Monday, July 14, 2014

Losing Emmanuel Mudiay

Emmanuel Mudiay, the No. 2 player in the class of 2014 and the top PG in the country, was supposed to be the cherry on top of Larry Brown's first two years at SMU. Mudiay, a Dallas native, was the most high-profile recruit in the history of the program - not only would securing his commitment help Brown to build a fence around the Dallas area, but his presence meant that SMU would be ranked in the Top 15 in the country heading into next season.

Instead, in a stunning turn of developments on Monday, Mudiay decided to head overseas amidst conflicting reports about his amateur status. He will be following in the path of Brandon Jennings, who spent one year in Italy before being drafted in the lottery. It's a move that will make Mudiay more money, but it will rob him of the chance to be developed by Brown, whose long been considered one of the finest coaches in the country, especially when it comes to developing young PG's. 

Losing Mudiay is clearly a big blow to the program. At 6'5 190, Mudiay is a pure PG with absolutely elite athleticism whose drawn many comparisons to John Wall. The only real concern about his game is his three-point shot - if he shows more consistency in that department, wherever he ends up playing next season, he has a really good chance to be a Top 3 pick in the 2015 draft. Nevertheless, even losing a player as gifted as Mudiay won't stop the machine Brown is building at SMU.

Even without Mudiay, SMU will be one of the top teams in the country next season. I can say that with confidence because they were one of the top teams in the country this season and they are bringing almost everyone back. They should have been in the NCAA Tournament - the only reason they were left out is because the committee wanted to send a message about non-conference scheduling. They were 27-10 and 12-6 in the AAC, they beat UConn twice, they beat Cincinnati by 20 points and they beat Memphis by 15.

I was at the game in Dallas where they beat UConn - they were the just flat-out better team. And after watching Larry Brown run rings around Kevin Ollie and then watching Kevin Ollie run rings around the rest of the field in the NCAA Tournament, I'm not convinced SMU couldn't have made the Final Four. You do not want to mess with Larry Brown in a one-and-done tournament - see Danny Manning and the Miracles and SMU's run to the NIT Final this season.

The only guys they are losing from that team are two seniors - Nic Russell and Shawn Williams - who were more important for their off-court leadership than anything they were bringing to the floor. Williams was a starter in name only while Russell was a 3-and-D glue guy. They are both very replaceable just from internal improvement within the team. The Mustangs didn't need Mudiay to have a complete rotation and they've got hungry and experienced players ready to take his minutes.

PG - Nic Moore - The only reason you haven't heard of this guy is because he's 5'9. He's one of the most complete PG's in the country and he outplayed Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright in their two games against UConn this season. Moore is super-fast, he's a very heady player, he can create separation with the dribble and stroke 3's with ease. 

SG - Keith Frazier - Without Mudiay, he becomes the main attraction for NBA scouts at SMU. At 6'5 190, he's an absolutely electric athlete who can fill it up in a hurry from 3 - there's a lot of Gerald Green in his game. As a freshman, he came onto campus as wild as any player you will ever see, but he gradually started to calm down and fill his role in the rotation as the season progressed. If Brown can keep his head on straight, this is a guy who could be a Top 20 pick next season.

SG/SF - Sterling Brown - The younger brother of Shannon Brown, Sterling already has an NBA frame (6'6 200) and athleticism from the wing position. He has a lot of potential as a 3-and-D type prospect down the road and he should take a lot of Russell's minutes as a defensive stopper on the perimeter next season.

SF/PF - Ben Moore - Moore is not a guy who jumps off the screen when you watch SMU play, but when you start to break down his skill-set and all the different things he can do, he really grows on you as a player. At 6'8 185, he's got some point forward in his game - he's a very skilled and smooth player. If he can develop a three-point shot, he has a chance to play at the next level as well.

PF/C - Markus Kennedy - A transfer from Villanova whose the hub of the offense in the low post. At 6'9 245, he's an inside-out monster at the college level who can bulldoze smaller post players and step out and play at 15+ feet against bigger defenders. He's a double-double threat who should be in the running for All-AAC next season. He's a bit of a tweener between the 4 and 5 when it comes to projecting him to the NBA, but he's an excellent college player.

PF/C- Cannen Cunningham - 6'10 225 stretch big man. He's not super athletic, but he's good some skill to go with excellent size for the college level and he can step out and knock down the 20-foot jumper. Shot 78% from the free-throw line last season.

C - Yanick Moreira - 6'11 220 shot-blocker. He's a fairly raw big man from Africa with a ton of athleticism who doesn't have a great feel for the game, but he gives the Mustangs an interior defensive presence against even the biggest front-lines in the country.

If you'll notice, SMU has a really complete team with offensive threats from the point, the wing and the post and they have the athletes to defend at every position on the floor. One of the reasons they didn't get a ton of press last season is because Brown used a 10-man rotation so no one player could rack up a ton of individual statistics. Regardless, this is an awfully talented group that is coming back to Dallas next season. Emmanuel Mudiay or not, the Mustangs have the chance to be as good a team as there is in the country.

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