When SMU hired Larry Brown in April 2012, it was a curious marriage of a perpetually job-hopping Hall of Fame coach and a long dormant men's basketball program.

But all Brown talked about were grand ambitions. He wanted to win, and win big.

He knew it was critical SMU find a home in a nationally competitive basketball league. He knew he just needed one breakthrough signing – one – to change recruiting fortunes in arguably the most talent-rich state in the nation. And he needed to give fans a product worth watching to lure the Dallas community out to what would soon be a renovated Moody Coliseum.

Just 56 games later, midway through his second season, Brown has achieved all of the above. As a result, he has become part of the national coach of the year conversation.

The 73-year-old Brown, the only coach to win NBA and NCAA titles, has the Mustangs (19-5) poised to reach their first NCAA tournament since 1993. And after Saturday's dominant performance, a 76-55 victory over No. 7 Cincinnati, SMU could be ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the 1984-85 season.

What Brown experienced Saturday was an electrifying college basketball atmosphere. A crowd of 7,278 packed modernized Moody Coliseum, which underwent a $47 million renovation. The crowd was ear-splitting. Press row seats were shaking. And fans watched SMU earn its first win against a top-10 team in the Associated Press poll since Dec. 3, 1987.

"I didn't imagine it would be like this this quickly," Brown said. "But I was hopeful we could get it where people wanted to see our team play and would appreciate the fact we are playing hard and playing the right way. So this is much quicker than I imagined."