For all the talk about UMass and VCU this season, might the Atlantic 10 title still run through St. Louis?
It certainly looked like it on Saturday afternoon, as the Billikens went into Dayton and smacked around the Flyers, winning 67-59 in a game that where Jim Crews’ club had a double-digit lead for much of the second half.
Dwayne Evans was fantastic as usual, finishing with 22 points and nine boards on 9-for-11 shooting from the floor. Jordair Jett added 12 points and five assists while Austin McBroom chipped in with 17 off the bench, but as always, the story of this game was on the defensive end of the floor.
Dayton shot 30.6% from the floor. Devin Oliver, Dayton’s second-leading scorer, was 0-for-12 from the field and didn’t score a single points.
You see, there isn’t a team in the country as good as Saint Louis at taking teams out of what they want to do offensively. They don’t bring full-court pressure and they’re not really the kind of a defense that will trap you to death, but they are disciplined, they rotate extremely well and they know how to play to the scouting report.
That’s part of the reason the Billikens are so tough on the road. They will win games even when they don’t play well offensively. That’s why they are a nation’s best 6-0 on the road this season.
Still haven’t sold you on the Billikens yet? How about this: they are now 15-2 on the season with their only losses coming against Wisconsin and Wichita State, two teams that have yet to lose to anyone this season.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.