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Game Preview: SMU Mustangs

What a sight for tired eyes! A team with a number next to their name is venturing into Assembly Hall in early November! What a wondrous occasion deserving of a celebratory feast.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info:

Who? SMU Mustangs (1-1, #41 KenPom) at Indiana Hoosiers (2-0, #28 KenPom)

When? 8:00 PM, Big Ten Network

Vegas? INDIANA -1.5

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 5, 71% chance of victory


SMU has had a doozy of an offseason.

At the end of last year, Southern Methodist saw their lack of tough scheduling be the chief reason they were shut out of the Big Dance despite a 23-9 record and two wins over would-be National Champions Connecticut. To a lesser extent, Indiana saw their middling schedule shut them out of the NIT. Not long after, the schools decided to scratch each other's backs and schedule a game for this season.

The Mustangs looked to be a formidable foe and a great early test for the young Hoosiers, but then this happened:

Emmanuel Mudiay was the top-ranked high school player for many recruiting services and was set to make a devastatingly efficient backcourt for the Mustangs when paired with Nic Moore. It's going to be rare that Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. aren't the better duo on the court this year, but Moore and Mudiay would give them all they could handle.

Unfortunately, the hits kept coming for Larry Brown's squad:

Kennedy gave SMU great size (6'9") and great rebounding (90th in DR% last year) while also compiling an offensive rating of 106.1 and an eFG% of 53.5%. He would have given Troy Williams everything he could handle, and probably more, given that Williams will be in his first game back from suspension and might take a game or two to readjust to the speed of the game.

Obviously, these developments help IU out in regards to "being able to win the game" but could potentially hurt them if the loss of these players also help the rest of SMU's opponents in the "being able to win the game" department. The more SMU stumbles, the less helpful playing this game becomes for the Hoosiers. There can be no doubt, though, that playing this team will be a much better barometer than the two teams Indiana has played so far.

Mustangs Not Devoid of Talent

Larry Brown was not left with a bare cupboard after all this, however. Nic Moore's KenPom player comparisons include Shane Larkin (2013) and Marcus Paige (2014) and the diminutive junior point guard can do a little of everything, from passing to excellent three-point shooting (43.6% last season). He has yet to get it going this year, but it's highly unlikely he won't break out of the funk sometime soon. If his name rings a bell, you may recall that he was the 2011 runner-up for Indiana's Mr. Basketball award. How a guard this talented slipped by the eyes of nearly every Big Ten school (save Northwestern) without an offer is shocking. It's the conference's loss, as Moore was named to the Wooden Award preseason top 50 for this season.

6'8" forward Ben Moore (no relation) is a guy SMU is relying heavily on to mitigate the loss of Markus Kennedy and he seems primed to answer the bell. He is second on the team in minutes played but leads the team in usage percentage. He's a force on the offensive boards and, really, his entire offensive game is played almost exclusively from fifteen feet and in, with more of a focus on the midrange than actually at the rim. He's good at drawing fouls but, fortunately for us, kind of lousy at hitting free throws (62.9% career FT%).

SMU will be the first of many teams to come into Assembly Hall with a size advantage, as we look at projecting starting lineups and their height:

Yogi Ferrell (6'0") Nic Moore (5'9")
James Blackmon Jr. (6'4") Ben Emelogu (6'5")
Robert Johnson (6'3") Keith Frazier (6'5")
Troy Williams (6'7") Ben Moore (6'8")
Hanner Mosquera-Perea (6'9") Yanick Moreira (6'11")

Outside of Nic Moore, SMU's guards are fairly large, and while the lineups don't look as mismatched from a size perspective, the Mustangs have senior Cannen Cunningham (6'11") to go along with sophomore Sterling Brown and senior Justin Martin (6'6") ready to come off the bench. For a team that struggled on the glass against UIndy and Texas Southern, rebounding will be even tougher against a big and experienced SMU team.

Stat-filled Goodness:

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 70.9% (3rd) 21.3% (210th) 38.6% (63rd) 46.1% (106th)
SMU (Defense) 45.5% (136th) 20.5% (142nd) 42.4% (306th) 45.0% (233rd)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 42.0% (88th) 18.0% (214th) 28.4% (131st) 28.2% (77th)
SMU (Offense) 50.0% (116th) 18.1% (133rd) 41.4% (40th) 37.4% (166th)

Should this game hold true to what the teams have been doing through 80 minutes of regular season basketball, it could be a rather sloppy affair. Neither team has valued the ball with any high degree of care and both struggle to turn their opponents over as well. Granted, we know from watching that many of Indiana's turnovers come from unforced errors more often than they come as a result of the other team's doing.

Both teams excel at rebounding their own misses and Indiana, quite simply, doesn't miss very often, shooting north of 20% over the national average. We know rebounding will be a struggle for the Hoosiers, and we can reasonably expect their 38.6% OR% to drop as the season goes on and the competition stiffens. However, neither team is particularly adept at preventing offensive boards and SMU is downright dreadful at it.

Indiana's FT Rate is looking pretty good but it could help them out a lot more if they would make the FT attempts that they get, as they're currently hitting 67.9% from the charity stripe. SMU gets to the line a little less, but converts at a 79.1% rate. SMU isn't great at keeping guys off the line, it's imperative that the Hoosiers hit the freebies if they plan to win this game. Hanner Mosquera-Perea may be the most troubling of our foul shooters, hitting only 45.5% of his attempts despite past success and excellent form. For now, let's hope it's small-sample size silliness and nothing more.

And speaking of small-sample size silliness, I'll remind everyone again that we're working with two games worth of data. IU has played two cupcakes in Assembly Hall while SMU has played one cupcake and then gone on the road to play Gonzaga, so these numbers are going to be screwy. No doubt the losses of Mudiay and Kennedy are hurting the Mustangs chances, but this should be a pretty good game. Hopefully the crowd will be rocking the Hall for our new visitors and give our team some confidence.

Three Things to Watch for:

  • The long-debated suspensions of Stanford Robinson, Troy Williams, and Emmitt Holt have ended and all three will be eligible for this game. It remains to be seen just how much each will play. Without any inside information, I would assume Troy Williams will start, mostly out of necessity, and depending on how Emmitt Holt's development has gone, his athleticism and size should allow him to carve out meaningful minutes in this game as well.
  • The curious case of Stan Robinson. The Tree (get it? Stanford? Anyone?) surely noticed how well Robert Johnson played during the last four games including an incredible performance against Texas Southern, leading the team in scoring with 21 points. There is still an important role for Robinson, as I still believe he's the best among the guards at simply bullying his way to the hoop. Much has been made of his improved jumper ever since switching from his left to his right hand, but it's unlikely he's surpassed Johnson or Nick Zeisloft in that regard. Indiana has a "good problem" of three decent options for the third guard spot in the starting lineup next to Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon. I think RoJo has played his way into the starting lineup, but Zeisloft and Robinson will still be relied on heavily to score with the second unit. Tom Crean could also opt to have RoJo run the point for the second unit, but even then I think Zeisloft would draw the start over Robinson right now.
  • Hanner Mosquera-Perea's biggest test. SMU has legitimate size and these are the kind of games that could very well go as he goes. He's looked good early on against the cupcake parade, but now he'll be picking on someone his own size. Can he play within himself and to the strengths of this team by not forcing things down low and staying out of foul trouble on the other end? Whether the Hoosiers win or lose, another good game from Hanner would do a lot for my personal confidence in the team going forward.