January 10, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK — Coming off the school’s first victory over a ranked opponent in 10 years, SMU players are determined to treat the big game like no big deal.
Beating No. 17 Connecticut in the reopening of Moody Coliseum? That was so last Saturday.
“Nice confidence builder, but we haven’t done anything yet,” senior guard Nick Russell said. “We have to remember, that was one game.”
But there is no denying the significance of that one game. SMU was in the national spotlight, thrilling an overflow crowd.
Perhaps most important for the Mustangs was that they emerged at No. 48 in the Ratings Performance Index, a key come NCAA Tournament time.
More eyes and another RPI boost will be available Sunday when SMU plays at 12th-ranked Louisville.
How important is making the NCAA Tournament to a developing team?
“It’s everything,” Mustangs coach Larry Brown said. “This is what all these guys should be hoping to do. We’ve tried to upgrade our schedule so the RPI’s better, but the big programs don’t want to help us by playing here.”
Brown, 73, has made a powerful impact on the program. Even the Hall of Fame coach is surprised by how quickly things have come together.
He has galvanized the fan base, with more than 2,000 season tickets sold since he was hired in April 2012.
The new American Athletic Conference has provided a major upgrade in competition, recruiting and exposure, with all 18 conference games televised.
And his NBA background has been an easy sell to marquee recruits.
“We have everything now,” Brown said. “We have a great school. I have as good a staff as any coach could want. We’re in a great league and a great city. I don’t look at any other program and think they have any more than us.”
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