Preview: No. 24 SMU vs. Connecticut The Mustangs look to send off their seniors with a win against the Huskies

It’s time to say goodbye.

For Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Jordan Tolbert and David Nelson, tonight will be their last game in Moody Coliseum. Their last game in the magic.

For Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, the night is sure to be filled with emotion. Both have been a huge part of SMU’s basketball renaissance. Without their contributions, the Mustangs wouldn’t be ranked today. Without them transferring to Dallas, SMU would most likely not be relevant.

Moore and Kennedy have not only helped transform SMU’s basketball program, but have also made transformations themselves.

Kennedy, who transferred in from Villanova three seasons ago, came in almost 50 pounds heavier. Kennedy has established himself as one of the best post players in the American Athletic Conference, and has certainly become a fan favorite.

Nic Moore rose to the challenge in his sophomore season, quickly developing into one of the best floor generals in college basketball. Larry Brown is known as one of the most demanding coaches at the point guard position, and Nic Moore is the latest point guard to be molded into greatness by The Godfather. Though incredibly green three years ago, Moore has honed his talents and has become solid in every facet of the game, garnering major praise from coaches around the nation. SMU’s basketball resurgence began with Nic Moore. Not enough can be said about him. Without much debate, he will go down as the greatest player in SMU history.

It’s fitting that Moore and Kennedy’s final home game will come against UConn, the same opponent they faced when Moody Coliseum re-opened in 2014. The last three seasons have been filled with triumph and heartbreak, but one thing has remained constant: beating UConn at home.

Each win against UConn at home has marked a milestone in SMU’s rise to prominence. Not only was SMU’s 2014 win against the Huskies their first win in the new Moody, but was also the program’s first win against a ranked opponent in a long time.

The 2015 win, unofficially dubbed “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” was a program-defining win for the Mustangs on national television.

Now it’s 2016. Because of SMU’s postseason ban, their season ends in three days. In what could be SMU’s biggest game of the year, can the Mustangs send off their seniors with one last magical performance? Let’s preview UConn:

Predicted Starting Line-up for the Mustangs

Nic Moore – point guard

Jordan Tolbert – forward

Ben Moore – forward

Sterling Brown – guard

Shake Milton – guard

What do the Huskies bring?

Screen shot 2016-03-03 at 11.45.59 AM

SMU has been able to depend on their post play to carry them against the Huskies in recent years. The Huskies are guard heavy, and while they bring many fantastic shooters to the table, UConn has struggled to score against the Mustangs. UConn relies on big shooters in big moments and will continue to do so until they can develop an inside game.

With that being said, SMU’s trip to Hartford a few weeks ago didn’t go as planned. Amida Brimah dominated both Markus Kennedy and Jordan Tolbert by himself. UConn, who entered as one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference, only lost the rebounding margin by two. With nothing happening inside for SMU, the Huskies’ outside play allowed them to pull away. If SMU wants to beat UConn at home, the Mustangs cannot allow the Huskies to take away their advantage inside. Brimah is a great player, but shouldn’t be able to dominate two equally skilled forwards. It’s up to SMU to finish.

I already touched on this, but the Mustangs cannot allow UConn to outrebound them. SMU is one of the best rebounding teams in the country – the rebounding margin in the last game should have been no contest. At the half, the Huskies led SMU 19-15 on the glass, 8-4 on the offensive end. UConn’s perimeter offense is too good to allow that many second shots. This game is SMU’s to lose – allowing second chance points would be the quickest way to throw it away.

Wild Card

Environment, obviously. SMU vs. UConn has been a sellout for the past two seasons. The building will be packed to the rafters. SMU Athletics released extra standing room tickets this morning, which are already gone. Fans care about this game. They care about seeing the seniors off. They care about winning the final home game of the season. They care about yelling the Huskies out of the building. It’s going to be a good time.

Wrap It Up

After everything that has happened this season, tonight’s game against UConn has the chance to be the ultimate cathartic expression for SMU Basketball and fans. The Mustangs might be 24-4 and ranked, but they’ve deserved better.

This could have been a season of dreams, but those aspirations were shot down before the season even began. For a team with the talent to make a deep postseason run, not being able to play beyond this Sunday is tragic. It makes this game more meaningful. Beating UConn tonight may not make up for everything that has happened, but it might help provide some closure. The future of this program is bright and this rivalry has always been one of the bright spots. This season has been about the seniors. Tonight’s game, win or lose, will show how far this program has come.

1 year ago
Written by Reece Graham
Staff writer for The Stable Sports. Reece is currently pursuing Journalism and B.F.A. Theatre Studies degrees at Southern Methodist University. Passionate about country music, sweet tea, baseball, pro wrestling, and being a Mustang.