Monday, August 26, 2013

Throwing A Bit Of Cold Water On SMU

It's been a couple of days since SMU landed Emmanuel Mudiay, arguably the top point guard recruit in the 2014 high school class, but the internet buzz is still increasing. SMU has now turned the corner and should be a regular contender for elite recruits. They might even be a Top 25 team next season.

Eh. Let's chill out a bit.

First, let me be clear that I'm actually rather high on SMU for this coming season. Larry Brown signed a few quality transfers who will be ready to go for 2013-14. I picked them to go 6th in the AAC and have them just a bit off the Tournament bubble. But in my opinion, SMU is not likely to make the NCAA Tournament while Larry Brown is still in charge.

We've seen this before with "program changing recruits". Providence was supposed to turn around last season with Ricky Ledo and Kris Dunn. In the end, Ledo never played and Dunn was relatively ineffective as a freshman. Florida International's Isiah Thomas got a lot of hype when they landed Dominique Ferguson, one of the ten best recruits in the country, but he never played either. You can't pin your hopes for a program on one recruit.

The comparison that many have made is to the Baylor team that has risen from the ashes under Scott Drew. And that certainly was a remarkable rise out of scandal and disaster. But Baylor is a big school in a BCS conference. In 2003, during Dave Bliss's last season, as Baylor was mired in a 5-11 Big 12 season, the Bears averaged an attendance of 6,768. For comparison, SMU averaged 2,013 per game in Larry Brown's first season. That was an improvement from 1,970 per game the year before, but still below schools like Southeast Missouri State (2,326 per game) and Utah Valley State (2,952 per game). Heck, SMU's whole arena only holds 8,998.

I do think SMU will eventually get back to the NCAA Tournament, but I don't think Larry Brown will lead them there. He's not the type to stick around long enough to really build a program, while Tim Jankovich (the head coach-in-waiting) is. I'm dubious that the program will ever be a perennial Top 25 team for all of the reasons listed in the previous paragraph and the fact that the AAC will not really be a "major conference" after this coming season. But they will be better in 2013-14 than they were in 2012-13, and they should be even better in 2014-15. They'll eventually make a Tournament, but not solely because of one recruit landed this past weekend.

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