Bearcat Insider: Did you expect the Mustangs to start the season this hot after the situation that broke with the program prior to the season?
Billy Embody: I didn't expect SMU to fold at all. That being said, I think them starting undefeated like this was not expected. Maybe they would have lost to Michigan, Stanford (even with injuries) or Colorado, but they've done a great job at banding together through all this. They've just made this all about playing for eachother and just beating everyone out there. It's not surprising at all, but I didn't think they'd do it at the same time.
Bearcat Insider: Which player has been the biggest surprise this season so far?
Billy Embody: Sterling Brown. For those who have really followed the team, Brown has been a glue guy and a great defender. Brown hasn't been a huge scoring threat, but this season he's really stepped up his game shooting the ball. Freshman Shake Milton deserves recognition here, but I'm not at all shocked he's scoring the way he is. Brown has been a bigger development with SMU's depth issues and he's done it playing the way Larry Brown wants all of his players to play. He'll have an even bigger role as the season goes on without Frazier.
Bearcat Insider: Who do you think will be the X-Factor in Thursday night’s game?
Billy Embody: Milton's shooting. Both Nic Moore and Shake Milton had down nights against USF this past weekend, but Milton's ability to bounce back will be tested. Milton is the best scorer on the team in my mind and if he can have a huge performance, it'll help with spacing and allow Nic Moore to operate at a high level and also distribute the ball inside to Markus Kennedy, Ben Moore and Jordan Tolbert. If Shake is on, SMU will have a great night offensively.
Bearcat Insider: What is going on with Keith Frazier? I know he has missed a few games.
Billy Embody: He's left the program. The official word is personal reasons and Larry Brown has said it's not done yet, but it is. It would be the shock of the century if Frazier is somehow welcomed back. There's a lot more to what's going on and has been put out by some outlets and Frazier's mentor and former high school coach, but the big thing was playing time. Frazier lost his starting spot to Milton and he's been ticked off ever since.
Bearcat Insider: For those who haven't watched the Mustangs this year, what is different about this team compared to the team last year?
Billy Embody: The outside scoring threats. SMU has always been a physical, pound-the-ball-inside and rebounding team, but the staff has really let them open it up (especially when Jankovich was running the team) from beyond the arc. With Moore, Milton and Brown really doing a nice job shooting from outside, it has allowed more space to work inside. Last year, SMU's only consistent threat from outside was Moore with Frazier's streaky shooting. This year, anyone who catches the ball on the perimeter including freshman Jarrey Foster, is a threat to shoot. It's been exciting to watch the Mustangs just let it fly this season. It's like they're just playing basketball and have nothing to worry about...
Bearcat Insider: What is your prediction for Thursday?
Billy Embody: I've wrestled with this a lot. Cincinnati hasn't beaten anyone good at all yet, but the Bearcats are always tough and matchup well against SMU. SMU is mad at what happened last year in Moody Coliseum - a loss to the Bearcats. They're out for blood. I think SMU edges out a 77-74 win against Cincy.