SMU will be shorthanded in its season opener against visiting Northwestern State on Thursday night. It's nothing new for the Mustangs, who have had roster problems because of scholarship reduction and injuries the past few seasons.
The Mustangs had seven or fewer scholarship players during the final 11 games of last season after injuries to starters Jarrey Foster and Shake Milton derailed a promising season. The Mustangs went 4-10 without Foster, who is close to returning from ACL surgery but won't play Thursday. "The truth is I don't think we'll see our real team until mid to late December," SMU coach Tim Jankovich told the Dallas Morning News, saying sophomore forward Everett Ray (foot) won't play in the opener either. Senior center Ishmael Lane, a preseason All-Southland Conference selection, led the high-scoring Demons in their opener Tuesday.
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ABOUT NORTHWESTERN STATE (1-0): Lane had 15 points, six rebounds and five blocks as the Demons beat Division III Centenary 102-62. The offense starts with Lane (13.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks last season), but got plenty of contributions from a guard-heavy roster. Northwestern State hit 14-of-27 from behind the 3-point line, including four from sophomore guard Levonte Ott (14 points, eight rebounds).
ABOUT SMU (2017-18: 17-16): Returning guards Jahmal McMurray (14.7 points) and Jimmy Whitt (10.5 points, 3.5 assists) will look to pick up the scoring slack left by Milton's exit to the NBA and Foster's early absence. Graduate transfer guard Nat Dixon (13.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists at Chattanooga) will add more veteran leadership to the Mustangs' backcourt. Returning starting forward Ethan Chargois (9.1 points. 4.4 rebounds) will be joined by sophomore transfer Isiaha Mike (11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds at Duquesne in 2016-17) and freshman Feron Hunt in a thin frontcourt rotation.
1. The Mustangs are 63-8 at home since the start of the 2014-15 season, including 32 straight non-conference home wins.
2. Foster (13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks in 19 games last season) is the only scholarship player that has played at SMU for more than one season.
3. Whitt finished last season third in the American Athletic Conference in steals (1.8) while the Mustangs were ranked 12th nationally in scoring defense (64.1 points).
PREDICTION: SMU 84, Northwestern State 61 Bet Now
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|Jahmar Young Jr.|