As the SMU basketball program officially turns the page from the Matt Doherty era this Sunday, and looks to Larry Brown to lead this program to new heights, Mustang fans must temper expectations in his first season at the helm of the program.
Although the SMU program has made great strides early on under the leadership of Brown, with all the transfers, highly touted recruits, the move to the Big East and a renovated Moody Coliseum, Pony fans must remember none of those things come into effect until next year.
For now, Larry Brown is left with a team that went 13-19 last year (4-12 in conference) and predicted by most media outlets to finish near the bottom of Conference-USA.
However, Brown and the Mustangs do have a few things pointing towards their favor this season. First off Nick Russell, a transfer from Kansas State, will be looked to lead the SMU backcourt.
All reports coming out of practice are that Russell has embraced a leadership role, and may end up being SMU's leading weapon on offense. Along with Russell, London Giles, one of the teams leading scorers last year returns for his senior season.
But he may be coming off the bench as sophomore Ryan Manuel has assumed the starting point guard job. Still, Giles will be relied not only to score on the court, but also to provide leadership to a generally young and inexperienced team.
One of those young players is Jalen Jones, who despite only being a sophomore comes into his second season with 18 starts under his belt.
Jones has the potential to the be a break out player this year, as last year he showed flashed hints of being a potential leader of this team. Jones is easily one of the most athletic players on the Mustangs roster and if Coach Brown can untap his potential, look for Jones to have a big year for the Mustangs this season.
Brown will also look to develop two other young players, freshman Jordan Dickerson and Blaise Mbargorba. Both standing at 7-feet tall, Dickerson and Mbargorba come into this season as 3-star recruits, who each held offers from numerous big time programs.
Both players are raw on the offensive end, but specialize defending the basket and are surprisingly athletic for their size, and along with 6-foot-9 sophomore Cannen Cunnnigham, the Mustangs should give their opponents trouble scoring in the paint.
Another thing the Mustangs have working for them is their schedule. With a relatively easy non-conference schedule, SMU should be able to start off the season well.
In the non-conference section of their schedule, the Mustangs only play two teams from a Big 6 conference, TCU and Utah, both of whom are expected to finish near the bottom of their respective conferences. SMU should be able to rack up not only wins leading into conference play but also confidence.
SMU should be able to formulate a decent staring lineup, that will most likely to consist of, in no particular positions, Ryan Manuel, Nick Russell, London Giles, Cannen Cunningham, and Shawn Williams, who is a versatile Texas transfer that underachieved last year, but their weakness will be depth on the bench as they will rely heavily on freshmen and inexperienced players.
If Brown and his staff can develop the younger players, and find a few perimeter shooters, SMU may be able to surprise some people this season, and make some noise in their final season in Conference-USA.
Season Prediction: 16-15
2012 SMU Basketball Season Preview
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