After winning the Atlantic 10 with a senior-laden rotation in 2014 the Saint Louis Billikens weren’t as successful last season, going 11-21 overall and finishing last in the conference with a 3-15 record. With their six freshmen of a season ago now being sophomores, the hope for the Billikens is that they can take a step forward and be a more formidable team in the A-10 in 2015-16.
Jim Crews’ team will have a bit of a head start on the upcoming season, as the program announced Friday its plans for a three-game trip to The Bahamas scheduled for next month. Saint Louis, per NCAA rules, will have ten practices before leaving for Atlantis August 7, and they’ll play against local all-star teams August 8, 10 and 11 before returning home.
With nine underclassmen (six sophomores and three freshmen) and just one senior (Achraf Yacoubou) on the roster, these early practices and games could help SLU as it prepares for the 2015-16 season. It’s one thing to be told how to run sets and what the coaching staff expects, but being able to apply those summer lessons in game situations should help the young players moving forward.
SLU’s greatest struggles came on the offensive end of the floor last season, as they ranked at or near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in scoring (last), field goal percentage (13th) and offensive efficiency (last). If Saint Louis is to be a better team in 2015-16 they’ll have to be better offensively, and given the fact that the A-10 should be better than it was a season ago that’s no easy task.
The Billikens’ hope that these practices and exhibitions will help them in that regard.
With the majority of the team that reached the national title game returning to campus, not to mention the arrival of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, Kentucky has been pegged by many as the early favorite to win the national title next season. John Calipari’s program will get a head start of sorts in preparing for the 2014-15 season, with the team taking a trip to the Bahamas in mid-August.
Friday morning the team’s plans for the trip, which will run from August 10-17, were revealed with the Wildcats playing six games during their stay in the Bahamas. Kentucky will play two games apiece against the Dominican Republic national team, Puerto Rico’s national team reserves and the French professional club Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket.
“We are excited to make the trip to the Bahamas for our foreign tour,” Calipari said in the release. “Working with Lea and Mason Miller [of Complete Sports Management] has been a pleasure. My goal is for our team to grow together, to learn about one another, to have fun and to compete against teams that will stretch us out.
“These teams should be a challenge that will let us really see where we are at this point. But again, learning and having fun will be the emphasis of the trip. It’s another opportunity for us to fail fast.”
Kentucky will have to account for the departures of Julius Randle and James Young, with both leaving Lexington after one season for the NBA Draft where both are expected to be first-round selections with Randle likely going in the lottery. But the Harrison twins are back on the perimeter, and front court contributors such as Willie Cauley-Stein (he’s unlikely to play after undergoing offseason surgery), Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress return as well.
The practices and games in the Bahamas will help the Wildcats as they look to strengthen the chemistry between the newcomers and a freshman class that features guards Devon Booker and Tyler Ulis and big men Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns.