Mar 1, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs guard Nick Russell (12), guard Ryan Manuel (1), guard Nic Moore (11) and forward Shawn Williams (2) look on during the second quarter of a mens basketball game against the UCF Knights at Moody Coliseum. SMU won 70-55. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

SMU Mustangs: Can They Go Far In The NCAA Tournament?

Although collegiate programs such as Kansas and Duke have garnered favorable albeit well-deserved prestige for being perennial tournament contenders, there is always at least one under the radar team that gets overshadowed by these successful contenders.  Whether it’s a surging VCU squad or an unknown program such as Florida Gulf Coast, the underdog always finds a way to persevere even when it’s seems all but impossible.  This year, college basketball is once again ripe with underrated potential that could easily flourish come tournament play.  However, one team in particular has battled its way through decisive victories over ranked opponents while learning from their bitter defeats.  While the Southern Methodist Mustangs still have an arduous journey ahead of them before they can bask in the glory that is their inspiring Cinderella story, they have proven that they can win valiantly when it matters most.

Looking at the Mustangs underappreciated victories, it becomes easy to see how this team is able to shell shock their opponents into relinquishing one loss after another; they are deadly accurate from the field.  As a team, the Mustangs shoot 49.2% from the field (8th in NCAA), although they only score 72.1 PPG (149th in NCAA).  While it may seem odd that a team with this type of consistent accuracy from the field is below average in total points per game, it is testament to this teams discipline of taking the right shots at the right time.  What makes this Mustangs team dynamic so intriguing is their ability to score in a multitude of ways while effectively moving the ball around the arch to establish a comfortable rhythm for this poised team to do what they do best.

While the Mustangs have arguably one of the most well-balanced starting rosters in college basketball, one gifted guard in particular has stepped up consistently and has quickly become a well-rounded athlete who can remain calm under pressure while finding ways to get points for his loyal comrades.  Although Sophomore Nic Moore’s is relatively small for a guard at 5’9”, he has proved that is meek stature is hardly a concern when it comes to leading his team to one unexpected victory after another.  Since Moore transferred from Illinois State, he has quickly transformed into one of if not the best point guard in the game as he can shoot accurately from both within the arch (47.6%) and from beyond the perimeter (45.1%).  Simply put, Moore brings a plethora of athletic skill sets to the table that is crucial to the Mustangs illustrious success on offense.  Even when an opposing team finds a way to shut down Moore, he quickly changes his MO on the fly.  If a team plays man to man, Moore either takes a deep three or drives to the basket for either an easy lay up or a hard foul.  However, if a team uses a 2-3 zone, Moore will step inside to draw the defenders to him while looking for a teammate underneath the basket or from beyond the arch.  This unpredictable style of play is what makes Moore a mature and gifted guard that can play unselfishly while recognizing an opportunity to score.

However, even with the Mustangs dynamically poised offensive flow, they also have a stout and underrated defense that has done an exceptional job at stifling opponents scoring opportunities.  In their victories, the Mustangs have held their opponents to impressive low of just 57.6 PPG.  Although the Mustangs don’t get the credit they deserve for this feat because of the weak opposition they face at times, they have still managed to demolish ranked opponents supposedly dominant offenses by holding them to just 61.8 PPG.  While the Mustangs dynamic offense gets the majority of the limelight because of their sensational shooting prowess, their confident defense is what allows this team to garner several fast break chances for either a quick lay up or to catch the opposing defense off guard with an intriguing offensive scheme of their own.

When all is said and done, the Mustangs have all the moving parts to defeat any opponent in any type of situation.  Although this team will inevitably have to face opponents that are more experienced in terms of playing in a tougher conference, the Mustangs have developed a level of team cohesion and consistency that is rare to find amongst most teams in college basketball.  If the Mustangs can continue to perform with this type of professional poise and determination, an elite eight appearance is definitely within the realm of possibility for this spirited program that will stop at nothing to win no matter how big the stage may be.

Tags: NCAA Basketball Southern Methodist Mustangs

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