SMU Remains Undefeated, How They Manage to 'Enjoy' Season Mired in ControversyBy Russell Westerholm
With all the turmoil atop the Associated Press men's basketball poll, The Southern Methodist Mustangs have gradually climbed the Top 25 during their 18-0 start.
But their first-half success is certainly bittersweet, as the NCAA banned the team from the postseason for a number of academic fraud and unethical conduct violations under head coach Larry Brown.
According to The AP, seniors Markus Kennedy and Nic Moore are emphasizing the importance of enjoying the game. Ranked eighth in the nation, SMU went into halftime tied with unranked Houston Tuesday night in a game that had the look of an upset, at least at that time.
As good teams often do, SMU elevated its game against a tough opponent and out played its opponent in the second to improve to 18-0. With the sanctions from the NCAA hanging over them, SMU could easily slip in the rankings and be forgotten. Just the opposite has happened, as they are the only undefeated Top 25 team, and could stand a real chance at claiming a number-one ranking at some point.
Five different teams have been ranked first overall on the AP poll and each has lost as the number-one team. SportsLine projects SMU to have a win probability of 88 percent or higher in each of its next three games and at least 75 percent in all but two of its remaining contests, CBS Sports reported.
Still, that only leaves SMU a 7.6 percent chance of going undefeated. Though that likely will not pan out, SMU can continue being a headline with every win they tally.
Playing in the up-and-coming AAC (and probably because of the sanctions) their march to the top of the AP poll may be slanted upward more than others', but that is what will be their season will be all about. That will be their postseason.
"At halftime, Nic [Moore, senior guard] was telling our team, let's enjoy this. The pressure happened when we got our (NCAA) ruling. There's no pressure now," SMU head coach Larry Brown said in his postgame comments. "I'm just in awe of our team.
"I'm just proud of the way we've handled everything, and how much we've grown and how much better we're getting."