Under The Microscope: SMU

Song Selection of the Day:  Carly Rae Jepsen, “I Really Like You”

The calendar says March, and there is still that one school that felt hurt and saddened during the 2014 Selection Show and might either make the 2015 Big Dance or miss out entirely…again?!

If that moment does not make you reach for those Tums Chewables, maybe you should consider playing that song choice I typed above on repeat with your mobile device.

Bottom line, this is a college basketball blog and the SMU Mustangs of Dallas are still in the mix for one of those 68 coveted berths.

Even after Purdue, Iona, and especially Pittsburgh suffered ill-timed losses on Sunday, nothing compares as a bigger head scratcher of a game than what Larry Brown’s crew went through on Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford.  The UConn Huskies acted like the same team that won the title both in 2011 and 2014, with crisp passing and shut-down defense that would have made LeBron James or Michael Jordan in his prime sweat more just to get inside the painted area.

The final score was 81-73, but at times watching the final 10 minutes of the broadcast on CBS felt more like a 1990 game with Loyola Marymount (Wednesday, March 4 marks the 25th anniversary of the tragic passing of their star center in Hank Gathers after making one of his patented dunks during an opening round West Coast Conference game against Portland) and any team that would have had the unenviable task of scoring a point every 10 to 15 seconds (in that era, the NCAA used a 45 second shot clock–not 35 as it has been in effect since the 1992-93 season).

With UConn winning six of their last 8 contests and three straight games, they sit in fifth place in the AAC standings–only a half game in back of Memphis.  That is huge because the top 5 teams gets byes in the first round when the AAC is one of the last major tournaments to take place starting on March 12 in Hartford (schedule will appear in a separate blog, just fyi).

With the Huskies shooting a blistering 53 percent from the floor, their nine of their 20 shots from long range was something that they desperately needed.

UConn (17-11 overall) has won three straight and six of its past eight. The Huskies are in fifth place in the league, a game ahead of Memphis. The top five teams will get first-round byes when the conference tournament opens in Hartford on March 12.

“We talked about (attacking) possession by possession.  We wanted to play with each other, not for each other,” said Connecticut Head Coach Kevin Ollie in remarks to Dan Bonner on CBSSports.com after the game.

SMU did lead briefly, 53-51 on a jump shot by Markus Kennedy with 8:10 to play.  But UConn was in control a solid majority of the 40 minutes and never looked back.

Here is SMU’s profile–are they still tournament worthy?  In my mind, yes.

Good Wins:  February 7 at Tulsa, sweeping season series with Temple.

Bad Losses:  November 17 at Gonzaga, November 20 at Indiana, November 25 vs. Arkansas, lost season series to Cincinnati.

RPI Breakdown:  0-2 against the RPI Top 25, but the Mustangs are 3-3 against teams ranked 26 to 50, 7-1 against those who were ranked 51-100.

Final Analysis:

SMU is in Spring Break and will hopefully be well rested knowing that they are sitting a half-game behind Tulsa, which beat Memphis in overtime on Saturday.

Showdown Sunday will be next week on March 8, promises to be fun!

The only other small piece of news to come across the fiber-optic Internet wires…

Dickie V will not be at the Duke-North Carolina game on Saturday night.

This is the first time ever that the esteemed announcer will not be on the call during ESPN produced games.  As I mentioned in a prior blog, Dick was on the call for another ACC game in 1993 back when ABC Sports still had a full-fledged sports department.  The first time when we saw the “ESPN on ABC” banner to lead off a broadcast was during the green-to-checkered flag coverage of the 2006 Indianapolis 500 mile race.

Another light schedule on Monday as the first wave of conference tournament tips off on Tuesday.  Look for those schedules starting sometime tomorrow.
Please enjoy your day.

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