Monday, August 26, 2013
3-point shot: Stronger SMU good for AAC
By Andy Katz
SMU is keeping top local talent such as Emmanuel Mudiay at home.
1. SMU grabbed headlines in college basketball in late August. Stop and digest that for a moment. The commitment of Arlington (Texas) Prime Prep Academy point guard Emmanuel Mudiay to SMU was a significant development for the program and the fledgling American Athletic Conference. But it's not unique. This is exactly how a program becomes relevant when it has been dormant for so long. Programs that don't have a national following have to get local recruits when applicable. The Mustangs have now done this twice, landing Dallas' Keith Frazier for this season. Not all programs have a fertile recruiting area (such as Pitt). But those that do have to show they can take care of their own first before suddenly being reasonable for players outside the footprint. Schools such as Arizona and UConn didn't have the in-state talents to build a program (although Arizona changed its future by getting in-state prospect Sean Elliott early in Lute Olson's tenure). But schools where there is talent (Florida and Miami and countless other examples) had to land local talent at some point. SMU coach Larry Brown said last week the Mustangs were going to be a good, very good. The onus now will be on making sure the news of a commitment doesn't fade. The Mustangs have to win to bring a following to Moody Coliseum. Texas has historically been a poorly attended college basketball state. That won't change by local players staying home, but rather by winning games against higher-level competition.
2. The American has a high-level television deal with ESPN and now CBS. But the long-term success of this league has to come from the depth of talent. Louisville is gone after this season (as is Rutgers). Tulane, East Carolina and Tulsa enter in 2014-15. None of those programs would move the ratings meter or change the depth of NCAA bids at this juncture. That's why programs perceived to be below UConn, Memphis, Cincinnati and Temple must step up and be in play for bids. If SMU can be a fifth team in this group, that will be critical to the long-term solvency of the league. The league is never going to be conference of record in Florida (home to South Florida and Central Florida) or Louisiana (Tulane) or Oklahoma (Tulsa). The Big 12 is always going to dominate the state of Texas. But the American desperately needs SMU and Houston to be competing in the upper half so that in those two major cities where the Big 12 doesn't have a home team (TCU is in Fort Worth), the league has a chance to make a dent in the sporting coverage from mid-January to March (post-college football and after the NFL in February).
3. Lost amid the Mudiay commitment this week was the one Gonzaga landed in getting 2014 point guard Josh Perkins. Guard U, as the Zags have been called, got their future floor leader. He is being billed as one of the most physically gifted guards the Zags have recruited in Mark Few's tenure. And yet what the Perkins and Mudiay commitments show is that the discussion of marginalizing schools outside the power five is such foolish talk. Players want to go where they have a chance to be successful, play for established coaches, get on national television, be in the NCAA tournament, get to the NBA and at times play close to home. That can mean going to a host of Division I schools that are not in one of the power-five conferences. The Zags continue to be a program of record in the West and are as tough to beat for players they want as any other school west of the Mississippi.