Billikens Ready to Rebound against Struggling Shockers


To quote the great urban philosopher Shawn Carter, “it was all good just a week ago” for the Billikens.

Then, they were 4-0 and looking ahead to a big matchup with an esteemed and ranked Louisville squad. Even during the second half at the Barclays Center, Louisville was on upset alert as SLU took the lead with 16 minutes to go. But down the stretch, the Cardinals and Rick Pitino flexed their muscles, eventually pushing it to a 20 point victory.

And then Morehead State came to town. Boasting the number one scoring defense in the country, they kept the Bills to only 56 points, killing them on the rebounding end (35-24 overall, 10-2 offensively). Rebounding has been that key issue for the Bills with this small lineup that’s effective, yet has its downfalls. When your best rebounders double as your best ball handlers and best scorers, it’s a lot to put on their back.

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But there’s a chance to rebound this weekend that we all would have inked as a Bills loss in the preseason. Coming in to the 2015-2016 campaign, more than a handful of people picked Wichita State to be a top 10 or higher team, with the return of big names in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet and a couple of key transfers. But then VanVleet, a preseason All-American among some reputable publications, was sidelined with an ankle and hamstring injury, the latter of which continues to nag him. After he went out, the Shockers were shocked by Tulsa, and have lost their last 3 against Iowa, USC, and Alabama. So far this year, Coach Gregg Marshall’s squad boasts only 2 wins, one of which was over Division II Emporia State, and the other over Charleston Southern.

Within all of that, the Billikens have an opportunity to put a win on their resume against a struggling, but still legitimate team. To help even more, Coach Gregg Marshall has been non-committal on VanVleet’s status for Saturday, still listing him as questionable. And with a still developing backcourt, that’s great news for Jim Crews’ team.

Offensively, the Bills have implemented much more movement this year, but why does it still seem so stagnant? They’re intent on posting up every person at every opportunity possible, which doesn’t fit the mold of this team. Mike Crawford and Ash Yacoubou are not post players, and posting them up only eats up the shot clock and takes them out of rhythm. Milik Yarbrough has the hands and footwork for it, and even Reggie Agbeko. The list ends there.

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They don’t necessarily have the shooters to run a pick and pop or dribble drive offense, but it would be refreshing to see something that can spread the floor and open up shots for a guy like Mike Crawford, who’s proven to be an excellent scorer and capable shooter.

Defensively, they’re still only giving up around 61-62 points, which is at the very least average. If VanVleet plays, he presents a mismatch that SLU can’t defend. But without him, the biggest threat, Ron Baker, should be someone that Ash Yacoubou can hang with, or even Milik Yarbrough. As mentioned before, a big part of the defensive effort will be hitting the boards hard to prevent the second half points that hurt them against Louisville and Morehead State.

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Prediction? A month ago, I would’ve given the Shockers a 15 point edge. Today? It’s much closer to a push. If the Bills can find rhythm offensively and hit the boards hard defensively, they’ll be in a spot late in the game to show what they’re made of. And if that’s the case, I’m confident enough to throw my trust into a late Ash Yacoubou deuce to seal the deal.