USF Basketball Vs. SMU Preview: Bulls Face Tough Mustangs In Dallas

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

USF travels to Dallas to face a tough matchup.

SMU's basketball team is going through a lot of things that USF fans can relate to.

They've gotten an unprecedented influx of freshman talent, but are still trying to make all the pieces fit together. They're also trying to break a 20-year absence from the NCAA Tournament, while playing games off campus due to arena renovation. The game against USF will be the men's team's second game back at Moody Coliseum. The grand re-opening game was a women's basketball game against USF, which USF won 76-62.

SMU has a pretty good RPI right now (40) and have been included in some early-season bracket predictions. They have a win over UConn, close losses to Louisville, Cincinnati, Virginia. and Arkansas, and no bad losses. If they continue at this pace, they will be an interesting test case for the American's ability to get teams into the NCAA Tournament. That RPI is bound to drop, though, because SMU's conference schedule was front-loaded with powerhouse teams.

Observers thought this year's SMU team would center around Keith Frazier, a five-star recruit from nearby Garland High School who surprised many by committing to the unknown SMU program. But he has come off the bench so far this season, behind Illinois State transfer Nic Moore, one of the best three-point shooters in the country at 51.5% (35 for 68). This team is well-staffed at the shooting guard position.

SMU's frontcourt will be without 6-11 center Yanick Moriera who has a sprained MCL. Markus Kennedy, the Mustangs' 6-foot-9 second-leading scorer despite coming off the bench prior to Moriera's injury, should start against USF. He also manages 6 rebounds per game despite playing only 22 minutes. Kennedy is a transfer from Villanova, where played three unremarkable games against USF two seasons ago.

SMU is also an excellent defensive team, holding opponents to 36.5% shooting, which is fourth-best in the country.

Your Four Factors:

This could be a bad matchup for USF. SMU is excellent from three-point range (40.1%) and USF is not good at defending from there (37.2% allowed, which is 294th among 315 schools). SMU also has several long-range shooters, who often play together in a three-guard offense, so the Bulls can't focus their defense on one player. SMU is also a deep team, with ten players seeing significant action each game. USF will not win a war of attrition as easily as they did against Temple.

USF could have an edge in the front court. 6-10 Cannen Cunningham and 6-8 Ben Moore have had to play more minutes in Moriera's absence. Victor Rudd should pose a matchup challenge on both ends of the court. Rudd did a great job against Temple of staying within the offense and making his teammates better, while still filling the stat sheet. USF needs John Egbunu to keep playing well on both ends of the court, quality minutes from Zach LeDay, and Chris Perry to stay out of foul trouble.

If the Bulls can handle SMU's guard play, and keep Markus Kennedy from doing what Houston's TaShawn Thomas did, they have a shot to go to 5-0 in road games. If not, USF could be on one conference win for awhile; the next five opponents are Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, SMU at the Sun Dome, and Cincinnati again.

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