Butler Saint Louis Basketball

College Hoops Team of the Week: St. Louis Billikens

Leave a comment

Team of the Week: St. Louis

The Billikens were the team that many picked to win the Atlantic 10 this season, but they didn’t exactly start their season out on the right foot. After losing three of their first six games, Jim Crews’ club watched a nine-game winning streak evaporate when they lost at Temple and then dropped a home game in OT to conference bottom-feeder Rhode Island. 1-2 wasn’t exactly the way St. Louis wanted to start in arguably the deepest conference in the country.

But they bounced back, picking up tough road games at Duquense and St. Bonaventure, before making a statement this week. It started with a beatdown of Butler, where the Billikens forced 17 first half turnovers and brought home a 17 point win over the No. 9 Bulldogs. Then on Saturday, St. Louis thoroughly embarrassed a good Dayton team, dispatching them with a 29 point win.

St. Louis is now just a half-game back — tied in the loss column — of first place VCU in the At-10.

Teams that deserve a shout out:

  • Air Force: The Falcons picked up a pair of wins at home this week, knocking off Fresno State and No. 22 San Diego State, to extend their winning streak to five games and move into a tie for second-place in the Mountain West standings. The win over SDSU was just the third time in 81 tries the Falcons have beaten a ranked team. Air Force has had a bit of a friendly schedule in league play; we’ll get a real sense of just how good this team is when they visit the Pit on Wednesday to take on first-place New Mexico.
  • Oklahoma State: The Cowboys picked up a pair of massive wins this week, beating Iowa State on a Marcus Smart bucket with three seconds left and following that up by knocking off Kansas at Kansas. How big of a win was that? It’s only the second time in the last 104 games that the Jayhawks have lost at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The last time? The day after Thomas Robinson’s mother passed away.
  • Miami: The Hurricanes notched a pair of big wins on the road this week. They came-from-behind to beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and followed that up with a thrilling win at NC State. More importantly, the Hurricanes are now sitting at 8-0 in the ACC with a two-game lead on Duke and a three-game lead on everyone else.
  • Indiana: The Hoosiers picked up a pair of huge wins, blowing out Purdue on the road by 37 points and following that up with a win over No. 1 Michigan at home. That’s a big deal for Indiana because they took over a one-game lead in the Big Ten race, which gives them a bit of cushion with their tough, road-heavy schedule down the stretch.
  • Stanford: Stanford thrust themselves back into the conversation in the Pac-12 with a pair of wins over the Oregon schools this week, including a 24 point victory against the No. 10 Ducks. Most importantly, Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright, who haven’t hit a shot all season long, are now a combined 15-25 from three over the last three games.
  • Louisville: The Cardinals bounced back from their three game losing streak with a vengeance, beating Pitt at home on Big Monday and following that up with a fairly dominating win over Marquette on Sunday.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.