There is something strangely perfect about a college basketball season inescapably ridden with bizarre upsets being held in place by a final undefeated team that literally cannot play in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
SMU is now 18-0. The Ponies won 77-73 on Tuesday night against Houston (13-5) and continued the best start to a season in program history.
Nic Moore led No. 8 Southern Methodist with 23 points. Markus Kennedy came off the bench and added 16, plus 10 boards. Houston kept it interesting the entire way. One-time Oregon Duck Damyean Dotson led the Cougars with 16 points. Kelvin Sampson’s club rebounded well on the road and was more successful from 3-point range (seven of them to SMU’s three), but Moore and Sterling Brown made for a great combination on Tuesday night.
It has become this captivating watch to track SMU and see when it will lose. In a season that doesn’t offer the crunchiest and most colossal carrot that is the NCAA tournament, 30-0 has become this mythical spoil to chase. SMU — which in many respects earned its postseason ban, let’s be clear; the timing of the NCAA’s sanctions is what’s still in question — continues to be a rallying point for those who take joy in the establishment getting egg on its face.
It’s still likely that SMU will lose a game, but it’s now getting to late January and this group is perfect. Brown has to feel as ambivalent as he does prideful in how his team has responded. The next game will be tricky, though. SMU heads to Philly to play Temple on Saturday. The Owls are just 9-7, but this team swept its season series with Cincinnati and has a victory against UConn on the road.
Houston, which began the season 13-2 against a strength of schedule that was among the very worst in college basketball, has dropped three straight and is no longer a legitimate candidate for at-large consideration.