A tip of the cap to Larry Brown for the job he has done putting Southern Methodist basketball on the map. The Mustangs moved into the top 25 a couple of weeks back for the first time in nearly 30 years, and following losing records in the last two seasons, and seven of the last eight, they appear headed for their first NCAA Tournament since 1993. Let's go over the NCAAB odds and see where this game is headed.
It might be a short dance for the Ponies once they reach March Madness, and Brown's bunch is certainly going to be tested even before the American Athletic Conference Tournament begins in about two weeks.
The first of three ranked teams remaining on SMU's regular season schedule awaits the Mustangs on Sunday when they travel to Storrs to face the Connecticut Huskies. Tip-off from Gampel Pavilion is set for a little past 2 PM (ET), and a quick check of SBR's live college basketball odds shows the Huskies 6.5 point favorites with 134 for the total.
Sunday's fracas is the second meeting of the season between SMU and UConn, and third ever after the schools first met on the hardwood way back in 1965. The Mustangs are looking for their third win over the Huskies after pulling off a 74-65 victory as 2 point chalk in early January. SMU used a strong second half to get the win and cover, with the total skipping 'over' the mark thanks to late free throws by both sides.
Ponies Aim For Fourth Win Over Ranked Foe
The last time Southern Methodist (21-6 straight up, 15-8 against the spread) trekked to the northeast ended in embarrassment. Favored by eight at Temple a week ago, the Mustangs struggled from beyond the arc, at the free-throw line and on the glass in a 71-64 upset defeat. Brown put part of the blame on himself.
"We got outcoached," the 73-year-old Hall of Fame coach noted after the game. "Fran (Dunphy) did a great job of creating matchup problems for us."
Matchup problems might have been part of the reason for the loss, but I wouldn't discount leaving 12 points on the charity stripe and losing the rebound battle with only four offensive boards while the Owls enjoyed 12 second-chance shots.
One area the Mustangs haven't struggled in this season has been getting the best of ranked opponents. SMU is 3-1 vs. squads in one or both of the polls so far, the only loss coming at Louisville in mid-January when the Mustangs were at least able to cover the spread against the defending national champs.
Huskies Look To Extend 4-Game Win Streak
Connecticut (21-5 SU, 14-10 ATS) also had some of the same problems against Temple this past week, though the Huskies still managed to win and cover with a 68-55 decision in Philadelphia. The Owls kept Kevin Ollie's crew off the offensive glass, and if not for a 10-point scoring edge in free throws, UConn backers would have dropped the cash.
Shabazz Napier recorded his fourth double-double of the season and was just a few assists away from a second triple-double. But Napier wasn't on target with just three field goals in 11 shots, and needed a perfect 11-for-11 from the charity stripe to score his 17 total points.
Another problem against the Owls was connecting on 3-pointers. Connecticut converted on just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc, its worst performance this season. Trying to rediscover their touch from long-range vs. the Mustangs won't be easy for the Huskies; SMU is among the best in the country holding opponents to only a 30.8% success rate from outside.
If I was forced to pick a side, I'd lay the points on UConn, but I'm more interested in a total, and I like the low side of the scoreboard figure for my free college basketball pick.
College Basketball Pick: SMU-UConn Under 134
Season: 39-32-4 (+3.8)