SMU’s most successful season in a long time came to a controversial and abrupt end in the NCAA tournament. Now with the season over, let’s rewind and take a look back at each player’s performance this season.
Temple. While his improvement was evident, the inability to stay on the court hurts his individual grade.
Nick Russell’s defense and veteran leadership, which SMU so dearly missed in the early going. He also chipped in a few productive offensive games too, such as his 20-point outburst against UCF and his 5-7 shooting effort against ECU. Without Manuel’s contributions on defense, SMU would not have been nearly as successful as it was.
G Jean-Micheal MudiayRemember when he almost dunked?
Grade: N/A (But all the walk-ons get props for helping run the scout team).
Ben Emelogu and Keith Frazier earned early starts over him. He scored fewer than three points (five goose eggs) in 10 of SMU’s first 17 games. But he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Brown makes major contributions to games in ways other than scoring (he still had four games with at least five rebounds in that same stretch), but he just wasn’t getting the minutes. After Keith Frazier’s academic suspension, Brown seamlessly entered the starting lineup and played 30-plus minutes in 12 of the next 17 games, never dipping below 26. His defense, rebounding ability and hustle plays were essential for SMU.
G Ben EmeloguEmelogu was expected to sit out a year after transferring from Virginia Tech in July, but was cleared to play three weeks before the start of the season. He was initially counted on to spell Nic Moore at point guard, but saw most of his minutes at the two guard spot. Emelogu never found his shooting touch and had some defensive struggles as well, leading to limited minutes for him. In fairness, learning Larry Brown’s offense in just a few short months and playing right away is no easy task, and with a year under his belt and a great attitude, he’s a good bet to improve significantly before next year.
Markus Kennedy’s return and Cannen Cunningham’s stellar play down the stretch limited Moore’s minutes.
F Markus KennedyKennedy’s academic suspension hurt SMU during the nonconference slate, and he was a big help on both ends of the floor when he returned. But, he never seemed to be in the same physical shape he was in 2013-14, and that’s why he looked a little slow in some games. Kennedy was still a crucial piece for SMU this season, just not the dominant force he was a season ago. To his credit, he did improve his free throw shooting and even developed a decent mid-range jumper. Plus, his solid passing skills helped SMU’s offense be a force in the paint.
F Cannen CunninghamA solid player lost in SMU’s rotation of big men last season, Cunningham became a force during conference play. He brought range from the forward position, solid post skills and smooth moves to the hoop with the ball. Cunningham’s energy wasn’t always apparent in past seasons, but he played with a different level of energy this year. Had he played more minutes when Kennedy was ineligible, SMU might have found a groove earlier.
UCLA. But this is about the entire season. Moreira had some goaltending issues before the tournament, but he was still a good rim protector and defensive player (the near-triple-double was fun). He came into the season with big things expected, thanks to his dominant play in the FIBA World Cup over the summer. Moreira brought pretty consistent production from the center spot and led the team in field goal percentage. While he didn’t do anything flashy, he was still an important player for the Mustangs this year.