As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 27-6 (15-3 AAC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 112.3 (24th)/94.9 (43rd)
Seed: South No. 6
Impact player: Nic Moore, guard, junior. 14.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 113.3 offensive rating
The Case For: This team enters the NCAA tournament with a chip on its shoulder. Last season, SMU was one of the notable snubs on Selection Sunday. After winning 23 games in the regular season, coach Larry Brown’s nationally ranked team ended the year on a sour note with a loss to UConn in the American tournament final. Still, the Mustangs won the program’s first regular season conference crown since 1993.
Balance is the key behind SMU’s success. It ranks top-50 nationally in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com. Four players average double-figures in scoring, a group led by Moore, the AAC’s Player of the Year. This roster has also dealt with plenty of adversity already. Markus Kennedy and Keith Frazier were each ineligible for portions of the season, and Justin Martin quit the program midseason to go pro. But SMU rebounded to remain one of the AAC’s top squads, a testament to Brown’s coaching and Moore’s on-court leadership.
The Case Against: SMU has fallen short against the best teams on its schedule. The program dropped games against Gonzaga, Arkansas and Indiana in nonconference play. The Mustangs also lost to AAC foes Cincinnati (twice) and UConn in their conference schedule. They don’t have any terrible losses, but all six of their defeats came against teams ranked 67th or higher in kenpom.com’s rankings. It’s unclear whether SMU has the horses to hang with a top-tier tourney team.
Regardless, the Mustangs won’t get far if they can’t take care of the basketball. They rank 214th nationally in turnover percentage (19.7), per kenpom.com. Brown’s squad can do a lot of damage on offense, but it might struggle against a more disruptive defense in its bracket.
SI prediction: Beat UCLA in Round of 64, lose to Iowa State in Round of 32