The outlook is better going into January

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, December 29th, 2018


Member United States Basketball Writers Association

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The SMU Men’s basketball team beat
Cornell last Saturday, 81-53, to complete the non-conference portion
of their schedule.  Jimmy Whitt, Jr. got the Mustangs off to a good
start by out-scoring Cornell 22-21 in the first half as SMU built a 23
point lead in the first 20 minutes and cruised in the second half.  The game finished the month of December with a 3-1 record, and they stand at 8-4 for the season.
They launch conference play next week on Wednesday, January 2 at
home against East Carolina, the first of nine conference home games.
The other home conference games include Houston, Tulsa, Tulane, South
Florida, Central Florida, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Wichita State.
For sure, the outlook is better going into January than it was
going into December.  The only loss this month was to TCU, a hard
fought game in which the Mustangs led by six at halftime, but shot
poorly (24%) in the second half to doom their chances of winning. The
Frogs were an NCAA Tournament at-large team last year and are expected
to make the big dance again this season. TCU will look like a good
loss in March when teams are being considered for post-season play.
“We’re playing better,” Head Coach Tim Jankovich said after last
Saturday’s game.  “We’ve had a good couple of weeks of practice
FINALLY!  Even over finals they were good. We’ve been getting better.
We were behind, but we have really gained on it. I can tell you
watching our league, there are teams that are playing awfully well, so
we’ve got a great challenge going into the new year. I see signs that
we’re going in the right direction.”
The Ponies recorded their best win of the season at Georgetown on
December 15.  They beat the Hoyas 81-73 at the Capital One Center in
Washington, DC. The Hoyas are coached by the legendary, and former
player, Patrick Ewing. However, they were a much better team back in
the days when Ewing played for Hoyas than they are now.  It’s still a
road win over an iconic team in college basketball annals.
The Mustangs seem to be rounding into shape. Jahmal McMurray
leads the team in scoring at 18.3 points per game. He leads the team
in made three point shots with 43, a large percentage of the Mustangs’
total of 105 for the season. Ethan Chargois is second on the team
averaging 13.4 points per game. Whitt (12.2) and Isiaha Mike (10.6)
are the other two Mustangs averaging in double digits per game.
Jarrey Foster missed the first seven games of the season rehabbing
from knee surgery. He’s played in the last six, starting four, but
he’s not physically 100%.  He’s averaging just 7.7 points and 3.0
rebounds per game. For this team to make post season play, they need
a fully recovered Jarrey Foster.
The real “find” in non-conference play is Feron Hunt. The 6’-8”
freshman has forged his way into the playing rotation of seven or
eight; and before the season is over, he may well forge his way into
the starting lineup. Hunt leads the team in rebounds with 7.1 per
game, while playing just a little more than half of each game,
averaging just 21.8 minutes.
As for the American Athletic Conference, Tulane is the only team
under .500 after last Saturday’s games..sitting at 4-8. Houston is the
leader at 11-0. The Cougars are one of just five division one teams
that have yet to lose a game this season (Virginia, Michigan, St.
John’s and Nevada are the other four) and are the only AAC team ranked
this week. They are 22nd in the AP and 19th in the coaches’ poll.
Cincinnati is the only team in the conference besides Houston that
is receiving votes. Cincinnati, Temple, Central Florida and South
Florida follow with two losses.  Tulsa at 10-3 and Connecticut at 9-4
are the other two AAC teams with better records than SMU.
It’s difficult to make much sense out of non-conference records
because the quality of the opponents (or lack thereof). However, the
Sagarin ratings have the AAC ranked as the seventh best conference
behind the Big East and the Power Five football conferences.
Ken Pomeroy has cranked up his computers to project the main
contenders in every conference. He projects the winner of the AAC to
be Cincinnati, Houston or Central Florida.
Sagarin ranks SMU as the seventh best team in the conference and
the 109th best team in the nation. Team Rankings has SMU as the sixth
best team in the conference and 96th in the nation. They project the
Mustangs to go 9-9 in conference play to finish the season with a
17-13 record and gave SMU a 4% chance of making the NCAA Tournament.
RECRUITING:  The Mustangs received a commitment from Isiah Jasey, who
announced he will be transferring from Texas A&M. He’s a 6’-10” front
court player that is averaging 3.8 points in nine minutes per game
this season for the Aggies. The Killeen native is expected to arrive
on the Hilltop in the summer of 2019, so it is unclear if he will be
eligible after the first semester of the 2019-2020 season, or at the
start of the 2020-2021 season. Whenever he begins playing, he will be
a sophomore in eligibility.
HOME ATTENDANCE:  The announced attendance for the Cornell game was
the largest crowd of the year – 6,067. Through nine games, the
attendance at Moody Coliseum totals 50,797, an average of 5,644 per
game. That’s about 1,000 less than last year’s home attendance for
the first nine games – 6,633.


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