2019-20 SMU Men’s Basketball Preview

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, November 8th, 2019

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BY DIC HUMPHREY
DHUMPHREY24@GMAIL.COM

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – SMU opened the 2019-20 basketball season
last Tuesday with a 74-65 win over Jacksonville State.  The first half
was sloppily played by both teams….nothing unusual there about an
opening game.  SMU held a seven point lead at halftime, but came out
smoking in the second half to push the lead into double digits for
most of the half.  There was a let down at the end, as Jacksonville
State pressured the ball defensively to cut the lead to less than 10
points.  All eight SMU players that saw action in the game scored, and
four scored in double digits.
“I’m obviously glad we won,” SMU Head Coach said after the game.
“Very proud of the offensive rebounding effort.  I don’t think we
finished the game well.  Our defense got soft late.  Didn’t close the
game well, but again it’s a place to start.  There’s a long way to
go.”
This is Jankovich’s fourth year as the Mustangs’ Head Coach.  In
his first year, he took over a team recruited by Larry Brown and set
the school record for 30 wins in a season.  The fortunes of SMU Men’s
basketball have spiraled down since.    Two seasons ago, they failed
to win 20 games, and when last season came to an end, the program was
unquestionably in shambles.  They finished with a 15-17 record
overall, their first year under .500 since the 2012-2013 season.  They
finished 10th in conference play with a 6-12 record in the 12 team
American Athletic Conference.
Personnel-wise, Jankovich had seven players that he really counted
on last season, and four of them are gone.  Jarrey Foster, the last
player in the program recruited by Larry Brown; Jahmal McMurray and
Nat Dixon have exhausted their eligibility; and point guard Jimmy
Whitt, Jr., transferred to Arkansas.  There were just two freshmen
recruited, both ranked between 250 and 400 by recruiting services.
The three returning players that Jankovich is counting on are
juniors Isiah Mike and Ethan Chargois, and sophomore Feron Hunt.
Everett Ray is somewhat of an unknown.  The son of former NBA player
Clifford Ray missed last season and a good bit of the prior season,
due to a broken bone in his foot.  He’s a sophomore in eligibility
after the medical red shirt last year.  Junior William Douglas and
sophomores C. J. White and Jahmar Young are the other returning
scholarship players.
From that point, Jankovich took a page from this year’s highly
successful SMU football team to improve his team fast by recruiting
players wanting to transfer. Isiah Jasey comes from Texas A&M.  He’s a
6’-10” center, the tallest player in the SMU program since Harry
Froling.  Jasey left A&M after the first semester last season so will
be required to sit out the first semester this year before becoming
eligible.  He’s classified as a junior.
Tyson Jolly and Emmanuel Bandoumel, both 6’-4” guards, come to
SMU via the junior college route.  They’re eligible immediately and
are expected to be contributors as part of the primary rotation.
Jolly was one of the top Junior College players in the country
available this off season.  He averaged a double-double – 22.6 points
and 12.5 rebounds per game last year and was named to the NABC NJCALL
All-American team.  He could well be the best player on SMU’s team
right now.  On Tuesday night, he led the Mustangs with 21 points, and
grabbed eight rebounds.
“He’s a great athlete, and he’s a tough competitor” Jankovich said
about Jolly.  “He’s a very versatile player.  He can score.  He can
shoot a three.  He can drive and pull up.  He can post.  He can
offensive rebound.  That’s a good package. He’s always been a stats
sheet stuffer, and I hope he continues to do that.”
Jankovich then added Darius McNeill from Cal-Berkley.  He’s a
junior and is seeking a waiver on having to sit out this season.
Kendric Davis is also a transfer from TCU.  He’s a sophomore point
guard and is also seeking a waiver on the one-year transfer rule.  So
far the NCAA has not ruled on this pair’s petitions such that neither
participated Tuesday’s opening game.
“We are very hopeful.  We are very positive because these are
strong cases,” Jankovich said about the getting the waivers.
Jankovich did not have a time table for expecting a reply from the
NCAA and is definitely frustrated with the process.  The waiver
petitions were made early last summer, and a response was anticipated
well before the season opener.  SMU is not alone frustration-wise.  It
is rumored that there are still around 50 waiver petitions awaiting
response.
The starting lineup for the opening game was the returning
starters – Hunt, Chargois, and Mike– joined by Jolly and Bandoumel.
The eight man rotation was filled out with freshman Charles Smith IV,
White, and Ray.  Jankovich said they dressed just eight players for
the game with injury problems.  When the first semester ends, Jasey
will undoubtedly fit into the rotation, as will McNeil and Davis if
they are granted waivers.
One positive is that the Mustangs are finally free of the NCAA
sanctions that limited scholarships the team was allowed.  With
walk-ons, the Mustangs have 16 players on the roster.  Last year,
Jankovich regularly reminded the media that he often didn’t have 10
players at practice to scrimmage.  That problem is gone now.
As for the team overall, Jankovich said,   “I feel we have a lot
of good three point shooters.  A LOT!  What we need to make sure is
that we’re a great defensive team and a great rebounding team. That’s
what’s going to get us where we want to go.”
The bottom line is that SMU has made a good start at re-building
the talent base.  It’s still doubtful that the team can compete with
the top teams in the American Athletic Conference, but they have a
chance to move into the middle of the pack.  The addition of Jasey
when conference play begins will be a boost.  If Davis and McNeil get
their waivers, the team will be even more talented.

ATTENDANCE:  The official paid attendance at Tuesday’s game was 4,010
which is hocking! That’s the smallest home crowd (by a wide margin)
for any home SMU basketball game since the renovation of Moody
Coliseum was completed in January of 2014.
Attendance at last year’s Moody Coliseum games totaled 103,856,
which is 5,770 per game for 18 games.  It was the sixth consecutive
season that attendance has exceeded 100,000, the top six season
attendance totals in SMU history.
However, last year’s attendance was a drop of 886 per game
compared with the home attendance for 2017-2018. (Note:  These
attendance figures are paid attendance, not the actual turnstile count
of the fans that attended the games. I.E., season
ticket holders that don’t attend are counted
in the attendance figures.)  The reduction from more than 6,000 season
ticket sales to fewer than 4,000 in two years is largely attributed to
two factors – a substantial increase in ticket prices and the
“re-seating” program.
Last season, the actual price of tickets largely stayed the same
as in 2017-2018, but the required Mustang Club donation was increased
significantly for the better seats.  For example, seats that required
a $1,000 donation two seasons ago were upped to $2,000 per seat. The
increase chased off some season ticket holders.
However, because of the re-seating process, season ticket holders were
not assured that they would retain their seats even if they made the
required donation at the increased price.  One of my friends donated
more than the increased required donation, and still lost the seats he
had enjoyed since the early 1990’s. Many chose not to renew for fear
of losing their seats.
The re-seating program did attract record donations to the Mustang
Club.  Most of that would have been received in any event with the
price increase, but the re-seating process alienated a lot of fans.
It’s become apparent that fan loyalty means little to this
administration.
In the Larry Brown days as Head Coach, Moody Coliseum was an
intimidating place for Mustang opponents.  The crowd was loud and
boisterous.  The Moody Coliseum edge no longer exists.  The eye ball
test quickly indicates that there are substantial no-shows at games.
Last Tuesday when 4,010 was the announced crowd, it’s doubtful that
the actual number of fans in Moody was even 3,000.  It’s still
shocking that the athletic department would alienate so many fans in
two years.

SCHEDULE:  Jankovich is again aided by another non-conference schedule
of pop-gun teams.  TCU is off the schedule this year.  Georgetown on
December 7 is the only note-worthy home game on the schedule.  The
Mustangs do play SEC teams Georgia and Vanderbilt on the road, but the
home schedule is filled with lackluster teams such as Jackson State,
New Orleans and Abilene Christian.  No wonder the season ticket
holders are not renewing.
The conference schedule is another matter.  The AAC is a good
conference.  Last year, the Sagarin ratings placed the AAC as the
sixth best league in division one, just behind number five Big East
and just ahead of number seven Pac-12.
Memphis is now the 500 pound gorilla in the AAC.  Penny Hardaway
took over the Memphis program last season and has recruited like John
Calipari once did for the Tigers.  This year’s Memphis recruiting
class is ranked number one in the nation with four players ranked in
the top 50 in the country.  That includes number one recruit James
Wiseman, a 7’-0” center.  The Tigers have their sights set much higher
than winning the conference.  They are a serious contender to be the
national champion.
In the coaches’ poll released at the conference media day,
Houston is the team thought to be most likely to challenge Memphis for
the conference championship.  Cougar Head Coach Kelvin Sampson has
re-established the Cougars as a national power.
Cincinnati has been the conference champion for two straight
years, and they were picked third, even with a new head coach.
Wichita State has nine lettermen returning including three
starters.  They’re picked to finish fourth in the conference.
South Florida looks to have finally turned the corner.  They won
the CBI post-season tournament last year and return all five starters,
They are picked fifth.
Connecticut and Temple are also picked to finish ahead of SMU.
Cincinnati, Tulsa, Wichita State, and Connecticut are the four
teams the Mustangs play just once, with Wichita State and Connecticut
at home and Tulsa and Cincinnati on the road.  That leaves two games
on the Mustangs schedule against conference favorites Memphis and
Houston.
The AAC however was rocked by the decision at the University of
Connecticut to leave the conference.  They are joining the new Big
East.  UConn is the only AAC team to win a National Championship in
the six years of its existence, and the Huskies have certainly been a
traditionally good basketball program since the 1980’s.  It’s a loss
for the AAC for sure. It’s still a curious decision on UConn’s part,
as it leaves their football program in limbo. The AAC is not willing
to leave the Huskies in as a football only program since they’re
moving their prestigious basketball program elsewhere.  Huskies
football may be left with going independent. That’s a tough road for
teams not named Notre Dame. No speculation yet whether the AAC will
find a replacement school or drop back to 11 teams in football and
basketball.
The bottom line for Mustang basketball is that they could (and
perhaps should) improve on last year’s 6-12 conference record, but
cracking the top half of the conference standings is a long shot.
Team Rankings projects division one teams and after Tuesday’s game,
they ranked SMU as the 94th best team in the nation and the number
eight team in the conference. They project a 17-13 record for the
regular season with a 9-9 record in conference play.
NOTABLE:
•  Former President and First Lady, George and Laura Bush, attended
Tuesday night’s season opening game.  They were celebrating their 42nd
wedding anniversary.
•  Former SMU player Jarrey Foster was also in attendance at Tuesday’s opener.

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