Last season: 15-17, 5-11 C-USA
This season: 11-3, 1-1 AAC
Coach: Larry Brown
Record at SMU: 26-20, second season
Overall record: 203-84 college, ninth season; 1,327-1,011 pro, 16 seasons
Peripatetic Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown has the Mustangs off to an 11-3, 1-1 AAC start after a 74-65 victory over visiting No. 17 Connecticut last Saturday. They now have eight days off before playing at Louisville Sunday.
The Mustangs have lost at Arkansas 89-78, to Virginia 76-73 in the Corpus Christi (Texas) Challenge, and at Cincinnati 65-57 in their American Athletic Conference opener. Their only signature victory before UConn was over Texas A&M 55-53. The UConn win marked SMU's first victory over a ranked team since beating No. 17 Purdue in 2003. It also was the first game played on campus in refurbished Moody Coliseum. An overflow crowd of 7,166 was SMU's first sellout since 2001.
The Mustangs have been winning with stingy defense and good shooting. They are holding the opposition to 35.7 percent shooting, third in the country. UConn shot 36.7 percent to SMU's 48.2. The Mustangs are shooting 50.4 percent, sixth in the country. They average 73.5 ppg, their foes 61.4.
They also are out-rebounding their foes by 9.0 a game, 13th in the country, are blocking five shots a game, 58th in the country, and average 15.8 assists a game, 32nd in the country. All of the above stats are hallmarks of a well-coached team.
SMU returned all five starters from last season and added a top recruiting class headed by MacDonald's All-American Keith Frazier, a 6-5 shooting guard from Dallas, and 6-11 Yannick Moreira, a top JUCO transfer. Moreira is starting at center, and Frazier is a top sub. The Mustangs employ a three-guard offense and sub liberally. A lack of depth was a weakness last season.
Nik Moore, a transfer from Illinois State who sat out last season, is playing the point and leading the team in scoring. Before UConn, the 5-9 sophomore was averaging 13.4 ppg and 4.5 apg. and shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 82.8 percent from the line. He also was leading the team in three-point shooting at 53.3 percent (32 of 60). Against UConn he had a team-leading 20 points and six assists.
Nick Russell (6-4, Sr.), last year's leading scorer at 14.0 ppg, is fourth this season at 8.1 ppg and is averaging 3.5 apg (all stats are pre-UConn). He's shooting just 37.5 percent, however. Against UConn he had 14 points and a team-leading eight rebounds.
The third starting guard is 6-6 freshman Sterling Brown (3.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg), who's shooting 53.3 percent.
SMU is loaded in the backcourt, with Frazier (6.4 ppg) and 6-4 junior Ryan Manuel (5.6 ppg), a starter last season but now a sub.
Shawn Williams, a 6-7 senior, averages 4.3 ppg and 2.9 rpg. He had nine points, five rebounds and three assists against UConn.
A top sub is 6-8 freshman Ben Moore (6.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg).
Moreira is averaging 9.4 ppg, third on the team, and leads in rebounding at 5.7 rpg. He's shooting 56.6 percent and is second in blocks at 0.8 a game.
Marcus Kennedy, a 6-9 sophomore transfer from Villanova, is second on the team in scoring at 10.4 ppg and in rebounding at 5.6 rpg. He leads in blocks at 1.3 a game and is shooting 52.0 percent.
Another sub is 6-10 junior Caneen Cunningham (5.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg).
Brown, 73, has created a buzz, increasing attendance, bringing in a top recruiting class and spurring a $45 million renovation of storied Moody Coliseum. This is probably the last stop for a man known for frequently switching teams before the expiration of his contract. He is the only person ever to coach NCAA and NBA champions (Kansas 1988, Detroit Pistons 2004), the only one to take eight different pro teams to the playoffs, and the only one to coach two different teams in the same season (San Antonio Spurs and LA Clippers, 1991-92). He also was the coach at UCLA in 1980 when the Cards beat the Bruins 59-54 in the title game for their first NCAA championship.
UofL and SMU have met eight times, with the Cards holding a 6-2 advantage. The teams haven't met since 1987.
The first meeting of UofL and SMU in 1967 was a bitter defeat for the Cards, who lost 83-81 in an NCAA Regional semi when the Mustangs won a jump ball at the UofL foul line and scored on the ensuing runout at the buzzer to deny Westley Unseld the opportunity to lead the Cards to the Final Four in Freedom Hall.
SMU has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 10 times, finishing third to Bill Russell and San Francisco in 1956. The Mustangs haven't been to the tourney since 1993.