SMU Basketball: 2016-17 non-conference game-by-game forecast

SMU Basketball is just four days away. In preparation for the 2016-17 season, The Daily Campus sports writer Reece Kelley Graham previews the Mustangs’ non-conference slate.

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SMU after defeating Memphis, Jan. 30, 2016. Photo credit: SMU Athletics

Friday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m., vs. Gardner-Webb (ESPN3)

Gardner-Webb finished last season in the middle of the Big South standings. With personnel turnover all over the floor, the Runnin’ Bulldogs might be living in obscurity again this year. Forward Tyrell Nelson returns after leading the Runnin’ Bulldogs in scoring last season, but Gardner-Webb lost its next four most productive players to graduation. The Jankovich Era at SMU starts with a W. Prediction: Win (1-0)

Sunday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m., vs. Eastern Michigan (ESPN3)

A tough game against one of the more underrated mid-major teams in the nation. The Eagles, a sneaky good team from the Mid American Conference, make up their lack of offensive firepower with defensive efficiency. Head coach Rob Murphy, who coached under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse for seven years, has the Eagles running a 2-3 zone defense that stresses even the best opponents. Eastern Michigan will test SMU’s synergy on offense as the Mustangs only return four scholarship players from last season. Prediction: Win (2-0)

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Photo credit: SMU Athletics

Thursday, Nov. 17, 6 p.m., vs. Pittsburgh (2K Classic – at Madison Square Garden – New York, N.Y.) (ESPN2 or ESPNU)

Any team from the Atlantic Coast Conference is dangerous. The Panthers are a solid team that physically profiles similarly to SMU – not huge inside, but long on the perimeter. Point guard James Robinson is gone, but 6-7 forward Jamel Artis, who averaged 14.4 points per game last season, is switching to the point to keep experience at the position. Plan on seeing Ben Moore get that defensive assignment for some of this game, as Moore found success shutting down long guards last season. Jankovich has coached under Pittsburgh’s Kevin Stallings before – SMU’s defense gets the win. Prediction: Win (3-0)

Friday, Nov. 18, 3:30 p.m./5:30 p.m., vs. Michigan/Marquette (2K Classic – at Madison Square Garden – New York, N.Y.) (ESPN2)

SMU has defeated Michigan in back-to-back seasons, both in Dallas and Ann Arbor. Caris LeVert now plays for the Brooklyn Nets, Aubrey Dawkins transferred to Central Florida, Ricky Doyle transferred to Florida Gulf Coast, Kameron Chatman transferred to Detroit, and Spike Albrecht transferred to Purdue. The core of John Beilein’s Wolverines is still there, but Michigan lacks depth and defensive prowess. Derrick Walton Jr., Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman will try to shell SMU from beyond the arc, but that is not a dependable way to win. Michigan only shot 27.8 percent from three-point range against the Mustangs last season (10-for-36).

Marquette will be a major player in the Big East in a few seasons. Katin Reinhardt transferred in from Southern California and Andrew Rowsey came over from UNC-Asheville. The Golden Eagles also brought in the conference’s best recruiting class, including three top 100 recruits. Like SMU, Marquette has little frontcourt depth, meaning this game could become a shootout. The Mustangs’ experience and ability to facilitate get the win, but Marquette should not be overlooked.

Prediction: Win (4-0)

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 8 p.m., vs. UC Santa Barbara (ESPN3)

Two seasons ago, the Gauchos scared SMU at home, taking the Mustangs to overtime after Nic Moore bruised his knee and was forced to sit out most of the second half. UC Santa Barbara is no pushover. Gabe Vincent, the guard who hit the three to send that game to OT two years ago, is still there. Vincent, who averaged 14.1 ppg last season, looks to take over for the departing Michael Bryson. Nic Moore was the floor general that held the Mustangs together. Now that he has graduated, a more evenly-dispersed offensive attack will be good for SMU and will help the team take care of business here. Prediction: Win (5-0)

Friday, Nov. 25, 6 p.m., at Southern California (Pac-12 Network)

The Mustangs’ first true road game of the season will be a tough one. While the Trojans return only four players that saw any significant action last season, Southern Cal has reloaded and has few holes anywhere. Sophomore forwards Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu may find success on offense by exploiting SMU’s lack of size inside. Point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who led the Trojans in scoring last season with 13.4 ppg, also returns. The Trojans made the NCAA Tournament last season largely because of their non-conference resume and will be hungry for a win against the Mustangs. It is a toss up, but homecourt advantage gives Southern Cal the edge. Prediction: Loss (5-1)

Wednesday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m., at Boise State (Mountain West Network)

Another road game in a tough environment. 6-8 forward Nick Duncan led the Broncos in three-point shooting last season, sinking 35 percent. His ability to stretch the floor will challenge SMU’s defense. James Webb III, Anthony Drmic and Mikey Thompson, Boise State’s leading scorers from last season, all graduated. Arkansas-Little Rock transfer James Reid will make up for some of that lost production, but the young Broncos will be unable to stop a more experienced Mustangs squad. Prediction: Win (6-1)

Friday, Dec. 2, 7 p.m., vs. CSU Bakersfield (ESPN3)

After upsetting New Mexico State in the WAC Tournament Championship finals, the Roadrunners made the NCAA Tournament for the first time last season. The ‘Runners return three of their top five scorers and had little personnel turnover. SMU is one of the top teams on CSU Bakersfield’s schedule and the ‘Runners will have difficulty winning in Moody. Prediction: Win (7-1)

Sunday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m., vs. Delaware State (ESPN3)

Only one day of rest will not hurt the Mustangs’ chances against Delaware State, one of the worst teams in college basketball. KenPom.com has the Hornets ranked 335th out of 351 Division-I teams. Guards Devin Morgan and DeAndre Haywood are the stars of this squad, the only Hornets to average more than 10 ppg last season. Prediction: Win (8-1)

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Nic Moore after defeating TCU, Dec. 2, 2015. Photo credit: SMU Athletics

Wednesday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m., vs. TCU (ESPNews)

TCU came close to upsetting the Mustangs last season at a neutral site. That feat will be more challenging in Dallas. However, the Horned Frogs have height inside and could challenge SMU if they can establish their post presence. Forwards Vladimir Brodziansky and Karviar Shepherd were major players against the Mustangs last season and will be again. TCU has added a top 100 point guard in Jaylen Fisher, who will be an impact player for Jamie Dixon in his first season coaching at his alma mater. Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson will also be crucial to TCU’s success. The Horned Frogs are on the rise, but considering the environment, this is a hard game for them to win. Prediction: Win (9-1)

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m., vs. McNeese State (ESPN3)

KenPom’s preseason projections have the Cowboys outranking Delaware State by only 23 positions. Guard Jamaya Burr averaged 15.4 ppg last season, but expect the Mustangs to make his night as difficult as possible. Prediction: Win (10-1)

Monday, Dec. 19, 8 p.m., vs. Stanford (ESPN2)

The Cardinal struggled offensively last season, but were missing a lot of pieces. Guard Robert Cartwright missed the entire season after breaking his arm just two days before Stanford’s season opener. Forward Reid Travis played only eight games due to a stress fracture in his left leg. Both are back. Stanford should be better than last season under new head coach Jerrod Haase. If the Cardinal could not stop SMU in Palo Alto, a roadtrip to Texas will not be easier. Prediction: Win (11-1)

Tuesday, Dec. 20, 7 p.m., vs. Albany

The Great Danes are expected to contend in the America East Conference this season and reached the NCAA Tournament as recently as 2015. Albany has a lot of production to replace after losing last season’s top three scorers to graduation. Lack of size will hurt the Great Danes – the tallest player on their roster is listed as only 6-8. Albany finished last season 15th in the nation in perimeter scoring defense and will look to limit SMU’s options outside. Prediction: Win (12-1)

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