NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet: Getting to Know Saint Louis

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Read through the rest of the Cheat Sheets here.

Conference: Atlantic 10

Coach: Jim Crews

Record: 27-6, 13-3

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 17
– RPI: 22
– AP/USA Today: 16/16

Seeding?: Our Dave Ommen has the Billikens as a No. 5-seed in the midwest in his latest bracket projection, but with wins over Butler and VCU en route to the Atlantic 10 tournament championship, the Billikens could rise to as high as the No. 3-seed.

Names you need to know: Dwayne Evans (13.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.3 spg, .533 FG%), Cody Ellis (10.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Kwamain Mitchell (10.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 spg), Mike McCall Jr. (10.0 ppg, .423 3PT%),

Stats you need to know: The Billikens are a top-40 team nationally in terms of effective turnover percentage, both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. What that means is that Saint Louis is really good at forcing turnovers and really difficult to take the ball from. Guards Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett rank nationally in field goal efficiency and effective field goal percentage.

Tendencies: Saint Louis plays from the inside out. They use big men Cody Ellis and Rob Loe on the perimeter, and send 6-foot-5 forward Dawyne Evans to the low block. They like shooting from the outside and working the ball down low. On defense they are hard to crack. They don’t make mistakes and look to force turnovers with suffocating pressure.

Big wins, bad losses: Saint Louis beat Butler three times this season, including a 17-point drubbing when the Bulldogs were ranked inside the top-10. During non-conference play the knocked off New Mexico at The Pit, one of the most difficult venues to earn a road win from. They do have two bad losses, including a 12-point loss to Santa Clara in the second game of the season, and an overtime loss to Atlantic 10 bottom-feeder Rhode Island.

Howโ€™d they get here?: The Billikens played their best basketball of the season in Brooklyn en route to an Atlantic 10 tournament championship. They have won 15 of their last 16 games, and have not lost in regulation since January 12th.

Outlook: This is a team that can legitimately make the Final Four. Yes, they lack elite athleticism and NBA frontcourt size, but Saint Louis is stocked with upperclassmen and versatile players. Dwayne Evans is a match-up problem for most teams, and the Billikens won’t beat themselves. This team can definitely make a deep run in March.

How Do I know you? The Billikens return to the Big Dance for the second straight season, and first under Jim Crews. But prior to their appearance last season, the Billikens went 11 years without making the NCAA tournament.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averagedย 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and Iโ€™m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment โ€“ both by our university and by Chris โ€“ allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.