Just as SMU has become relevant in college basketball on the court, there was Friday. It’s a day that could be a turning point in the program’s history, and not in a good way, because there was a lot of bad news on the day.
Let’s start with the basics. First, sophomore forward Keith Frazier has been declared academically ineligible for the rest of the season, which by itself is a big blow to this team’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Frazier is second on the team in scoring and a key perimeter scorer alongside Nic Moore. The team will make one last appeal, but ESPN.com reported that it is highly unlikely he wins the appeal.
The Mustangs have recently lost Justin Martin, who the school said has turned pro. However, ESPN.com reported that academics were a problem in his case as well. Martin was in and out of the lineup this season before his departure. In light of all of this, it is worth recalling that big man Markus Kennedy missed the first semester due to academics.
Noticing a pattern here?
SMU has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA that includes accusations of academic improprieties. The school can respond to the notice before meeting with the NCAA’s Committee of Infractions later this year. According to reports, the issues begin with Frazier, as one allegation involves his academics, and they go back to when he was trying to become eligible out of high school. In addition, assistant coach Ulric Maligi is part of the investigation, namely for his involvement with Frazier while in high school. Earlier this week, the school announced that Maligi has taken a leave of absence for personal reasons.
In other words, SMU may be a mess before long. And all of this happens just as the Mustangs appear to have turned a corner. They have won 11 of 12 games after a slow start, and had a chance to contend in the American Athletic Conference. Kennedy is back and has worked his way into the flow of the team’s play at both ends. Now, they may be losing much more than some games.
Is this what the school signed up for when they hired Larry Brown three years ago? You would hope not. But let’s remember something: at his last college job, Brown won a national championship at Kansas in 1988 with a magical run led by current Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning. There wasn’t much time to celebrate, however, as Kansas was barred from postseason play the year after and placed on probation because of recruiting violations.
SMU has become relevant once again on the hardwood since Brown took over. Last season, it was because of their play, especially as they were widely perceived to be a major snub from the NCAA Tournament field. Now, their relevance may be for all the wrong reasons. There’s a long way to go before this case is a closed matter, but right now things are suddenly trending in the wrong direction.
Kuran Iverson, who had been suspended the past three games, is transferring from Memphis. The sophomore forward has a world of talent and was once regarded as an elite player early in his high school career, but his play declined until before his senior year. At Memphis, he never really got untracked, playing limited minutes last season and only a slightly expanded role this season.
Also on the move is Missouri State guard Marcus Marshall, the second-leading scorer in the Missouri Valley Conference. Two days earlier, he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. The junior guard will finish out the current semester before transferring, and if he is able to graduate, could be eligible for all of next season.
As will be the case for much of the remainder of the season, Friday was a night with limited game action, and the MAAC and Northeast Conference led the way. Iona nipped Niagara 80-79 on the road and Manhattan beat St. Peter’s 72-65 in overtime among the MAAC leaders, while the eye-popping score of the night was Canisius demolishing Siena 83-49. In the NEC, a late rally by St. Francis-Brooklyn gave them a 68-63 win, while Saint Francis University kept pace with them atop the conference by beating Sacred Heart 79-78 on a buzzer-beating tip-in by Earl Brown.
It’s another busy Saturday, with a lot of great matchups this time around.
- The big matchups start early as Duke visits Louisville at noon, and the next best ACC matchup is Miami at Notre Dame at 2 p.m.
- Baylor visits Kansas State (3 p.m.) in an intriguing Big 12 matchup, and later Texas tries to get back on track as they host West Virginia (6:15 p.m.) and arch-rivals meet in Norman as Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State (7 p.m.). The best game comes later, as Iowa State hosts Kansas (9 p.m.) in an early showdown.
- In the Mountain West, UNLV’s young but talented team has a big test as they visit San Diego State (6 p.m.), while Wyoming visits Fresno State (7 p.m.) in a matchup of 4-1 teams in conference play.
- The Pac-12 features a great matchup that is only overshadowed by one game on the day as Utah visits Arizona at 7 p.m.
- The SEC starts the day with a sleeper matchup as Texas A&M visits LSU at noon, then Florida heads to Georgia (2 p.m.) and Kentucky heads to Alabama (4 p.m.).
- Wichita State has a dangerous road game at Evansville (2 p.m.), a team that has already knocked off Northern Iowa. In the SWAC, in-state rivals meet with first place on the line as Alabama State visits Alabama A&M (7 p.m.), and one of the last games of the night is a big West Coast Conference matchup with Brigham Young visiting Saint Mary’s at 11 p.m.
- A non-conference game of note is Connecticut visiting Stanford (9 p.m.).
- Also, Saturday is a big day of action at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. We will have coverage of it, so stay tuned.