With home wins over UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati, No. 23 SMU has three quality wins that look good on their NCAA tournament resume. Based largely upon those results, Larry Brown’s Mustangs look to be well-positioned to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1993. However, results like Sunday’s 71-64 loss at Temple won’t do SMU any favors given the absence of a quality road victory.
Dalton Pepper led four Owls in double figures with 24 points, but with SMU limiting Temple to 39% shooting defense wasn’t the biggest issue for the Mustangs. The problem: foul shooting.
Despite making 48% of its shots from the field, SMU managed to shoot just 14-for-26 from the foul line and at one point in the second half missed six consecutive free throws. Leaving that many points on the board can prove costly in close games, and sure enough that was was the case for SMU.
Markus Kennedy, playing in his hometown, paced SMU with 18 points and he was one of three Mustangs to grab five rebounds on the afternoon. Rebounding was another area that proved problematic for SMU, with Temple managing to rebound nearly 36% of its missed shots. Entering Sunday the Owls ranked eighth in the American in offensive rebounding percentage (conference games only), and with leading rebounder Anthony Lee (8.9 rpg) sitting due to a nagging knee injury one would expect SMU to control the glass.
However that wasn’t the case, and the combination of poor foul shooting and rebounding proved to be too much for SMU to overcome. Losing at Temple certainly won’t look good on SMU’s resume, and this is a team that has just one RPI Top 100 win away from Dallas. That win: a 62-54 victory at Wyoming on December 20.
Of SMU’s final five games just two are away from home but they’re big opportunities, with No. 24 UConn (February 23) and No. 20 Memphis (March 8) being the opponents. And with No. 13 Louisville’s visit on March 5 being the only remaining home game of value (Houston and UCF are the other two), SMU may need one of those two road games in order to feel secure about its resume.
The three home wins against ranked teams will certainly help SMU when it comes to reaching the Field of 68. But given the lack quality results away from home, their spot isn’t as secure as some may have assumed.