Observations: Just 5-foot-9, Nic Moore coming up big for SMU

SMU’s Nic Moore is the least appreciated player in college basketball.

If this guy played at Michigan or Ohio State he’d be a cult hero.

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SMU’s diminutive point guard again showed why he’s at his best in big moments in Thursday night’s come-from-behind win over Cincinnati as he drilled back-to-back 3-point shots in the final minutes to help the Ponies escape with a narrow 59-57 victory.

The 5-foot-9 point guard has been SMU’s best player for the last three seasons and has had a major hand in this program’s rise to national relevance.

Moore has shot 41.0 percent or better from 3-point range in each of the past three years all while averaging no worse than 4.9 assists or 13.6 points.

It’s not an oversight that this guy isn’t on the Cousy Award list with the nation’s top floor generals — it’s a flat out insult.

There isn’t a point guard in America that Moore couldn’t trade blows with because the bigger the stage the better he plays.

Just ask Cincinnati.

SMU Nic Moore (USATSI)
Nic Moore had 14 points in No. 15 SMU’s 59-57 victory vs. Cincinnati on Thursday. (USATSI)

UCLA’s resume is better than its record: The Bruins went to the Sweet 16 last March after enduring double-digit losses and don’t be surprised if the same thing happens this season.

UCLA is 10-6 overall and 1-2 in Pac-12 play following Thursday night’s dramatic win over Arizona at Pauley Pavilion, but the Bruins already have a resume that most power-five schools would kill for.

In addition to the win over the Wildcats, Steve Alford’s squad has also already beaten Kentucky to go with a road win at Gonzaga. That’s three victories against teams that figure to compete for mid-to-high seeds in the NCAA Tournament and UCLA still has 15 regular season conference games to go in a year in which the Pac-12 looks to be as good as it’s ever been.

The Bruins stubbed their toe against Monmouth, Washington, and Washington State, but there’s something to be said for getting work done early.

UCLA is doing just that.

Jim Boeheim’s first game back from suspension is a pivotal one: It seems like it was another life ago that Syracuse was 6-0 after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend.

The Orange looked like they were on their way back to being a national power thanks to an attack that featured the 3-point shot and a freshman named Tyler Lydon who was playing as well as any first-year player in college basketball.

Then Syracuse lost to Wisconsin in its very next game in the Carrier Dome.

Then Boeheim’s suspension kicked in and the Orange lost five of their next nine games.

What does all of this mean?

When the Hall-of-Famer returns on Saturday night against North Carolina he’s not going to be thinking about making a grand entrance when he’s introduced — he’s going to be thinking about how to turn his team’s season around.

Syracuse is 10-6 overall and 0-3 in ACC play entering this weekend’s tilt with the explosive Tar Heels and if the Orange want to regain any sort of momentum the time to achieve that is right now.

After Saturday’s game against North Carolina, Syracuse will host Boston College and then head on the road to play three consecutive road games at Wake Forest, Duke, and Virginia.

It’s awfully hard to have a crossroads in a college basketball season in early January, but that’s exactly what the situation is right now with the Orange.

This Just In

  • Utah’s Kyle Kuzma (tailbone) is a game-time decision for Friday’s game at Colorado, Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak told CBS Sports.
  • Colorado’s Xavier Johnson (achilles tendon) is getting close to deciding whether or not he will redshirt this season, Tad Boyle told CBS Sports on Friday.

This and That

  • Duke freshman Luke Kennard is averaging 18.2 points over his last five games and always seems to be going “downhill” on offense. The 6-5 lefty is a prolific offensive talent and is 14-of-22 from the field in the Blue Devils’ first two ACC tilts. This guy is going to become a national name in the next month — watch.
  • One important thing to remember about LSU: the NCAA selection committee will often judge teams with injuries based on the product that they show when they’re fully healthy. The Tigers are 5-1 this season at full strength with both Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor in the lineup.
  • UNLV has lost its first two league games on the final possession and continues to struggle in end of game situations. On paper the Runnin Rebels have the talent to run away from the rest of the Mountain West Conference, but the reality is they’re 9-6 overall and head to Wyoming on Saturday with an 0-2 mark in league play. UNLV has 24 assists and 39 turnovers in its first two conference games.
  • Another reason why West Virginia is difficult to prepare for? The Mountaineers have several different people that can be the assassin on a given night and don’t have one go-to scorer on the perimeter like they did last year with Juwan Staten. West Virginia currently has three guards — Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, and Jaysean Paige — averaging between 12.0 and 13.0 points while Tarik Phillip averages 7.9 points.
  • Dayton is averaging 15.6 assists on 25.5 made field goals each time it takes the floor. The Flyers make the extra pass as well as anybody and always seem to get the highest possible percentage shot on each possession. Archie Miller’s squad is 12-2 overall and next travels to La Salle on Saturday.
  • Tennessee’s Kevin Punter has quietly become one of college basketball’s most improved players. The explosive guard is averaging 23.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists after averaging just 10.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists a year ago. The Vols may not be an upper echelon SEC team in Rick Barnes’ first season, but Punter gives them a reason to be tracked on a regular basis — he’s that good.
  • Pitt’s James Robinson has just 12 turnovers this season in 389 total minutes played. That’s one turnover every 32.4 minutes for those of you counting at home. The senior point guard is a major reason why Jamie Dixon’s team is 13-1 and 2-0 in ACC play.
  • Mississippi State freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon has All-SEC potential. The 6-4 wing has an IQ that extends beyond his years and never gets rattled. Weatherspoon has scored in double-figures in his last three games and had 12 points and five rebounds in Wednesday’s loss against Texas A&M. This guy will be on everybody’s breakout list prior to next season.
  • Mo Alie-Cox is turning into more of an offensive threat for VCU. The broad shouldered big man has scored in double-figures in two of his last three games and was at the epicenter of the Rams’ comeback win at Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Will Wade’s squad is 10-5 overall and next plays at Saint Louis on Sunday.
  • Keep your eye on Illinois State in the MVC. The Redbirds put together a difficult non-conference schedule and took some losses early, but have won six of their last seven games since they started playing against comparable competition. Dan Muller’s team is 9-7 overall and next travels to Indiana State and Southern Illinois back-to-back.

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