No. 11-seed UCLA (20-13) vs. No. 6-seed SMU (27-6)
Thursday, March 19, 12:10 p.m. PT (approximate start)
KFC Yum! Center (Louisville, Ky.)
NCAA Tournament — South Regional
TV: truTV (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)
Radio: AM 1150 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
Scouting report: There is good and bad that comes with Larry Brown — the good being that he is a very good basketball coach, and the bad being that he’s not likely to stick around very long. And for college programs, there’s the ugly too: NCAA violations tend to follow him.
Though his degree of involvement varied in the two cases — Brown essentially told Grantland he was in the wrong place at the wrong time in regards to UCLA’s vacated 1980 runner-up finish — the 74-year-old left both the Bruins and Kansas with sanctions in his wake. That might happen again at SMU, his third collegiate stop and the 13th team he has coached in his career.
On the court, there’s little disputing what Brown has done for the Mustangs. Before he was hired in 2012, SMU went 13-19 and ranked 281st and 121st nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. The team had significantly improved by his second season, going 27-10 for a runner-up finish in the NIT after being snubbed from the Big Dance.
This year, the Mustangs are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993. In the aforementioned efficiency statistics, they now rank 25th (offense) and 42nd (defense) in the country. Although they don’t have any standout wins, all but one of their losses have come against tournament teams. The exception is an 81-73 loss at UConn on March 1, one it avenged two weeks later in the AAC title game.
With a deep, capable frontline that can rebound and defend the rim as well as most teams in the country — as well as a capable point guard in Nic Moore, the AAC Player of the Year — SMU is a team without many glaring weaknesses. Three of five starters are transfers, perhaps a testament to Brown’s ability to develop players that others once overlooked.
It’s fair to wonder how long this rise might last. Continue reading