DALLAS – Howdy from Big D, where it is clear, but very cold today. UConn got to town Jan. 1, and is prepping for its game at SMU on Saturday afternoon.
Here’s a look at the Mustangs, who, like the Huskies, began their American Athletic Conference history with a road loss. SMU lost at Cincinnati on Wednesday, but on paper would appear to be a much better team that Houston.
- As you may have heard, SMU is coached by Larry Brown, 73, who is one of the most successful – and traveled – coaches in the history of the game. Brown has coached UCLA and Kansas in the NCAA, Carolina and Denver in the long-vanished ABA, and the Knicks, Nets, Sixers, Pistons, Nuggets, Bobcats, Clippers, Spurs and Pacers. He is the only coach to win championships in the NCAA (Kansas 1988) and NBA (Detroit 2004).
- Brown coached Kevin Ollie with the Sixers, and had a major influence on his career. Brown says he urged Ollie to retire as a player in 2010 and take the opportunity to come back to UConn as an assistant.
- Ollie has joked that Brown had an expansive playbook, but used only a handful of the plays.
- Brown said he had the chance to be UConn’s head coach in the late 1960s, but passed to continue playing in the ABA.
- Brown’s presence alone makes SMU a team to keep an eye on, which, of course, is exactly what the school was looking for. The Mustangs were 15-17 in his first season.
- This season, SMU has lost close games at Arkansas and to Virginia at a neutral site. They got a notable road win at Wyoming, and lost at Cincinnati.
- SMU returned its starting five from last season, but transfers Nic Moore (13.4) from Illinois State, and Marcus Kennedy (10.4) from Villanova, are the Mustangs’ top scorers.
- Moore has hit 32 of 60 three-point attempts, and SMU is shooting a solid 41.3 percent from there, 10 percentage points better than its opponents.
- SMU has outrebounded opponents (plus-9). Even in a loss at Cincy, they outrebounded the Bearcats by 12.
- They do turn it over – 180 in 13 games.
- The Mustangs home arena, Moody Coliseum in downtown Dallas, has undergone a $47 million renovation and will open with the UConn game. It holds about 9,000 and it’s sold out.
- Yanick Moreira, 6-foot-11, is SMU’s effective big man, with 9.4 points, 5.7 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game.
- Like Houston, SMU is focusing on getting local talent. The Mustangs have six players from Texas high schools, and Moreira, from a Texas JuCo. In freshman Keith Frazier, Brown landed a McDonald’s All-American from the City of Dallas.