There has been one story in July in just about every college basketball offseason that makes major news and grabs everyone’s attention. That story hit the airwaves on Monday as Southern Methodist received the awful news that star recruit Emmanuel Mudiay will spend this next season playing professionally overseas, bypassing college en route to the 2015 NBA Draft. How will this move reshape everything in college basketball? For starters, they’ve dropped from 33/1 to 60/1 to win the NCAA Championship.
How It Affects SMU
The bombshell news will definitely hurt SMU. The Mustangs were seen as a Sweet 16-level team by many in the college basketball industry with Mudiay, the top point guard recruit in this year’s recruiting class, at the helm of the team’s offense. Mudiay has been likened to Tyreke Evans and John Wall, and it’s clear how good those guys were in both college and now the pros. Having that kind of player would have made SMU a next-level program. Losing him makes the challenge of winning the American Athletic Conference much bigger for the Mustangs. This team seemed just about guaranteed to make the NCAA tournament after barely missing out on the field of 68 last season. The NCAA’s selection committee publicly said that SMU was the first team out of the tournament at number 69. Now, SMU’s bid to make the NCAA tournament is once again in doubt. The team might get there but it’s no longer a certainty.
How This Changes SMU’s Prospects In The American Athletic Conference
This event throws the AAC into a lot of doubt. The reality of Louisville leaving the league for the Atlantic Coast Conference is going to make winning the league more realistic for SMU but that was always going to be the case. The Mustangs were hoping that they could have a takeover player at the offensive end of the court but they don’t have that now. It’s true that the Mustangs will return most of what they had last season, when they came one win short of making the NCAA tournament (had they beaten Houston in the quarterfinals of the AAC Tournament, they would have gotten in) and lost in the NIT championship game to Minnesota. Based on this logic, a good team can still get better this next season. However, Mudiay removes any margin of error from this team. Everyone on this roster has to improve relative to last season.
What Other Teams In The AAC Can Win The League Now That Mudiay Is Gone
The fact of SMU losing Mudiay gives Cincinnati and Memphis renewed chances to win the league. If you had money on SMU to win the AAC, you’re definitely nervous. If you were thinking about taking a shot with Cincinnati or Memphis before, now you’ve got legitimate reason to bet their futures.Connecticut is also a part of the conversation but the Huskies lost Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels from their national championship team, and it’s important to remember that Connecticut finished fourth in the AAC last season. Memphis and Cincinnati are the teams that can now step into the gap and take over the league – at least this season. Cincinnati plays such tough defense that a Mudiay-free SMU offense might not be able to bust through it. Memphis won’t have the senior leadership it developed last season but the Tigers consistently bring athletic players into their program. Cincinnati is ultimately the team that could benefit the most from Mudiay leaving the American scene for a year.