Although the final result of the National Invitation Tournament – Minnesota 65, SMU 63 – was not the one that the Mustangs wanted, SMU fans never let the disappointment diminish their enthusiasm for the men’s basketball season. Brandishing the hashtag #FinishTheRightWay, the Twittersphere exploded with congratulations, attaboys, thank-yous and so-proud-of-you comments.
When the players and coaches returned to campus after the April 3 loss at Madison Square Garden, they were greeted by a crowd still showing the love for the resurgent team. In numerous interviews with the media during the season, Coach Larry Brown credited the home crowd for helping the team make it to New York City. “We have a program now that people don’t laugh at, and we’ve had unbelievable support. We’re going to win a national championship, or at least be competitive from now on out,” he said.
Brown and the players maintained all season that it was the atmosphere of a newly renovated and expanded Moody Coliseum – christened Moody Magic – that helped them achieve a 27-10 season. The Mustangs went 18-1 at home, setting a record for home victories, including 12-1 inside Moody Coliseum (the team played six home games at Curtis Culwell Center in Garland while Moody renovations were being completed). SMU also broke its season attendance record, setting the new mark at 107,412 (was 101,296 in 1984-85). The Mustangs sold out nine of 13 games in Moody Coliseum.
By the time Moody Coliseum re-opened January 4 to a sold-out game against the University of Connecticut, SMU had a 10-3 record. At the time, UConn (the eventual NCAA Tournament champion) was ranked No. 17. As the game progressed, excitement mounted in Moody. The crowd exploded in pure joy when it became clear in the final seconds that SMU would beat the Huskies 74-65.
When the men beat a No. 7-ranked Cincinnati team 76-55 on February 8, hundreds of students rushed the floor. Tickets to home games became more difficult to obtain, and students even camped overnight in extremely low temperatures to acquire their allotted tickets. The only game the men lost at home was on March 5 to an unranked Louisville 84-71. The sold-out crowd wore white T-shirts bearing the slogan “Moody Magic.”
Even the disappointment of SMU being overlooked by the NCAA Tournament selection committee did not dampen Mustang spirits. After SMU was named a No. 1 seed by the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), tickets again were in high demand by fans seeking to support the team in its three-game home court advantage. The capper occurred in the third round when guard Nic Moore nailed a 3-pointer in the final six seconds to beat UC-Berkeley 67-65, sending SMU to the NIT Finals at Madison Square Garden. Students rushed the court, hoisting Moore on their shoulders.
About 3,000 alumni and SMU supporters attended the NIT Final games. Those who couldn’t make the trek to New York City followed their beloved team on Facebook, Twitter and the SMU homepage before the game against Clemson aired on national television April 1. Watch parties occurred back home in Dallas and throughout the country, and those who couldn’t watch because of class or an event kept up through minute-by-minute updates on their cell phones. Down by 12 at halftime against Clemson, it appeared that the Mustangs’ NIT run might be over. But the Heart Attack Kids pulled it off in the second half, as they had in many previous games.
The Mustangs’ 65-59 win over Clemson sent them to the NIT Final against Minnesota, also a No. 1 seed. The back-and-forth contest ended when, in the final minute, Minnesota hit a 3-pointer to tie the score, and then eventually to win 65-63. The long season was over.
But the Mustang Nation can’t shake the feeling that something special happened this season. The 73-year-old Brown was supposed to be leading a rebuilding stage, but he did more than that. At the beginning of the season few expected the men’s basketball team to go as far as it did, to accomplish numerous firsts. Most importantly, however, the games became a rallying point for SMU fans, who bonded in Moody Coliseum over rowdy, raucous, rocking moments, and around the water cooler the next day to compare notes and relive highlights.
A pre-preseason poll has rated the Mustangs at No. 10 for 2014-15. See you next season for more magic at Moody Coliseum.
– Susan White