By Phil Mayer
1. 2/1/16 at Houston.
The Cougars began the 2015-16 season strong, winning 13 of their first 15 games. Although they have not played a particularly tough schedule, Houston has dominated their opponents, outscoring them by an average of 14.7 points and outshooting them by 6.3 percent. Houston has a balanced scoring attack that features four players averaging double-digit figures in scoring, led by transfer guard Rob Gray Jr. at 18.6 points per game. It will take a strong defensive effort by SMU to shut down Houston’s dynamic, fast-paced offense.
2. 2/13/16 vs. Gonzaga.
Gonzaga entered the season ranked ninth in the nation, but has since dropped out of the rankings after losses to tough opponents in Texas A&M, Arizona and UCLA. Despite their fall from the AP rankings, the 12-3 Bulldogs pose a significant challenge for the Mustangs. Gonzaga’s biggest threats lie in Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. Wiltjer is averaging 20.8 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game while Sabonis averages 18.3 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. With both players standing at 6 foot 10, it will be imperative for SMU’s big men to play well this game in order to stop Wiltjer and Sabonis from scoring and keep them off the glass. Gonzaga is SMU’s lone remaining non-conference opponent and they could be the best team that the Mustangs face all year.
3. 3/3/16 vs. UConn
Moody Coliseum will be rocking for what will be SMU’s last home game of the season against conference opponent . The 23rd ranked University of Connecticut was a popular pick to win the AAC coming into the season, but have suffered from the departure of star guard Ryan Boatright and have lost four of their first 14 games to start the season. However, the Huskies still have a talented roster that includes members of their 2014 championship team.
4. 3/6/16 at Cincinnati
The Bearcats are one of the best teams in the AAC this season and nearly upset SMU’s undefeated season in their last game Jan. 7. Cincinnati stifled the Mustang offense with aggressive defensive play, forcing 17 turnovers. In this matchup, the Mustangs will have to work on breaking the traps that Cincinnati almost beat them with, and limiting Bearcat’s Farad Cobb uncontested three-point shots. Winning this game is imperative for SMU, as Nic Moore, Jordan Tolbert and Markus Kennedy will want to finish their collegiate careers with a win, and potentially and undefeated season.