Preseason MVP: Tyson Jolly excelled in his first year on campus leading the Mustangs in scoring at 14.5 points per game. He was third team All-AAC and appears fully capable of a breakout campaign.
The Ceiling: The AAC is an underrated basketball conference and getting to 20 wins is no easy feat, but SMU has the personnel to not only get to that mark but exceed it and push its way into contention as a fringe Top 25 team and an NCAA Tournament squad.
The Floor: Injuries haven’t been kind to SMU in recent years and although the Mustangs are much more equipped from a numbers standpoint to weather the storm, conference play, especially on the road, is full of pitfalls and a worst-case scenario is 12-15 wins and a losing record in conference play.
Game of the Year: Houston
Projected Starting Five:
G | 6-4 | Sr. | Muskogee, Okla.
G | 5-11 | Jr. | Houston, Texas
G | 6-3 | Jr. | Houston, Texas
F | 6-8 | Sr. | DeSoto, Texas
F | 6-9 | Sr. | Tulsa, Okla.
Impact-First Year Player: Darius McNeill
After stumbling to a losing record in 2018-2019, SMU might’ve over-achieved going 19-11 last year. That solid performance, combined with a full deck of scholarships and several key players returning has fans thinking a return to the NCAA Tournament is not out of the question this year.
“This is the deepest team we’ve had in my time here in Dallas, we got off probation last year and brought a lot of good players and had a team that we thought had a chance to be great, we return nearly everyone and I think finally our program is healthy,” head coach Tim Jankovich said.
Expect SMU to have one of the most explosive backcourts in the country with senior Tyson Jolly and junior Kendric Davis leading the way. Jolly, a third-team all-conference choice led SMU in scoring with 14.5 points per game in his first season after transferring in from Trinity Valley Community College. Davis, a junior guard out of Houston Sam Houston High School was right behind Jolly with 14.2 points per game in his first season on campus after transferring in from TCU and getting an eligibility waiver from the NCAA.
SMU’s backcourt depth should be better this year with the addition of California transfer Darius McNeill. The 6-foot-3 guard from Spring Westfield started 28 games as a sophomore at Cal. He sat out last year due to transfer rules. Guard Eammanuel Bandoumel adds depth to the backcourt as well. He started 18 games a year ago and averaged six points per game.
DeSoto product Feron Hunt, a 6-foot-8 forward had an excellent sophomore season averaging 11 points and nearly seven rebounds per game, primarily in a role off the bench. He’ll likely slide into the starting lineup full-time this year and gives SMU size and athleticism in the front-court. Ethan Chargois, a 6-foot-9 senior forward who averaged seven points per game in 14 starts, also returns giving SMU much needed size and experience. Forward Isiah Jasey should be a key contributor off the bench giving SMU a shot-blocking presence. Oklahoma State transfer Yor Anei is pending an NCAA transfer waiver. If he’s ruled eligible, he has the ability to move right into the starting lineup. He was the NIT Tip-Off Tournament MVP last year and averaged 8.1 points, nearly five rebounds and two blocked shots per game for Oklahoma State.
“During our time away the team did have some voluntary workouts, we trusted our guys and when we got back on campus I could tell the guys had been putting in work. When we got the guys back we spent some extra time on getting back to basics and now we are full steam ahead. We are having a lot of fun and are ready to compete in a tough league,” Jankovich said.