SMU is Already on the Wrong Side of the Bubble

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 26th, 2014

When the NCAA Tournament Committee shocked many bracket prognosticators by leaving a ranked SMU team out of the field of 68, committee chairman Ron Wellman was quick to point out that the Mustangs’ non-conference schedule was a bit of a joke. Wellman had a point. The Mustangs played just two teams (Arkansas and Virginia) ranked among KenPom’s top 50 teams and lost to the both. The rest of the team’s non-conference wins — against the likes of Arkansas Pine Bluff and McNeese State — were easy for the committee to ignore.

Larry Brown (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Larry Brown Needs Some Quality Wins, and Fast (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

When SMU released its 2014-15 basketball schedule, it was evident that the school had listened when Wellman dumped on its non-conference schedule.The patsies are still really, really bad, but road games against Gonzaga, Indiana, and Michigan as well as home dates with Arkansas and Wyoming were supposed to make up for those RPI killers. The only problem is that in order for those games to boost the team’s RPI, SMU needed to actually win a few of them, which they haven’t done thus far.

Last night was the Mustangs’ latest lost opportunity as they let Arkansas run out to an early double-digit lead in the first half on the road and then were unable to claw all the way back into the game, eventually losing 78-72. That loss comes just five days after SMU kicked away a second-half lead on the road in a loss to Indiana. And that loss came just three days after the Mustangs were blown out by Gonzaga in Spokane. Individually, none of these losses are truly that bad. The Razorbacks, Hoosiers, and Bulldogs are all really good teams who should make the NCAA Tournament. But together, these losses show that SMU has now nearly struck out on its chances to get a non-conference win that would impress the NCAA Tournament Committee.

It sounds stupid to be talking about March just five games into the season but now the Mustangs find themselves in nearly the same position they were in last season. They cannot lose another non-conference game or else their non-league resume goes from merely disappointing to borderline harmful and unfortunately for the Mustangs, their conference schedule isn’t going to do them any favors either. Larry Brown said last season that when he saw the Committee rank Louisville as a No. 4 seed, he knew his team wasn’t going to make the tournament because the Committee didn’t respect the AAC. Well, that when Louisville was still in the conference and the conference was preparing to put four teams in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s still really early but if you asked smart college basketball folks, do you think any of them would be confident saying anyone other than Connecticut will make the NCAA Tournament? Also, the bottom of the conference is no longer just bad, it’s awful. Games against East Carolina and Tulane may actually hurt the Mustangs’ RPI and SMU may need to dominate the conference to make any sort of at-large impression.

You have to almost feel sorry for Brown, who was expecting to play these teams with Emmanuel Mudiay and Markus Kennedy in the lineup. It’s also hard to fault a coach who willingly goes on the road to play big-name opponents, which is the perfect segue to point out that the Mustangs’ non-conference schedule still has one game that sticks out. A late December trip to Ann Arbor is the Mustangs’ last chance to get a “good” non-conference win and the young team should ostensibly be playing much better when they play the Wolverines.

If they can win that game, they will be able to build a solid at-large resume, assuming they finish at the top of the regular season conference standings. If they can’t win that game and the AAC’s perception continues to take a beating, it might be wise for the folks in Dallas not to schedule another selection party.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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