to play in a great tournament against quality teams.  When you played five games like we did in the NIT against good teams, you get that practice time.  It’s gotta help.  I think you’ve got to build on it.  We were all disappointed that we didn’t win every game.  The reality is that we’re getting better.  The excitement for me is the kids are excited and want to get better.”

One key to the season is the eligibility of transfer Ben Emelogu, the Grand Prairie native that transfered from Virginia Tech.  The paper work has been filed with the NCAA to waive having to sit out this season.  He’s a point guard and will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

The Mustangs are stocked with quality players at every position, except there is little depth at point guard after Nic Moore.  Ryan Manuel and Ben Moore are the two primary candidates for back-up point guard.  They can buy a few minutes on the bench for Moore, but if there was an injury or an early foul-out, the Mustangs would be in trouble.  Adding Emelogu to the roster will provide the depth at literally every position.

Brown thinks November 14 (the season opener) will get here too quickly.  He wishes there was more preparation time.  That’s a coach for you.  For fans like us, especially in view of this painful football season, November 14 can’t get here soon enough.

AND ALSO:  The SMU men’s and Women’s basketball teams will be at the State Fair of Texas tomorrow, October 13.  They will sign autographs on the Midway from 12:00 – 1:00, and there will be on-court contests throughout the day.  There will be an SMU-branded red and blue basketball court on Lone Star Boulevard ouside the Texas Hall of State.  The on-court contests will begin at 10:30 AM.

 

 

BABY STEPS

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Mustangs lost again last Saturday against East Carolina, but the team played the best half of football of the season in the second half after the offense seemed to finally gel.  Late in the first half with the Ponies trailing 28-0, the offense came alive with an 18 play 79 yard drive that took 8:04 off the clock.  Three times Tom Mason went for it on fourth down and the Mustangs converted all three.  Good call Tom!  Down by 28, what did you have to lose?  Prescott Line ran the ball in from the two.to finish the drive.

Sadly, the Mustangs lined up for their first extra point try of the season after the score, which they converted.

ECU came right back with a touchdown to answer making the score 35-7 at the half.

The drive obviously did plenty for the Mustangs’ phyche.  They took a knee in the end zone on the second half kick off,.  Thank goodness!  Am I the only one tired of seeing the kick received seven yards deep run out to the Mustang eight?  The offense started at their own 25, and promptly put together another magnificent drive.  They executed with the precision of Hank Stram’s 1969 Kansas City Chiefs.

A third drive brought Mustangs back into the game at 35-21.  Obviously, East Carolina was shaken after getting stopped on their lone second half possession while watching the Ponies efficiently drive the ball into the end zone twice.  The Pirates tried to surprise the Mustangs by going for a first down on fourth and one from their own 36, but the Mustangs were ready.  They held, and the Mustangs converted the short field into a field goal that brought them within 11 at 35-24.

That proved to be all the Mustang scoring on the day, as ECU scored the final 10 points of the game to make the final 45-24.  The 21 point margin was roughly half the betting line.  Quarterback Garrett Krstich in his second collegiate start threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns completing 42 of 67 attempts.  Both were close to being Mustang records.  Garrett Gilbert completed 45 passes last year against Rutgers.  Gilbert attempted 70 in that Rutgers game, while Chuck Hixson has the second most attempts in a game with 69 at Ohio State in 1968.

Krstich was obviously enthused.  After the game, he tweeted, “Just wanna thank everyone for the support.  Not satisfied by any means but a big step today.  Proud to be a Mustang.  Love my team.”

It’s a good step forward, but the bottom line is that the Mustangs are still 0-5, though four of the opponents are ranked among the top 20 this week in both major polls.  It’s a TOUGH schedule!  The Ponies have their second off week of the year this weekend, and then are back in action on Saturday, October 18 at home against another difficult opponent – Cincinnati.  The Bearcats were the preseason pick by many to win the conference. The game time has been set for 2:30 PM (Central).

There was definite offensive improvement in the TCU game, despite the shutout.  The offense drove in the red zone for the first time all season and a touchdown was called back after a video review.  The momentum obviously carried over to last Saturday’s game, as the Mustangs doubled their scoring output for the season against ECU, and did so against a ranked team.

These are baby steps, but the Mustangs are getting better.  The schedule difficulty drops off materially after the Cincinnati game.  This team will not go winless this season.  Six wins are unlikely, but not out of the question.  It’s a tough year for Mustang football fans, but positive momentum seems to be building for next year.

 

BETTER, BUT NOT GOOD

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Make no mistake about it, Saturday’s 58-6 shellacking of SMU’s football team was bad.  Texas A&M is ranked sixth in the nation for a reason – they’re good!  That’s the biggest reason for Saturday’s score, which isn’t indicative of how much better the Aggies are.  After taking a 38-3 lead to the halftime dressing room, few A&M starters saw action for the balance of the day, and the Aggies won the second half handily by the score of 20-3 largely playing backups.

On the other hand, there were some good signs for the Ponies compared to the 43-6 embarrassment in Denton two weeks earlier.  This Mustang team did not turn the ball over.  The Mustang defense intercepted Heisman Trophy candidate Kenny Hill for the first time this season.  Certainly, the players played hard and didn’t give up as the Aggie lead mounted.

Interim head coach Tom Mason said afterward, “I’m not sitting in this chair because we were a good football team the first two weeks.  We weren’t good enough to beat that team (Texas A&M).  I don’t know if I’ve been around an SMU team that could have beaten that team.  But we played till the end, and that’s all I can ask of those kids.”

Garrett Krstich relieved starting quarterback Kolney Cassel early and contributed 170 yards of total offense.  He rushed for 33 yards and threw for 137 as he completed 13 of 24 passes in just the second game he’s played in college.  One of those passes was a 53 yard completion to Der’rkk Thompson, the longest play of the year for SMU’s offense.  Krstich also led the Mustangs inside the opponents’ 20 yard line in the second quarter, as the Mustangs ran plays in the red zone for the first time this season.  He was however, sacked five times.

Neal Burcham, the starter in game one is out for the season with injury.  Second string quarterback Matt Davis, the transfer from Texas A&M, is nursing a sore shoulder, so Krstich is the fourth quarterback utilized this season by the Ponies.

“We’ve been lacking energy,” Krstich said after the game.  “We need to bring the spark back to SMU, and my goal is to just bring energy to my teammates.”

Mason was non-committal about his quarterback situation for next week’s game against TCU.  The Ponies host the Frogs this Saturday in an 11:00 AM start.  The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.  Monday afternoon, the point spreads at eight Las Vegas betting sites favored the Horned Frogs by 31-1/2 to 32-1/2 points.

In short, this has been a killer non-conference schedule for this young team.  Mason did say though, “I still think we have some talent on this team, and that this football team can come around when we get into conference play.”  Two of the first three Mustang opponents are undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in both major polls this week.  There aren’t any more top 10 teams on this year’s schedule.

As for the coaching search for a permanent replacement for June Jones, names of potential candidates are beginning to surface.  Houston Nutt, formerly the head coach at Arkansas and Ole Miss, is definitely interested.  Offensive coordinators Chad Morris (Clemson) and Josh Huepel (Oklahoma) have been mentioned.  Morris was born in Texas and still has Texas ties in the high school coaching ranks.  Also, David Beaty, the wide receivers coach at Texas A&M, has been mentioned.  Beaty is also the Aggies’ recruiting coordinator and is known as a very good recruiter.

The team on the field this fall won’t be very good, no matter what Mason does as interim head coach.  This team is the residue of years of ;lackluster recruiting.  With 11 players on the field at a time and three units – offense, defense and special teams, it takes a lot of player upgrades to get materially better.  Mustang fans may be excited over the basketball fortunes turning around so quickly under Larry Brown, but it’s going to take some time to get football back competing to play in bowl games.

The main criteria for the next Mustang head coach is someone that can recruit better players.  The administration also needs to look at the entrance criteria.  The Mustangs have been losing good players to other private institutions like Baylor and TCU.  The football fortunes are not going to change until the recruiting improves dramatically.

The really good news is that there are just seven more weeks from this Friday until the home basketball opener.

 

TWO MONTHS TO GO

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

In the aftermath of June Jones’s resignation, football practices have been closed to the media this week, and the word is that the interim coaches are installing a new offense.  The “run and shoot” is supposedly no more.  Cynics will say that there’s no chance that an offense can be installed over two weeks (since SMU has an off week this Saturday); but on the other hand, the offense the Mustangs have utilized has gotten beat 88-6 in two games so far this year.  What the heck do they have to lose?

There is and will not be for a while any word on the direction of the coaching search.  The last three coaches have been a head man at a division 1-AA program (Mike Cavan), a coordinator from an upper echelon D1 program (Phil Bennett) and a big name (June Jones).  There is no decision as to where to pursue a new coach as the season is so early.  With the trend toward utilizing personnel search firms, coaches can discretely make their interest known through their agents without causing ripples to their current situation.

The coaching interest in the job will largely determine the direction the search will take, and Athletic Director Rick Hart will surely get strong interest in the job.  It is still a very desirable job in a desirable location, despite the inevitable awful record for this year..  Certainly basketball takes far fewer impact players to turn a program around, but fans need to look no further than Larry Brown and the SMU basketball program to see what a desirable school SMU is for top athletes and how a program can be turned around quickly.

It’s now about two months to the opening of basketball season, and for many fans, those two months can’t pass quickly enough.  The American Athletic Conference announced the conference schedule recently.  SMU will have a school record 22 games nationally televised including their first appearance on CBS since the 1993 NCAA Tournament, and the first regular season game on CBS since the 1984-85 season.

The CBS appearance will be the Connecticut game, played in Storrs, Connecticut on March 1.  Game time is 1:00 PM (eastern) and Noon (Central).  The meeting between the reigning National Champions and the Mustangs in Moody Coliseum will be February 14 at (9:00/8:00 Central).  It will be televised on on ESPN.

There are nine games on ESPN or ESPN2, seven on ESPNU or ESPN News, five on the CBS Sports Network, and the Connecticut game on CBS.

“The television schedule is a reflection of the quality of the basketball teams in the American (AAC),” head coach Larry Brown said.  “We have a chance to play great teams in great environments.  There are a lot of great opportunities to continue to elevate our program.”

The schedule includes 11 games against teams that were in last season’s NCAA Tournament.  In conference play, the Mustangs will face Cincinnati, Memphis, Connecticut and Tulsa twice each.  In non-conference play, SMU plays Michigan, Gonzaga and Texas Southern.

There are 18 home games, and shockingly, the season is sold out.  More than 5,000 season tickets have been sold.  Those of you non-season ticket holders should look to the road schedule, hope you have a generous friend in Dallas with season tickets, or belly up to the bar and pay StubHub prices.

SMU was 18-1 in home games last year, which did not include a win at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas.  That game was considered a neutral site.  Of those games, the Ponies were 12-1 at Moody Coliseum.  All home games this season are scheduled for Moody.

The Mustangs will likely be ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation when the early season polls come out, and it is a team talented enough to realistically challenge for a National Championship.  With the way this year’s football season is going, the November 14 opening game against Lamar can’t arrive soon enough.

GOOD-BYE JUNE

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

DALLAS, Texas – Monday afternoon, the twitter, text message and E-mail universe exploded with the news that SMU head football coach June Jones would announce his resignation shortly.  When super agent Lee Steinberg, who represents Jones, tweeted the news; it was confirmation that the rumor was true.  The Mustangs are 0-2 this season, having been out-scored 88-6 against Baylor and the University of North Texas.  The Baylor score (45-0) was understandable as the Bears are deservedly ranked seventh and eighth in the two major polls this week and clearly have a tremendous edge talent-wise.

The UNT score was 43-6, with the Mustangs’ touchdown coming on the final play of the game.  Jones elected not to kick the extra point.  That score is much less understandable, as the Mean Green does not have a material edge talent-wise.  They were simply better coached and played with more energy and enthusiasm.

Late Monday afternoon, SMU issued a statement indicating that Jones had stepped down, citing personal issues.  “This afternoon, I talked to my staff and players and notified them that I have decided to resign as SMU head football coach effective immediately,” Jones said.  “I have some personal issues that I have been dealing with, and I need to take a step away so I can address them at this time”

Hart said in a press conference Monday evening that the team was both surprised and saddened with Coach Jones’s decision.  “They gave coach Jones a standing ovation, Hart said.  “It was very emotional.”

Jones departs with a 36-43 record in six years plus two games.  He led the Mustangs to one Conference-USA championship game and four bowl games, three of which SMU won.  He is clearly the most successful football coach on the Hilltop since Bobby Collins, who left after the 1986 season.

There was a lot of disappointment in Jones among alums despite his record.  He simply was not able to translate his success on the field beginning with his second season into a material upgrade of talent in the recruiting process.  SMU essentially plateaued when they beat a Colin Kaepernick led Nevada team in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in Jones’s second season at the helm.

Athletic Director Rick Hart has appointed Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Tom Mason as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.  Associate Head Coach/Quarterbacks Coach Dan Morrison and Co-Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Jason Phillips were named as Co-Offensive Coordinators.

SMU President Jerald R. Turner said, “I want to thank Coach Jones for his efforts reestablishing our winning tradition in football.  I also want to thank him for his commitment to nurturing well-rounded student athletes.  June has demonstrated a real devotion to the young men in his care and to serving the community.  He has earned the respect and admiration of many all across campus and in the community, and his contributions to our program will be lasting.  He was always very visible on campus in University wide events.  He was a great University citizen as well as a football coach.”

Hart chipped in along the same lines saying, “I can’t overstate the importance to re-establishing SMU on the national scene.”

“June’s decision to resign was his own, and we thank him for his efforts and wish him the best,” Hart said.  As for the future, he added, “At the appropriate time, we will begin the search process.  It will be a national search, and we will do it the right way.  Everyone will be considered.  We will not comment on that process until we are ready to announce our selection.”

The Mustangs are off this week, and return to the gridiron with the first home game on September 20 against Texas A&M., ranked seventh this week in the AP poll and eighth in the coaches poll.  Game time has been set for that game at 2:30 PM (CDT).

BASKETBALL IN JULY

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Head basketball coach Larry Brown took the time to meet with media members Monday morning.  He’s just completed a morning workout with his team and is excited about what he is seeing.  The first item of conversation was last week’s startling and disappointing announcement that blue chip recruit Emmanuel Mudiay had decided to forego his scholarship at SMU and play professionally overseas this season instead.

“I still believe college would have been the best route,” Brown said.  “They think its the best thing, and I have to respect that.  He was truly great.  He would have been special here.”

There is no question that last year’s team relied too heavily on point guard Nic Moore, who routinely played more than 30 minutes.  As a point guard, Mudiay’s presence would have taken the pressure off the position.  Brown was asked about what the backup point guard situation looks like now.  He indicated that Ryan Manuel is the top candidate currently.

“We have to get Ryan ready, and I’m confident he can do it,” Brown said.

Keith Frazier is also a consideration as he played some at the point in high school.  He also surprising indicated that Ben Moore could figure in the point guard mix.  Moore is 6′-7″ and played forward last year.

“He’s as good a ball handler as we have,” Brown said.

“We’ll figure it out.  One nice thing is that all our bigs can handle the ball.”.

As for the summer workouts in general, he said, “Basically, we’re just trying to teach them how to play.  We break down what we want to do on offense.  The nice thing is that we got a lot of people coming back.  You can really see a difference in the freshmen that have been here. Keith (Frazier), Sterling (Brown) and Ben (Moore).  They’re much more comfortable.  They don’t have to think as much.

He was very positive about Frazier, the first and still only McDonald’s All-American to choose SMU.  “He comes to every workout.  His energy level is way up.  When you have a good attitude and you want to be great and you want to get better, it really makes a difference.”

As you move along in a program, the older guys teach the young guys how to do things.  And then when that happens, it seems like you can add more things.  Defensively, we’re going to try to add more things.  Maybe trap a little bit more, maybe go a bit more full court.  Maybe zone a bit more  For us, it’s playing hard, defending, rebounding and sharing the ball.”

He spoke about his new coach on this year’s staff – Shawn Williams, who started every game last year.  “This is one of the best things for our program and me personally is to have a kid that played for you that wants to be a coach.  I’m thrilled he’s with us.  He’s here early, and he stays late.”     .

He’s impressed with what he’s seen of the conditioning of his team.  “We have to be in great shape to do what we want to do.”

Markus Kennedy was perhaps the team’s best player over the second half of last season.  His improved play was largely attributed to the 50 pounds he lost since his freshman season at Villanova when he weighed in around 300.  He has lost even more weight from the end of the year.

“He’s working hard.  If he’s in great shape, he could be as good a big man as there is around, because he has the skills and knows how to play.  He really seems motivated.  He’s been great at practice.  Works really hard.

If we want to be really good, we have to be in better shape than everybody.   You know we have great depth.  We want to play fast.  When you got a big in that can run and is in great shape,  If we can get him up the court before the defense, he’s hard to guard.  I’m confident he’ll figure it out.”

Another player in the post mix is Yanick Moreira, who started early, but had his season sidetracked with a knee injury.  Moreira was in Dallas for workouts earlier this summer as he attended class in the first session of summer school.  He has now joined the Angola national team.  Brown said the painfully thin Moreira had gained weight and looked much improved.  He was pleased with the competition Moreira will be seeing as part of the Angolian team.

Brown’s summer is as busy basketball-wise as the regular season.  He scuffled through the Atlanta Airport last weekend to watch AAU Basketball in Augusta, Georgia.  That’s the glamorous life of a college basketball coach.  Between summer workouts and recruiting, his basketball plate is full.  He did say he had spent a few days with his family at the beach earlier in the summer.  He also made a trip to Scotland to play golf.

“I’d never been to Scotland,” he said.  He noted that it was chilly with high temperatures in the low 60′s.  ”I was wearing four layers of clothes and was still cold.  You look at the locals, and they’d be in short sleeves.  I was a wuss!”

Brown’s son L. J. is in Dallas for the second session of summer school, so they are once again living together and seeing each other regularly.  He noted his daughter Madison is a junior in high school.

Certainly, the loss of Mudiay is a blow to SMU.  He could help any team in America including the San Antonio Spurs.  However, this team is still loaded with talent.  All the goals that Mustang fans felt were attainable are still within reach.  There’s a lot of hard work going on at the Crum Center these days to make that happen.

MUDIAY BLUES

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Monday turned out to be “blue Monday” in Mustangville when Emmanuel Mudiay announced that he would not be attending SMU this fall.  He has decided to accept a lucrative offer to play professional basketball in Asia, though terms of the offer were not disclosed.

Mudiay was ranked by various recruiting gurus as the second to the fifth best player in the high school class of 2014.  Many experts thought the 6′-5″ point guard would have been drafted among the top 10 selections in this year’s draft had the NBA still allowed the drafting of recent high school graduates.  With a good season at SMU, he could easily have been in the mix to be the number one pick in next year’s NBA draft.  He would have been the second McDonald’s All-American to play at SMU joining sophomore Keith Frazier.

The news began leaking in the twitter, E-mail and text message universes around noon today.  Eventually, Sports Illustrated basketball writer Jeff Borzello posted an article confirming the news on SI.com.

He quoted a statement that Mudiay released to SI.com, saying “I was excited about going to SMU and playing college basketball for coach (Larry) Brown and his staff and preparing for the NBA.  But I was tired of seeing my Mom struggle.  After sitting down with coach Brown and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom was to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities.”

There have been rumors that questions have arisen about Mudiay’s eligibility after graduating from Prime Prep Academy in the Dallas area.  There were other questions as to benefits he has received from Under Armor in particular and how that could have affected his amateur status.  Mudiay flatly denied that his decision was based on these concerns.

“This has nothing to do with my eligibility in any way.”

Head coach Larry Brown issued the following statement later in the day:

“Emmanuel Mudiay has decided to pursue professional basketball opportunities.  This is not an academic issue, since he has been admitted to SMU, but rather a hardship issue.  After talking to Emmanuel, I know he really wants to alleviate some of the challenges his family faces and recognizes that he has an opportunity to help them now.  While I believe that college is the best way to prepare for life and the NBA, Emmanuel’s situation is unique.  We were excited about having him at SMU, but we understand this decision and wish him the best.”

For sure, Mudiay is an outstanding player that would have been a tremendous asset to the Mustangs.  It was pretty much a given though that he was a “one-and-done” player; that he would have made himself available for the 2015 NBA draft.

On the other hand, if the questions about his amateurism and eligibility accelerated, he could have created a cloud over the program that would have deterred from the other players’ focus.  This team is loaded with talent.  With or without Mudiay, head coach Larry Brown will have even more problems finding playing time for all the deserving players in his stable than he did last year.  There is no reason this team can not still be ranked in the Top 25 throughout the season and have a legitimate chance to win the National Championship.

BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

SMU announced the non-conference portion of the men’s basketball schedule this week.  There was criticism of SMU’s schedule last year when the Mustangs were considered for the NCAA Tournament.  Hopefully, this schedule will be a step forward in answering those criticisms next March.  The highlights of the non-conference schedule are games at Michigan, Indiana and Gonzaga, as well as home contests against Arkansas and Wyoming.

“Our non-conference and conference schedule will give us a chance to play great teams in great environments at home and on the road,” Head Coach Larry Brown said.  “There are a lot of incredible opportunities in front of us.”

SMU is looking to add one or two games to the non-conference schedule, which opens on November 14 at home against Lamar.  That is followed by a Monday, November 17 game at Gonzaga which will be part of ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon.  The Arkansas and Wyoming games are scheduled for November 25 and December 5 respectively.

Missing from this year’s schedule is TCU.  The schools were unable to find a workable date, but the series is expected to resume in the 2015-16 season.

The complete list of games announced this week are:

Friday, November 14         Lamar

Monday, November 17      at Gonzaga

Thursday, November 20     at Indiana

Saturday, November 22      Eastern Washington

Tuesday, November 25       Arkansas

Wednesday, November 26  Texas Southern

Sunday, November 30         Monmouth

Friday, December 5             Wyoming

Monday, December 8           UC Santa Barbara

Wednesday, December 17    Illinois-Chicago

Saturday, December 20        at Michigan

JUSTIN MARTIN

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Justin Martin, a 6′-6″, 205 pound forward from Xavier announced on his Twitter page Tuesday night that he plans to transfer to SMU.  He has one year of eligibility remaining after playing three seasons at Xavier.  He has graduated, so he will be eligible to play immediately.  He averaged 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season and finished the season as Xavier’s second leading scorer.  He tallied in double digits in 18 games and scored 50 3-point baskets.

Martin is the cousin of former NBA player Maurice Evans (Washington Wizards).  He also considered Florida State and West Virginia.  A significant factor in his decision was that the Mustangs will be the favorite to win the American Athletic Conference and are expected to be ranked in the Top 10 when next season begins.

JUNE UPDATE

BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

It’s hard to believe that two months have passed since the Mustangs’ basketball season came to a disappointing end in Madison Square Garden.  Despite the loss in the NIT Finals to Minnesota, it was still a marvelous season that evokes warm feelings just thinking about the games, especially the ones in Moody Coliseum.  The confluence of the essentially new arena, so marvelously done mixed with the really quality basketball played on the court and the high profile spectators made for a moment that may never be fully recaptured.

However, the Mustang Club’s plea for donations and the SMU Athletic office’s renewal notices for basketball tickets have arrived reminding that it’s time to move on to next year.  The Mustang Club donation required for my two tickets remained the same, and the cost of the tickets increased $200.  There are 18 instead of 16 home games this year, and all of them are scheduled to be played in Moody Coliseum, not just 10 like last year.

The schedule hasn’t been officially announced, but there are some hints.  Last year, there were 10 teams in the conference for basketball; and conference play consisted of 18 games, two against each of the other nine teams.  With the continuing shift of conference alignments, there will be 11 teams in the AAC for basketball.  There will again be 18 conference games on the schedule, but some opponents will be played just once.

SMU’s home opponents were announced last week.  They include the four teams that participated in the NCAA Tournament this past season – Connecticut, the reigning National Champion, Cincinnati, Memphis and Tulsa, one of the new teams to the conference.  The other five will be Houston, Temple, Central Florida, South Florida, and another newcomer – East Carolina.

The road portion of the schedule will include all of those teams except East Carolina.  The Mustangs play East Carolina just the one time at home and will play a third newcomer, Tulane, just one time on the road.

The AAC also announced that the post season conference tournament will be played March 12-15 at the XL Center (formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center) in Hartford Connecticut.

SMU was criticized for having a soft non-conference schedule last year.  The Mustangs have taken steps to correct that as they will play Michigan on December 20 in Ann Arbor.  Michigan will play the Mustangs in Dallas the following year.  Also, a two year deal with Gonzaga has been signed.  The Mustangs will play in Washington on November 17 as part of ESPN’s Tipoff Marathon.  Gonzaga will also play the Mustangs in Dallas in 2015.

RECRUITING:  The Mustangs had three scholarships available this year - two from graduating seniors Shawn Williams and Nick Russell and a third from Jaylon Jones transferring to Texas A&M.  Emmanuel Mudiay signed last fall on the early signing date.  He is a 6′-5″ point guard, the second MacDonald’s All American to sign with SMU.  He is rated as the best point guard and ranked anywhere from the second to the fifth best player in this year’s high school class.  He will definitely ease the playing time load on Nic Moore.

The Mustangs also signed Jordan Tolbert this spring, a transfer from Texas Tech.  Tolbert is a 6′-7″ forward that has averaged 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in three years at Tech.  He may or may not have to sit out this season and will have one year of eligibility remaining.

The Mustangs still have one available scholarship.

FOOTBALL:  The NFL draft weekend was a proud one for Mustang fans.  Defensive back Kenneth Acker was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the fourth pick in the sixth round (180th overall).  He was named to the All-Conference team in each of his last two years and had three interceptions in each of those seasons.

Shortly thereafter, SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert was taken by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth round with the 214th overall pick.  Gilbert was injured in the first half of the South Florida game and missed the final two games of the 2013 season.  Despite missing the last 10 quarters of the season, he finished second in the nation in total offense at 379.5 yards per game and fourth nationally at 352.8 passing yards per game.

Acker and Gilbert became the ninth and 10th Mustangs to be drafted in the past six years.  They join Margus Hunt taken by Cincinnati in 2013, three players taken by Washington – Aldrick Robinson (2011), Josh LeRibeus and Richard Crawford in 2012 – Taylor Thompson taken in 2012 by Tennessee, two players taken by Pittsburgh – Emmanuel Sanders (2010) now with Denver and Kelvin Beachum (2012) – and New Orleans took Thomas Morstead (2009).

FOOTBALL RECRUITING:  The Mustang football program received a boost with the addition of two recently announced transfers - quarterback Matt Davis from Tyler Junior College and linebacker Cameron Nwosu from Rice.

Davis was rated as a four star prospect coming out of Klein Forest High School.  He signed with Texas A&M and was redshirted in his only season there.  He then transferred to Tyler Junior College, where he played seven games last fall.  He will have three years of eligibility.

Head Coach June Jones named sophomore Neal Burcham the starting quarterback coming out of spring training, but Davis is expected to be in the mix and could become the starting quarterback this fall.

Nwosu has completed his undergraduate degree at Rice and will be eligible immediately.  He has one year of eligibility remaining as he sat out the 2013 while rehabilitating an knee injury.