After beginning conference play 1-2, St. Louis has won nine straight games.The Billikens might be the hottest team in college basketball as they broke the Top-25 for the first time all season this week.
En route to the national rankings, the Billikens defeated A-10’s newest teams, Virginia Commonwealth and Butler, and are starting to prove that they can make a serious push come March.
The Billikens play seven guys 20-plus minutes and they have six players averaging 7 or more points a game. But for St. Louis, it is all about their defense. They allow 58 points a game, the best in the Atlantic 10, exhausting their opponents with their defensive intensity.
Other than defense, St. Louis is drawing inspiration from the passing of former head coach Rick Majerus.
On Aug. 24, Saint Louis learned that Majerus would miss the entire 2012-2013. Then Majerus passed away on Dec. 1 2012, and the Billikens have won 17 of 19 since.
Marajeus would be proud of how his team has battled adversity to the point where they are favorites to win one of the most difficult conferences in America. He would also be proud that they are making this run without any superstars.
None of their players are in the Top-10 in Atlantic-10 play in scoring. The Billikens love playing together, though, and that is what makes this team so much fun to watch.
Interim head coach Jim Crews starts Dwayne Evans, Rob Loe, Kwamain Mitchell, Mike McCall Jr. and Grandy Glaze. Evans has turned into the leader with his fearless play and his never give up attitude. Aside from leading the team in scoring with 12 points a game, Evans averages close to seven rebounds as well.
Mitchell missed most of nonconference play after suffering a ankle injury in November. An All-Conference Third Team selection a year ago, has played great in some games, but he still has not played up to his potential.
Loe is a six-foot-eleven New Zealand native. He logs 22 minutes a game and averages 3.2 rebounds and 7.1 points per game. His length causes problems inside, but the A-10 is a guard-dominated conference. Regardless, his value could increase if Saint Louis plays a bigger team in the NCAA Tournament.
McCall Jr. is another important offensive weapon, having 15 and 18 points in wins against VCU and Butler, respectively. At 6’0”, McCall Jr. shoots 41 percent from beyond the arc, giving the Billikens a necessary threat from deep.
Crews’ relies heavily on Jordair Jett and Cody Ellis to provide scoring off the bench. Jett, a six-foot-one guard from Minnestoa, is the Jason Terry-type of player who can score 12 points in three minutes. He had 19 points in 23 minutes when Saint Louis beat Butler on Jan. 31. Ellis, an Australian native, averages 11 points a game. Saint Louis needs Ellis to be a consistent scorer as the season progresses into tournament play.
Saint Louis plays preseason favorite Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday where they look to improve to 22-6, and 11-2 in conference play.
With March on the Horizon, no one wants to face the Saint Louis Billikens.