SMU undefeated with Georgetown up Saturday

by Dan M | Posted on Friday, December 6th, 2019

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BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                   Member:  United States Basketball Writers Association

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – The Georgetown Hoyas come to town this weekend to face the SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum this Saturday night.  The Mustangs enter this game with an 8-0 record.  Georgetown, coached by its best player in history – Patrick Ewing – has a record of 5-3.  

This was supposed to be the marquee game on this year’s SMU’s non-conference home schedule.  It probably still is, but the matchup lost a lot of luster earlier this week when three Georgetown players were accused of burglary and sexual assault by two Washington, DC women.  One of the three players, Josh LeBlanc has already left the team with the intention of transferring.  The other two players, Myron Gardner and Galen Alexander are still on the team.  

One of the female complainants has been granted a temporary restraining order against LeBlanc and Alexander.  Another female, a housemate of the first complainant, was also granted a temporary restraining order against Gardner and LeBlanc.

Starting point guard James Akinjo, who has not been associated with the sexual assault and robbery accusations, is also seeking to transfer.  Georgetown has offered no explanation as to why Akinjo is departing.  Akinjo and LeBlanc were two of the top five scorers on the team. 

Coach Ewing is certainly under fire for his handling of the situation.  Ewing was compelled to issue a statement prior to their game against Oklahoma State this past Wednesday in Stillwater indicating that the players involved have received no special treatment.

Alexander and Gardner played Wednesday night in Stillwater.  They combined to play 23 minutes, collectively scoring five points and pulling down 11 rebounds.  However, the charges, whether warranted or not, have cast a cloud over Ewing and the entire program.   

As for the Mustangs, their fortunes are looking far better a month into the season than they looked when the season opened November 5.  The team is one of just 16 (out of 353 Division I teams) that has not lost a game so far this season.  On the surface, that sounds far better than the pre-season predictions that SMU would struggle to finish in the top half of the conference round robin schedule.  So how did this happen?

The biggest reason is the schedule.  Can you spell c-u-p-c-a-k-e-s?  That’s what SMU has played so far.  On Wednesday, SMU was ranked 85th in the Sagarin Ratings of all Division-I teams.  UNLV is the highest ranked opponent at 192.  Evansville is ranked 220.  Jacksonville State is 241.  New Orleans is 259.  Abilene Christian is 270.  Hartford is 286.  Northwestern State is 340.  Jackson State is 344.  That schedule makes 8-0 look easy.

Head Coach Tim Jankovich spoke about the team’s progress since the season began, “When we started the season, we only had eight guys (scholarship players).  We felt like we were right back to where we’ve been.  We only had eight guys suited up, which seems like the story of our last whatever years.”

When the season began, Kendric Davis and Darius McNeil were waiting to hear about their petition to waive sitting out the year as a transfer.  William Douglas and Jahmar Young were injured.  Isiah Jasey is ineligible as a transfer.  That left eight scholarship players.

“We started very uncertainly knowing well ‘Who is our team?’  I guess we still have a little uncertainty with Darius’s situation and William’s (Douglas) injury is back,” Jankovich added.  “The addition of Kendric of course was a big leap.  We’re a far, far, far better team than we were at the beginning of the year.  I have seen us make big progress over the last few weeks.  There’s no question that we’re getting better.  We’re going to be tested in a big way Saturday (against Georgetown) and here on out through December.”       

With that schedule, it’s difficult to make any solid judgements about where this team is.  However, the eyeball test says this team is much better than when the season began.  Davis is certainly a top notch player.  His petition was initially denied, but the waiver allowing him to play immediately was granted upon appeal.  In the four games he has played, he has scored 63 points (15.8 per game), recorded 30 assists and grabbed 17 rebounds.  He’s a difference maker!

The Mustangs have shown they have four solid players that are the backbone of the team.  In addition to Davis, Feron Hunt, Isiah Mike and Tyson Jolley are the other three.  Ethan Chargois has been the fifth starter, but he missed the last two games with an injury.  Jankovich said after Tuesday’s game that he was confident that Chargois will be available this Saturday against Georgetown.  

The good news about that injury is that it has given Everett Ray the opportunity to play more minutes.  He’s a talented player who showed marked improvement in the last two games with the increased playing time.  Hopefully, he’ll garner increased minutes even with the return of Chargois.

There are still two transfers who could make a difference this season.  One is Isiah Jasey, a transfer from Texas A&M, scheduled to become eligible after SMU’s fall finals, as he sat out the spring semester last year.  That puts him on the court December 20 against Georgia.  Jasey is 6’-10”.  He’ll definitely add some punch to the playing rotation.  

The second is transfer Darius McNeill.  He left the University of California Berkley to join the Mustangs and has petitioned the NCAA for a waiver that would allow him to play immediately.  Jankovich indicated Tuesday that they had not yet received a response of any kind on McNeill’s petition.

The attendance has been disappointing for sure.  In six home games to date, the Mustangs are averaging 3,854 per game.  That’s paid attendance, not the actual turnstile count, which is significantly less.  Twice, the games were so poorly attended that fans in the upper bowl were invited to move down to sit in any unoccupied courtside seat.  The largest crowd this year has been 4,154, and the six home games this season are the six smallest Men’s basketball crowds since Moody Coliseum re-opened in 2014 after a $50 million renovation.  The smallest crowd before this season was 5,384, and this year’s per game average is down from 5,770 last season and 6,656 two years ago.  

The re-seating process before the 2018-19 season has definitely run off a lot of long-time fans.  It’s truly amazing that the athletic department could, in just two years, reduce average attendance per game by almost 3,000 in an arena that has a capacity of slightly more than 6,800.  Most of the reduction has come from reduced season ticket sales.

As for the rest of the season for SMU, the real schedule starts Saturday with Georgetown.  (Game time is 8:30 PM Central, and the game will be televised on ESPNU.)  The next game is December 20, at Georgia.  The conference schedule begins January 1, and The Ponies game against Vanderbilt in Nashville on January 4, is the final non-conference game on this year’s schedule.  

Team Rankings also mathematically ranks all Division-I teams and projects the regular season outcome.  After last Tuesday’s game, Team Rankings has SMU as the number 91 team in the country.  They predict SMU has a 56% chance to beat Georgetown on Saturday night.  They also predict that the Ponies will go 11-11 from here in the regular season to finish 19-11.  That includes a 9-9 conference projection and will give the Mustangs a 7% chance to make the NCAA Tournament.         

But we all know anything can happen.  Evansville is ranked number 220 in the country in the Sagarin ratings.  Stephen F, Austin is ranked 101.  Both have beaten a team ranked number one in the nation (Kentucky and Duke) in a true road game.  There’s really no telling where the Mustangs will be next month when American Athletic Conference play begins or in early March when the NCAA selects 68 teams for the tournament to crown a national champion.

NOTABLE:

  • SMU and Georgetown have played just twice in their history.  Georgetown beat the Ponies in their first meeting in the 1984 NCAA Tournament when current Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing played for the Hoyas.  The score was 37-36 in a game played before the shot clock was introduced in college basketball.  The game was played in Pullman, Washington.  Last year, the Mustangs beat Georgetown in Washington, DC 81-73.
  • Four of SMU’s games were part of the Southwestern Showdown.  The Mustangs won the tournament with a 4-0 record beating UNLV, Jackson State, Hartford and Abilene Christian.  Kendric Davis was named MVP of the tournament, while Feron Hunt and Tyson Jolly were named to the All-Tournament team.
  • The Mustangs have six players that have scored at least 15 points in a game.  Tyson Jolly leads with six games.  Feron Hunt, Kendric Davis and Isiaha Mike have turned the trick three times.  Ethan Chargois and C. J. White have done it once.  Jolly, Mike and Davis have recorded 20 point games.
  • SMU’s 8-0 start is their best season opening winning streak since going 18-0 to start the 2015-16 season.
  • SMU received a vote in this week’s AP poll.
  • SMU has no seniors on this year’s team.

   

 

     

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