Instead of being a distraction, the latest issue surrounding SMU might further fuel its quest to remain undefeated.
Two days after embattled guard Keith Frazier announced he'll transfer, the No. 10 Mustangs try to match the best road start in program history Sunday against Tulane.
A local Dallas product and former McDonald's All-American, Frazier averaged 11.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 10 games this season but hadn't played since Dec. 29.
He was deemed academically ineligible after winter break last season and was a prominent figure in the NCAA investigation that led to SMU's postseason ban this year and coach Larry Brown's suspension for the first nine games.
Brown said Friday that Frazier "wanted a fresh start" after spending time away from the program to contemplate his future.
"We're moving on," said Brown, who has worked with seven scholarship players this season. "I've got a bunch of kids in that room that I think we've got to focus our attention to ... and hopefully this turns out great for Keith.
"We're all learning how to adjust, but they're a unique group of kids who care about each other. We know it's not going to get any easier."
Since the Mustangs (16-0, 5-0 American Athletic Conference) learned their season would end March 6 at Cincinnati, they set a goal of going unbeaten while embracing the challenge with an "us against the world" mentality. They never allowed Brown's suspension nor Frazier's academic troubles and recent absence to overshadow the cause.
Off to the school's best start as Division I's only unbeaten, SMU ranks among the top 10 nationally in field-goal (52.1) and 3-point (43.7) percentages as well as average assists (19.0), and it leads the country with a plus-13.1 rebounding margin.
Second in the AAC with 62.3 points allowed per contest, the Mustangs can equal a school-best 5-0 road start set in 1934-35.
"I'm not sure that they have NBA players, like an NBA guy, but they have a lot of really, really good high-level college players," said East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo after Wednesday's 79-55 loss to SMU. "They play so much the right way and share the ball. It's really beautiful to watch."
Ben Moore's 17 points led five players in double figures as SMU shot 52.5 percent, dished out 23 assists and held a 42-22 advantage on the glass Wednesday.
"This win right here solidifies what we've been doing all season," said senior Markus Kennedy, who posted his second double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
Leading scorer Nic Moore (15.4 points per game) had 18 points with seven assists and Kennedy scored 14 as the Mustangs gained a 41-30 advantage on the boards and held Tulane to 33.3 percent shooting to snap a three-game series road skid with a 66-52 victory in last season's lone meeting.
Though the Green Wave (8-10, 1-4) won 81-70 at lowly South Florida on Tuesday for their first AAC victory, they shot a combined 39.3 percent and allowed 50.5 percent shooting in losing both league home games to UConn and Tulsa by a combined 22 points.
Sophomore Dylan Osetkowski (10.8 points, 9.3 rebounds per game) has totaled 37 points and 28 boards in the last two games. Leading scorer Louis Dabney (13.2), who had 19 points against South Florida, scored a team-high 16 against SMU last season.
Tulane is 0-31 against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 25 North Carolina State on Dec. 22, 1999.