Mar 16, 2013, 5:37 PM EDT
NEW YORK — After their 72-55 win over Charlotte on Friday, I explained why the Saint Louis Billikens have the look and feel of a team that can make the Final Four.
The Billikens’ 67-56 win over the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday in the Atlantic 10 semifinals only reinforced my beliefs.
Butler has wins this season over the likes of Indiana, Gonzaga and North Carolina. Now consider this: Saint Louis beat Butler not once, not twice, but three times.
Saint Louis has a deep, experience-laden roster. They have guys who excel in a multitude of different areas. They are poised and do not make mistakes. Their season has been driven by and motivated by extenuating circumstances out of their control.
Sure, they will struggle against elite athleticism and physical frontcourts, but that appears to be their only real weaknesses.
“I think St. Louis is one of the best teams in the country,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens prior to the contest. “I don’t care where they’re ranked or where they’ll be seeded. Somebody who hasn’t played against them next week, they’re going to say uh‑oh.”
Stevens offered even more praise for the top-seed following his team’s tough loss.
“I’ve said all year to the people who have listened, and some that don’t, how good they are. They are a legitimate contender to win the whole thing.”
That is high praise from a coach who went to back-to-back National Championship games within his first five seasons as a Division I head coach.
Saint Louis will be a difficult match-up for teams who have not faced them before. They don’t make mistakes, play extremely physical, and run simple yet effective sets designed to control the flow of the game.
“Sometimes, when you don’t know you’re doing, if you don’t make mistakes and don’t turn the ball over, the opponent won’t know what we’re doing either.” Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews quipped following his team’s 14th win in their past 15 games.
Dwayne Evans led the Billikens in scoring for the second consecutive game, finishing with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals.
Butler’s Roosevelt Jones spent much of the game guarding Evans. “He’s probably the most physical player that I have ever played against in my life. I thought that he should have been Player of the Year in the conference.”
But Evans was not the Billikens’ only source of offense. Saint Louis got 13 points from Cody Ellis and nine from both Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett.
Brad Stevens continued in his praise of the Billikens.”The thing I go back to, is Cody Ellis and Jordair Jett are two of their best players. They’re not in the starting lineup. Their starting lineup is really good. So they have depth. They have physicality. They have toughness”
The Billikens trailed by as many as six points in the first half, but took the lead heading into the break on a buzzer-beating lay-up from Rob Loe. The experienced Billikens never trailed in the final 20 minutes.
“We’ve got eight guys that are juniors or seniors, and they’ve invested a lot into the program and invested in each other”, said Crews.
It would be fitting for Saint Louis to make a Final Four run with both VCU and Butler in the Atlantic 10 for the first time. But unlike both VCU and Butler’s Final Four appearances, Saint Louis’ would not come as a surprise.
You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir
Oct 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Kansas State is losing a redshirt freshman to transfer.
Oct 20, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Virginia got a very skilled guard in the 2016 class.
Oct 20, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Florida landed an in-state Class of 2015 wing to make it a four-man class.
Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Memphis found a 2016 guard to join center Nick Marshall in the recruiting class.
Oct 20, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
SMU could be in trouble if a second-team all-league pick is ruled ineligible.
Oct 20, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT
News and notes from the world of college basketball recruiting.
Oct 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Lorenzo Romar now has a six-man recruiting class for 2015.
Oct 20, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Oklahoma has a chance to be the second-best team in the Big 12, especially if a key player receives a waiver.
Oct 20, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
The Hawks will have a thin front court this season.
Oct 20, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Five new hires that should thrive, and five who may end up struggling.
Oct 20, 2014, 2:09 PM EDT
Stevie Clark was dismissed from Oklahoma State after a pair of bizarre incidents involving the police.
Oct 20, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Chris Walker sounds pretty funny.
Oct 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Jaylen Brantley is Maryland’s first commitment in the class.
Oct 20, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
After riding the coattails of a pair of Californians, Weber State’s focus on recruiting the state of Texas will pay off this season.
Oct 20, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT
Thon Maker has another mixtape out.
Oct 20, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT
Mudiay has now played two preseason games as a professional.
Oct 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Weber State will be the preseason favorites, but Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Eastern Washington will lead a group of challengers capable of pushing the reigning champs.
Oct 19, 2014, 10:57 PM EDT
Junior forward Mark Tollefsen may be one of the best dunkers in America.
Oct 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT
Chris Jones’ three-pointer in the final seconds gave the White team a 75-72 win over the Red.
Oct 19, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT
Evan Smotrycz was re-evaluated Saturday after suffering the injury at the end of practice Friday.
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