Billy: Can SMU shake its road game woes?
The reason SMU missed the NCAA tournament last year was the non-conference schedule according to members of the committee, but let’s be real. If SMU wins at USF, at Temple, at Memphis and even against Houston in the AAC tournament, they’re in the NCAA tournament. Forget a four-point loss to #3 Virginia (post-season poll) or a 11-point loss to Arkansas. The team was still meshing with three new starters. SMU has to win the games they’re supposed to.
The road woes could change this year after the team’s disappointment from missing the NCAA tournament or could be the Achilles heel without Nick Russell and Shawn Williams’ leadership to focus the team on the road. The AAC takes a hit losing Louisville and even Rutgers, but SMU has to just focus on taking care of business. Expect SMU to step it up at Moody, but what team will fans see at Michigan, Indiana and Gonzaga plus all the AAC games away from home? Nic Moore and the rest of the veterans need to set the tone that what happened on the road last year, can’t happen.
Scott: WIll Keith Frazier improve on his rough freshman season and live up to his hype coming out of high school?
Yes, Markus Kennedy's eligible is important. And yes, the increased roles for Sterling Brown and Ben Moore are something to keep an eye on, but what about SMU's lone McDonald's All-American Keith Frazier? Frazier obviously had an average first year, and there were even rumors that Frazier was unhappy about his role, but Frazier has stuck it out and worked tirelessly this off-season to improve his play. The guard put on about 15 pounds and spent extra time in the gym working on his shots. With the guidance of Coach Brown and Xavier transfer Justin Martin, I think Frazier will have a much-improved sophomore campaign. I'm not saying Frazier is ready to start (I think J-Mart should start when he's healthy), but if Frazier can work on his shot selection, among other things, he could set himself up to have a very strong junior year.
Patrick: What will the guard rotation be?
Obviously Nic Moore is locked in as the starting PG, but no one has emerged as his clear backup. Keith Frazier will likely start at shooting guard, but that is not a guarantee. He is buying into Coach Brown's teaching but is still far from finished. Could Ben Emelogu push Frazier for minutes if he struggles early in the season? Will Emelogu become Moore's backup, or will Ryan Manuel and his improved jump shot lock that duty down? The lineup is still in flux, and that's a good problem to have because of SMU's depth. It could be a few games before everyone's roles are determined, especially in the backcourt.
Hatts: Where's the backup point guard?
Backup point guard was one of the biggest problems for SMU last year and I fear this could be a problem again this year. SMU will likely fill this position with a combination of Ben Emelogu, Ryan Manuel and Ben Moore. Out of this group, Emelogu is a good option but beyond him this could rear its ugly head this season. While it’s not as much of a concern at home, this could become a problem in some of the tough games on the road such as Gonzaga, Indiana and UConn and against teams that choose to press SMU. Defensively, I also see this as a problem when Ben Moore is on the floor because SMU is going to be very big at that time. Who Ben Moore guards will be one of the biggest keys to how this experiment will work. My hope is that SMU will use Emelogu as their backup point guard and just keep Ben Moore in front court off the bench or to fill in for Markus Kennedy.
Demo: Will Ben Moore emerge as a versatile, lock-down defender?
Ben Moore certainly has the length and athleticism to guard three positions. Moore has good instincts and jumps plus he doesn't hesitate to jump in passing lanes. Even though Moore looks good defensively in practice, but can he perform in live game action if SMU needs him to jump into a starting role where Kennedy blossomed last year?