Injury issues at the half way point

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

December 02, 2017:   Moody Coliseum Photo by Vladimir Cherry

BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM
Member United States Basketball Writers Association

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The American Athletic Conference
completes the fifth week of conference games this weekend, as the
conference season reaches the halfway point. SMU faces the Cincinnati
Bearcats in the newly remodeled Fifth Third arena on the Bearcats’
campus this Saturday to complete their first half of the conference
schedule. Cincinnati has an 18-3 record for the season and is 7-1
in conference play.
SMU finished the month of January with a 4-4 record after losing
to Wichita State Wednesday night on the road. All eight games were
conference games, leaving the Mustangs in a sixth place tie with South
Florida. SMU is 12-8 overall. The .500 record as the halfway mark
would seemingly at least give SMU the chance to finish high in the
conference regular season, but there are storm clouds on the horizon.

First Jarrey Foster has missed the last three games after exiting
with a knee injury four minutes into the Houston game. They lost to
Houston and two of the three games since. The prognosis is not
good…it has been determined that he did not suffer a torn ACL.
Jarrey won’t be back soon, and may not be back at all. The team
performed much better when Foster played, but was not the player that
he was before injuring the knee last season, and surely won’t be 100%
if he returns.
“Jarrey’s loss is not a big loss, he’s a HUMONGOUS loss” Head
Coach Tim Jankovich said last week.

Foster missed the first six games of the season rehabbing from the
injury to the knee that ended last season in January.
“When we got him back (this season), we were a completely different
team. I think we won nine out of 11. It’s really tough (without
Foster), but that’s where we are. We’ve been dealt that hand. We’re
just going to keep trying to get everybody to step up just a little
bit more. We’ve got to keep fighting through it. We can’t feel sorry
for ourselves. Sometimes it’s easy to do. It’s a big loss. It’s a
very big loss, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still find a way.”
Also, the Mustangs’ schedule is back loaded. Their four wins are
over teams currently under .500 in conference play. Wichita State and
Connecticut, both in Dallas, are the Mustangs’ only remaining games
with under.500 teams left on the schedule.

As for the American Athletic Conference itself as it hits the
halfway mark, Jankovich said, “I see the conference as a GIANT pain in
the neck. There were a few teams I knew would be really good. That I
knew. The great news for the conference is that there’s a lot of
really good teams. A lot! The bad news is that we have to play them.
I have a lot of respect for where the league is, and I have a lot of
respect for where the league is going. It’s a daily struggle. If we
had been healthy for the last two years, and we had not been on
limited scholarships. Had we been normal, it still would be an
incredible challenge in this league. And it’s getting more. It’s
great to be in a great league, but when you’ve got the handicaps we’ve
had, it makes the challenge just incredible. But we’ve managed so
far. We’re going to keep fighting. There’s a lot of really, really
tough games ahead. We’ll just keep chipping away and keep fighting
away.”

Houston and Cincinnati sit atop the conference with one loss.
Houston, which last Sunday became the first team in the country to
reach 20 wins, lost to Temple, but evened the score with the Owls by
beating them in Houston this week. The Cougars are 21-1 for the
season, 8-1 in AAC play, and ranked 13th in both polls this week.
They are almost a certain lock for the NCAA Tournament.
Cincinnati at 7-1 is the other one loss team. The Bearcats
typically play rough defense and are tough to beat. This team looks
much like Cincinnati teams in recent years. The Bearcats are the only
team in the conference other than Houston to receive votes for the two
major weekly Top 25 polls this week. They too appear to be an almost certainty for
the NCAAA Tournament.

In case you are wondering, Cincinnati is in Houston on Sunday,
February 10, and they play again exactly one month later in Cincinnati
in the regular season finale for both teams.

Central Florida is in third place with a 5-2 record (15-4 overall)
and have a good chance to make the big dance. They are led by the
7’-6” gargantuan Tacko Fall and are not to be counted out for winning
the regular season conference championship.

Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway took over this season as the Memphis
head coach, and he is bringing talent! Memphis is tied for third
place with Temple at 5-3 in conference play. The Conference’s
automatic bid to the NCAA goes to the winner of the post-season
conference tournament, which is a plus for the Tigers. The conference
post season tournament will be held at the Fed-Ex Forum, Memphis’s
home court. No matter what happens this year, Memphis is on an
upswing and could easily become as dominant as they were when John
Calipari was the head coach.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy is in his swan song season and is making the
most of it. They are 5-3 in conferencegames and could still win the
conference. Temple has a reasonable chance to earn an at-large invite
to the NCAA Tournament as they are the only team to beat Houston and
has notable non-conference wins on their tournament resume.
South Florida is a really surprising team in the conference. The
Bulls have been at the bottom of the heap with coaching upheaval.
Brian Gregory has brought stability to the head coaching job and the
team is playing very good. USF is 14-6 for the season and tied with
SMU for sixth place with a 4-4 record. They’re not out of the race
for the regular season championship, though it’s unlikely. They could
easily be playing post-season basketball in the NIT.

As for SMU, the season is looking eerily like last year when they
finished by losing nine of their final 11 games after suffering
significant injuries. Foster is out for the foreseeable future and
Everett Ray is out for the season.

Head Coach Tim Jankovich had boiled down the playing time to a
seven man rotation. Nat Dixon and Feron Hunt were the reserves coming
off the bench behind Foster, Jahmal McMurray Isiaha Mike, Ethan
Chargois, and Jimmy Whitt, Jr. With Foster out of the lineup, Dixon
moved into the starting lineup, and Jankovich has been forced to
utilize sophomore William Douglas and freshmen C. J. White and Jamar
Young, who have played just sparingly to this point.

The Mustangs will be fortunate to finish the regular season at 15-15.
Mathematically, Team Rankings ranks SMU as the number 98 team in
the nation after this week’s loss to Wichita State. The Sagarin
Ratings placed them at number 103. Neither figure gives the Mustangs
much of a chance to earn a bid to the NIT, much less the NCAA
Tournament.

SMU FOOTBALL NOTES:
The second national signing date for 2019 recruits is next
Wednesday, February 6. Only four recruits that are verbally committed
to SMU have not already signed. They are T. J. McDaniel and Henry
Mossberg from Southlake Carroll, Shamar Johnson from Richland and
Xavier Gibson from Woodrow Wilson. All four have offers from other
schools, but all four are expected to sign with SMU.
SMU has been linked to two quarterbacks looking to transfer –
Shane Buechele from Texas (who is the son of former Ranger third
baseman Steve Buechele) and Nick Starkel from Texas A&M. Both played
high school ball in the Greater Dallas/Ft. Worth area, but it doesn’t
appear likely that either will make a decision by next week.
Last year’s Mustang starting quarterback, Ben Hicks has
transferred to Arkansas to be re-united with his former head coach at
SMU – Chad Morris.
James Proche has been named by the Columbus (Ohio) Touchdown Club
as a Player to Watch in 2019. Proche was the Mustangs’ leading
receiver in 2018 and earned All-American Athletic Conference
recognition. He made 93 receptions for 1,199 yards last season and
was also the Mustangs’ top kick returner, returning 20 punts for 165
yards and 12 kickoffs for 276 yards.
The entire watch list of 26 players will be introduced February 9
at a banquet at Express Live in downtown Columbus.

Tags

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>