SMU set a school record with 25 regular-season wins, earned its first AP top-10 ranking in 31 years, won 20-plus games for the third straight season, but could not play in any postseason events. With the season over, PonyStampede graded each player’s performance this year.
G Nic Moore
Moore was SMU’s unquestioned leader and best player. He became the second player in school history to earn three first-team all-conference awards, joining Gene Phillips. The senior sparked plenty of runs that helped SMU come from behind or pull away, most notably vs. Cincinnati, vs. Houston and at Memphis. His defense became better as the year went on too. Moore had another season deserving of the AAC Player of the Year.
F Ben Moore
After an inconsistent 2014-15 offensively, Moore became SMU’s second-leading scorer (11.9 points per game) and rebounder (7.4 rebounds per game) in 2015-16. He became a useful player off the pick-and-pop because of an improved mid-range jumper, to go with his transition offense and alley-oops. Defensively, he was SMU’s best. He shut down Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer (2-for-17 vs. SMU) and limited Memphis’ Dedric Lawson’s effectiveness in his back-to-the-basket game. He enters the offseason as one of SMU’s leaders and a consistent presence on both ends.
G Sterling Brown
Brown was expected to be the SMU’s best perimeter defender this year, but didn’t quite develop into the role. Offensively, he improved a lot. He made 30 of his 56 3-point attempts, 63.2 percent of his field goals and averaged 10.1 points per game (up from 5.1 as a sophomore) as a complimentary scorer and catch shooter. His offensive ceiling may not be that much higher than this season’s output, but becoming a more consistent offensive player was a nice step in his development.
F Jordan Tolbert
SMU has to be glad it used Tolbert’s one season for 2015-16 instead of 2014-15, given the need for frontcourt depth this past season. Tolbert’s 16.9 offensive rebounding percentage was seventh-best in the nation. His 56 percent mark on 2s was second on the team, behind Sterling Brown. He was a big reason SMU was the second-best offensive rebounding team in the nation.
G Shake Milton
The freshman came to SMU with a high basketball IQ and impressive maturity. He took Keith Frazier’s spot in the starting lineup in December and didn’t give it up. SMU, needing more perimeter threats, needed Milton to be a shooter. He was (42.6 percent on 3s) and averaged 10.5 points per game while playing both point guard and wing. He had games in which he looked like a freshman, turned the ball over and didn’t play with assertiveness (at Tulane, at Cincinnati). But showing toughness each game was always going to be part of his development early. His 18.8 turnover rate is a little high, although SMU struggled with turnovers as a team. For a freshman asked to play a lot of minutes (32.6 per game), he had a fine season.
G Jonathan Wilfong
The walk-on entered games in the first half on occasion to keep other players out of foul trouble and to pick up fouls for them, a simple yet smart coaching move by SMU’s staff. He was active in practice acting as SMU’s opponents as well.
F Markus Kennedy
Kennedy won his second straight AAC Sixth Man of the Year award, but it came as a bit of a shock. His scoring numbers fell (SMU career-low 9.3 points per game, 50.9 FG%) and he wasn’t as consistent game to game. His passing doesn’t get the attention it should, but as a scorer, Kennedy struggled more than he had in his previous two years. He didn’t look the same after a Dec. 8 ankle issue suffered vs. Michigan, but that can’t be assumed as the sole reason. He still had plenty of effective games (ex. his 16 points, 10 rebounds vs. Houston; 19 and 9 vs. ECU) and his defense got better too.
G Jarrey Foster
Larry Brown repeatedly called Foster, SMU’s other freshman, the team’s best perimeter defender. Foster’s defense and SMU’s lack of depth kept him on the floor. Offensively, he still has a lot of work to do. His decisiveness and aggressiveness aren’t there. He looked too deliberate when he had the ball. The ceiling for Foster remains high and his offensive performance as a freshman coming off an ACL tear shouldn’t make anyone think he won’t live up to his potential. SMU needed him to play a lot of minutes, and that magnified his offensive struggles a little bit.
G Courtland Sutton (pseudo walk-on)
Remember when he made that three-pointer? In all seriousness, Sutton provided another extra practice body once attrition and injuries hit and some impressive dunks in practice.
G David Nelson (walk-on)
Believe it or not, he got a basket (two, actually), rebound and an assist this year.
G Jake Brudish (walk-on)
Technically, he led SMU with a 100 percent three-point percentage. (Forget sample sizes!)