Saint Louis Billiken fans can rejoice today as they check the latest Associated Press top 25 in men’s basketball, because the win over Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, was good enough to push the red hot Bills to 18th. Just over Memphis and just under Wisconsin, the Billikens have won their last 9. The Coaches Poll lists the Bills at 19th, under Oklahoma State and over Notre Dame.
Although it was light years ago (December 31st) and on home turf, it is definitely worth noting that number 14 New Mexico (20th at the time), was smoked by SLU 60-46. The Billikens are simply put, a team that can play basketball. They have beat their competition by double digits regularly over the last month, and have done so without a Nerlens Noel. They accomplished the feat without a Phil Pressey on the roster. The consistency of this team, and team is the key word, has few, if any equals in college basketball today, and it is achieved by playing fundamental, team basketball.
As unselfish as a group can be, the Billikens exude confidence and unity. Every team hoping to make the NCAA tournament should be concerned about this Saint Louis team because, unlike Missouri, the location of the game doesn’t matter to them. Where a single player falls off, another jumps in seamlessly, creating no ripples in their game.
Game planning for a team like this must be miserable because there isn’t one area to concentrate the defensive efforts; they must focus on the entire offensive unit. The Bills will wear down opponents with grinding, even pressured offense and defense that is sound, averaging 7.1 steals per game.
With VCU falling out of the top 25, and Butler’s 15 ranking a thing of the past both courtesy of the Billikens, a case could be made for this team to be the best ever in the blue and white. It may not seem like much for those who don’t understand the significance of this team playing at the level their at, or grabbing a top 20 ranking, but this squad lacks the rich history of teams like Duke, UNC, or the Hoosiers. The frequency of the mid-majors being over looked is high and Saint Louis’ fans know all too well about that. For the Bills, this rank won’t impact their game but you can bet that Xavier, who hosts Saint Louis on Wednesday, March 6th, has taken note and will be stepping their tempo up to try and halt the SLU train.
The Atlantic 10 isn’t a conference to scoff at, but it doesn’t have the depth of the Big 10. While SLU is not nationally recognized as a sincere threat to any of the top teams by the fans, to the dismay of the SLU haters, CBSsports.com’s Jerry Palm, a Bracketology Expert for their staff, has Saint Louis listed as a 4 seed currently. With experts putting them as one of the top 16 teams in the nation, maybe it’s not so far fetched consider the Bills a team could make a deep run into the tournament.
The Billikens have done one thing extraordinary lately, and that is win. 5 of the last 9 wins have come on the road, and 3 of those 9 wins were against ranked opponents. The Bills are focused right now with their eyes on the prize. The ranking likely isn’t being used as fuel to elevate their game, because when you’re playing peak basketball, the goal is consistency and the Bills have excelled at maintaining their level of play all year. Saint Louis is as consistent as any team playing college ball right now. The difference is that St. Louis’ guys are all playing at the same level with a no man left behind mentality. Look out March — here come the Billikens.