Weekend homework: SMU making moves

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
10:00
AM ET
Year 2 of the Larry Brown project has Southern Methodist poised for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993.

It seems like the Hall of Fame coach has SMU making history each time it wins a game.

Talk about progress. The Mustangs have received votes in the latest Associated Press poll. The last time that happened in one of the two major polls was during the 2003-04 season. You know what possibly gets them in? A win over No. 7 Cincinnati on Saturday.

The newly renovated Moody Coliseum has all of a sudden become a tough place for opponents. The Mustangs are 12-0 this season at home including 6-0 in Moody. Check with Connecticut and Memphis, which both notarized SMU's legitimacy, on just how tough the Mustangs are at home. They beat the Huskies by nine and the Tigers by 15 in the comfy confines of home.

They'll try and make it three wins over ranked teams when Cincinnati comes to town (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU). SMU hasn't beaten three ranked teams in a season since 1984-85, which is also the only time since 1959 in program history that it was also ranked.

Just a warning, if you want offense, you're probably watching the wrong game. SMU entered the week with the nation's third-ranked field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shot just 37.2 percent. The Bearcats ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense allowing just 56.7 points per game.

Cincinnati is running away with the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats have a 16-game winning streak and have a flawless 12-0 record in the league. But their play is far from pristine. They generally out-tough their opponents for wins.

They did it in Louisville despite the Cardinals' rally from a 17-point deficit to take a lead with five minutes left. They did it to SMU too. In the first meeting this season, a 65-57 Cincinnati win, SMU trailed by four with four minutes left.

It's a simple formula really. If the Bearcats are in a close game late, they rely on their defense and experience to pull them through. Not many teams have a trio of seniors like Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles. And not many teams can defend as well as Cincinnati.

The Mustangs know that and will show a different starting lineup than their first meeting. Brown is using 6-foot-9 forward Markus Kennedy, a Villanova transfer, to give them a scoring boost. And every point matters against the Bearcats.

C.L. Brown | email

College Basketball

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