SLU Moving Forward


A week ago, I assumed the Bills were doing away with their 12-man rotation, after it worked well against Bradley. However, for some reason, they returned to it against a superior Wichita State team, and look to continue using it throughout the season. Moving forward, is this the best option to help teach a young team? In my opinion, it simply isn’t.

Brett Jolly admitted a few weeks ago that the increased playing time against Bradley helped him find his comfort zone, and record his first collegiate double-digit scoring game. Not to overly-criticize Coach Crews, because he has a tough assignment and road ahead of him with all the freshman, but the lineups seem random at this point. Jolly went from playing 32 minutes against Bradley to 15 against Wichita State. Going the other way, the disappointing John Manning went from playing 7 minutes against Rockhurst to 24 minutes against Wichita State. For someone who’s played as poorly as Manning, 24 minutes seems like a gift, while only 15 more Jolly is more a punishment.

“I don’t look at losing as a positive. But we’re learning from it, which is important.” -Jim Crews

Not only would the increase in playing time help, but the continuity of lineups helps. In a perfect world, each player could be inserted into the lineup and play alongside whoever’s out there. But with a young team learning how to play with each other, doesn’t surrounding them with familiar in-game players help their advancement? We’ve seen that with Austin McBroom and “Cash” Yacoubou, as both complement each other perfectly. The next step in the process, is matching them with bigs that match. The obvious choices are Jolly, Gillmann, or Yarbrough. Jolly and Gillmann can step outside and hit 3’s, while Yarbrough is an freakishly athletic swingman (Mi-freak Yarbrough-nickname pending) that might very well be the best rebounder on the team. Big bodies like Lancona and Manning just don’t have the quickness to consistently produce in this drive-and-kick offense.

Finally, outside of speculated and opinionated lineup combos, comes overall player production. To their credit, the Bills have found their primary, secondary, and even tertiary scorers. Austin McBroom stepped up to take that top position, while Cash Yacoubou and Milik Yarbrough fill in respectively behind him. Even the backup guards of Bartley and Reynolds have started to find their roles, and improve from game to game. What’s the only issue remaining? Rebounding. I hit on it last article, and it proved itself true once again against Wichita. Outside of Gillmann, what big man can rebound? Manning grabbed two in 24 minutes and Brett Jolly only had 1 in 15 minutes (would have been more if his minutes were increased, but that’s none of my business). There’s no edge to the big men like we’re used to seeing. I rarely question a player’s toughness, because I’m aware of the physical sacrifice they’re making each game. But you have to wonder when we’re going to see some real physicality from them.

Even with all of that harsh criticism, the Bills haven’t necessarily looked horrible. Sitting at 5-3, the Bills have 5 very winnable home games (nonconference) to close out 2014 before they open up conference play at home against URI on Jan. 3rd. That puts them in a great spot to be 9-4 or 10-3 before URI, giving them some momentum going into conference play. There have been the tough losses (Texas A&M- Corpus Christi), but, to be as clichéd as possible, they served as learning experiences for the “Billikids”.

“I don’t look at losing as a positive,” said Jim Crews after Wichita State. “But we’re learning from it, which is important.” There’s plenty of adversity for the Bills to face in the upcoming months. A necessity for leaders is persistent. But, in the words of Miles Reynolds, “Without adversity, life would be too easy.” SLU returns to Chaifetz tonight at 7 p.m. to face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The broadcast can be heard on 101 ESPN, and watch on Fox Sports Midwest.