Skip to content

Billikens’ journey to the Final Four begins with 17-point victory over Charlotte

Mar 15, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT

Saint Louis Dwayne Evans AP

NEW YORK – March is the month where the elite teams identify themselves.

The top spot in the Atlantic-10 Conference changed hands numerous times this season, with VCU, Butler and even Charlotte atop the conference standings at one point.

But nobody remembers who No. 1 was in December. A team is judged based on what they do late in the season, when the games matter most.

But for the Saint Louis Billikens, all they have done since the games started to matter is win 14 of the past 17, with two losses coming in overtime.. The Billikens continued their winning ways on Friday, defeating Charlotte 72-55 in the Atlantic-10 Quarterfinals at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Saint Louis not only looked like the most complete team in the Atlantic-10, but also like a team that can compete for a spot in the Final Four.

That’s right. I said it.

This team has experience, cohesion, confidence and talent.

Saint Louis’ greatest strength is roster depth.. The late Rick Majerus did a masterful job putting together a dynamic team with players who each bring a unique skill set to table. Enter Dwayne Evans, the Billikens’ multi-purpose who led the way with 25 points and 9 rebounds on Thursday afternoon in win over the 49ers.

Evans has been the team’s steadiest hand since the beginning of February, scoring in double figures in each of the last 14 games.

But Saint Louis isn’t a one man show. In fact, the Billikens’s top five scorers are separated by just 3.1ppg, six Billikens average 7.4ppg or more, and four Billikens average at least 10ppg. Saint Louis has sure-handed guards, efficient shooters, versatile big-men, and a strong supporting cast.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who are really good three‑point shooters,” said Evans following the quarterfinal win.

“You have to cover them and leave the inside open. So we kind of played in and out.”

On Friday against Charlotte, Saint Louis got a total team effort. Senior forward Cody Ellis scored 13 points to go along with Evans’ standout performance. They got steady play from forward Rob Loe, who finished with seven points, four rebounds, four assists and one block. Senior guard Kwamain Mitchell also added seven points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals. Both Loe and Mitchell had spot performances on Friday, but either one of them could easily take the lead next game. Coach Jim Crews echoed these sentiments following the win.

“I think we got the win kind of like we usually do. It comes from all kinds of different‑‑ I mean, we get a little from the defense, a little inside. We don’t shoot the ball that well from three. It seemed like we get threes at the right time, get to the line‑‑ I mean, we have a lot of different ways. I don’t know if we’re really, really good at any of them, but we’re good at a lot of them. The same thing with the players. They just‑‑ this guy, this game or next game or these three guys or those four guys. That’s kind of the beauty of our team.

That’s the beauty of this team. The Billikins don’t have to rely on one player. That stems from the team’s strong chemistry and experience. The Billikens embody the same characteristic that many of Rick Majerus’ famous Utah teams
from the mid-90s carried: integrity and a high level of character. The Billikens don’t get rattled easily.

“Teams are going to make runs on us all the time”, said guard Mike McCall Jr., who finished with nine points and four assists.

“We just need to go on to the next play and try to make a run ourselves.”

They are a top-50 team in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage. All eight of the Billikens’ primary players are upperclassmen. This is not a team filled with players that need the ball. This is not a team with fiery personalities, and Jim Crews likes that.

“I think we’ve got a bunch of guys that are leaders, but we don’t have one or two guys that kind of stand on top of the mountain top and say whatever needs to be said. We don’t have those type of personalities. So everything has kind of peaked with us. They don’t get real excited. They don’t get real down. They just kind of keep plugging away. That’s a great trait that they have.”

Are there more talented teams in the country than Saint Louis? Yes, there certainly are. But many of those “elite” teams don’t have the intangibles necessary to survive the long postseason trek.

Saint Louis does.

They have the proper personnel and all the tools necessary to make the steep climb to the top of the college hoops mountain.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Latest Posts
  1. No. 2 Arizona, Sean Miller’s quest to reach Final Four once again falls short

    Mar 29, 2015, 8:37 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The label of “best coach yet to reach a Final Four” will remain Miller’s for another offseason, whether that’s fair or not.

  2. Updated tournament records: Big Ten, SEC champions headed to Indy

    Mar 29, 2015, 12:50 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The Big Ten champion and SEC champion move on to Indy.

  3. Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky catch fire as No. 1 Wisconsin beats No. 2 Arizona

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Dekker scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half at Wisconsin beat Arizona in the Elite Eight for the second straight year.

  4. Frank Kaminsky dances his way to the Final Four (VIDEO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:34 PM EDT

    Arizona v Wisconsin Getty Images

    Frank got a little funky after Wisconsin’s win over Arizona.

  5. Rick Barnes is no longer the head coach at Texas

    Mar 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes coached at Texas for 17 seasons.

  6. Arrests made as Michigan State fans gather, set fires near off-campus apartments after Sweet 16 win (VIDEO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Some Michigan State students got a little too rowdy following a win over Oklahoma.

  7. Reports: The Citadel hires VMI head coach Duggar Baucom for same position

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT

    Duggar Baucom AP

    The Citadel hired away the head coach of a Southern Conference rival.

  8. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey on college hoops: ‘It’s absolute torture watching some of these games’ (AUDIO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets Draft Picks Press Conference Getty Images

    Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had some strong words on the current state of college basketball.

  9. Frank Kaminsky’s growth results in individual and team benefits for No. 1 Wisconsin

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Frank Kaminsky’s path to stardom may not follow that of last year’s national Player of the Year winner, Doug McDermott, but it’s one that many players hope to navigate during their own time in school.

  10. Tom Izzo blames himself, new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie on Michigan State’s sluggish Sweet 16 start

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:55 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Michigan State might have been the only people in the country watching “Get Hard” on Friday afternoon.

  11. Former oddsmaker believes Kentucky would be underdog against all-time great college basketball teams

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kentucky might finish the 2014-15 season unblemished, but how do they stack up against some of the best teams in college basketball history?

  12. Tourney Snacks: Duke-Gonzaga, Louisville-Michigan State advance to Elite 8

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:52 AM EDT

    Justise Winslow (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Get caught up on all of Friday’s NCAA tournament action.

  13. Tip times, announcer pairings and channel guide for 2015 Elite 8

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:27 AM EDT

    Quinn Cook AP

    The schedule for Sunday’s Elite 8 games.

  14. No. 1 Duke advances to Elite 8 with win over No. 5 Utah

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:08 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    No. 1 Duke advanced to the Elite 8 with a win in the South Regional over No. 5 Utah.

  15. Bradley announces Brian Wardle hired as head coach

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:58 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Wardle spent five seasons as coach at Green Bay.