#SLUNCAA Game Preview: Billikens vs. New Mexico State
No. 4 seed Saint Louis (27-6) vs. No. 13 seed New Mexico State (24-10)
Saturday, March 21, 2013 • 1:10 p.m. (CT) • San Jose, Calif. (HP Pavilion)
TV: TNT (Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner, Marty Snider)
Radio: 101 ESPN/101.1 FM (Bob Ramsey, Earl Austin Jr.)
SETTING THE SCENE
Saint Louis, the regular-season and tournament champions in the Atlantic 10 Conference, is the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region. It is SLU's best seed in eight appearances in the NCAA tourney.
BILLIKENS CUT DOWN THE NETS IN BROOKLYN
• The top-seeded Billikens defeated Charlotte, Butler and VCU in the Atlantic 10 Conference Men's Basketball Championship at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
• It was the second conference tournament title in school history, the first since the "Miracle in Memphis" in 2000 (Conference USA).
• SLU opened the tourney with a 72-55 victory against Charlotte. Dwayne Evans led the way with a career-high 25 points, while Cody Ellis scored 13.
• The next day against Butler, the Billikens posted their third win of the season against the Bulldogs, winning 67-56 behind another strong game by Evans. He posted a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
• It was No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the A-10 championship game as SLU faced VCU. SLU stretched out to an early lead and withstood a furious second-half rally to win 62-56. Kwamain Mitchell scored a team-high 19, while Evans chipped in 16.
• Evans and Mitchell were named to the All-Tournament Team. Evans, who registered 21.7 ppg and 9.3 rpg during the Championship, was named Most Outstanding Player.
BILLIKENS CLAIM REGULAR-SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP
• The Billikens roared through the A-10 regular season with a 13-3 record to capture an outright conference title for the first time since the 1956-57 squad won the Missouri Valley Conference.
• The last time the Billikens earned at least a share of a conference regular-season title was in 1970-71, when SLU tied for first in the Missouri Valley Conference.
• In all, the Billikens have won six regular-season conference titles (four outright, two shared). They are as follows:
• 1946-47 - 11-1 (First) in Missouri Valley Conference
• 1951-52 - 9-1 (First) in Missouri Valley Conference
• 1954-55 - 8-2 (t-First) in Missouri Valley Conference
• 1956-57 - 12-2 (First) in Missouri Valley Conference
• 1970-71 - 9-5 (t-First) in Missouri Valley Conference
• 2012-13 - 11-3 (First) in Atlantic 10 Conference
• Five of those regular-season crowns occurred when the Billikens played in the Missouri Valley Conference, of which they were members from 1937-74. Since then, here is a look at the Billikens' best regular-season finish, by conference.
• METRO - 1978-79, 4-8 (fifth)
• MCC -1985-86 and 1988-89, 8-4 (second)
• Great Midwest -1993-94 and 1994-95, 8-4 (second)
• Conference USA - 1994-95 and 2002-03, 11-5 and 9-7 (fourth)
• Atlantic 10 Conference - 2011-12, 13-3 (first)
YES, WE WATCHED THE SELECTION SHOW AT BEST BUY
• After cutting down the nets at Barclays Center, SLU hit the road at approximately 4:15 p.m. (ET) en route to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, where a plane was waiting to take the Billikens home. The plan was to get checked in at the charter terminal, then watch the NCAA Selection Show before boarding the plane.
• However, after crossing the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, the team bus hit traffic in Manhattan's Chinatown and Little Italy. After finally getting through the Holland Tunnel, it was nearing 6 p.m. A Best Buy was spotted just off the next exit in Secaucus, N.J., and the SLU bus quickly pulled in. Within minutes, the 30-person travel party (and the A-10 Championship trophy) was directed by the helpful Best Buy staff to the home theatre section to watch the show.
• SLU was immediately announced as a No. 4 seed, and the travel party was back on the bus and en route to Teterboro at 6:15 p.m.
• Cody Ellis was named Sixth Man of the Year in the A-10, while Dwayne Evans was named first-team All-Conference at the end of the regular season on voting conducted by the league's head coaches. In addition, Kwamain Mitchell and Jordair Jett were named third-team All-Conference. Jett was named to the All-Defensive team, while Evans was an All-Academic team selection.
• Jim Crews was named A-10 Coach of the Year and is the Sporting News' National Coach of the Year.
THE JIM CREWS JOURNEY
• When it was announced Aug. 24 that Rick Majerus would not coach due to an ongoing serious health condition, Saint Louis tabbed Jim Crews as interim head coach for the 2012-13 season. Crews holds that same title to this day, per an agreement by both sides at the beginning of the year.
• Crews, a head-coaching veteran of 25 years, was talked into joining the SLU staff at the beginning of last season by Majerus, a longtime friend. Crews has guided the Billikens to a school-record-tying 27 victories and has kept SLU together since Majerus' death.
• In addition to this season, Crews has 24 years of experience as head coach at Army (seven seasons) and Evansville (17 seasons). He played and coached at Indiana under Bob Knight, winning national championships as a player (1976) and assistant coach (1981). Entering the NCAA Tournament, Crews' 25-year coaching record stands at 381-354.
• Crews' Evansville teams appeared in the NCAA Tournament four times. As an assistant coach at Indiana, the Hoosiers advanced to the NCAAs seven of nine years. As a player at IU, Crews went to the NCAA tourney all four years.
• Head coach Rick Majerus passed away at the age of 64 on Dec. 1, 2012.
• He was hired at Saint Louis on April 30, 2007. He amassed a 517-216 career record in 25 years, which included a 95-69 mark in five seasons at the helm of the Billikens. Majerus recruited every active player on the Billiken roster.
• The Billikens are wearing a patch on their jerseys, a ribbon with, simply, the word "Coach." A banner with the same emblem hangs in the rafters of Chaifetz Arena.
• The team attended Majerus' funeral in Milwaukee on Dec. 8 and served as pallbearers.
IN THE RANKINGS
• The Billikens enter the NCAA Tournament having been ranked for four consecutive weeks. SLU is No. 13 in the AP Top 25 and the USA Today coaches' poll.
• It is the first time the Billikens have been ranked in consecutive weeks since the 1993-94 season, when Charlie Spoohour's "SpoonBall" squad was ranked nine straight weeks to end the season. The highest SLU got that year was No. 16 on Feb. 28.
• Last season, SLU was ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 25 in the USA Today poll Nov. 28 following its title in the 76 Classic. However, the Bills lost their next game at Loyola Marymount and never re-entered the rankings.
• Prior to SpoonBall, you have to go back to the 1960s since SLU registered a national ranking. The Billikens were ranked as high as No. 4 (December 8, 1964).
• The Billikens were ranked No. 1 in the first-ever AP poll released Jan. 18, 1949. SLU was also No. 1 the next week (Jan. 25).
• Saint Louis' 27 victories are tied for the most in school history with the 1988-89 team. Last year's squad (26-8) tied for the second most in school history.
EVANS NAMED A-10 PLAYER OF THE WEEK
• Junior forward Dwayne Evans was named A-10 Player of the Week for the period ending March 2, SLU's lone A-10 weekly citation of the season. He registered double-doubles against Saint Joseph's and George Washington and averaged 21.5 ppg and 12.0 rpg during the week.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
• Saint Louis is ninth in the A-10 in scoring offense, averaging 68.7 ppg. In A-10 play, the Billikens were seventh with 71.4 ppg.
• SLU shoots 44.8 percent from the field (seventh in A-10), 34.7 percent from 3-point range (eighth in A-10) and 70.6 percent from the free-throw line (seventh in A-10).
• In the second half against La Salle March 9, the Billikens shot 85 percent from the field, which is believed to be the best shooting percentage in a half in school history.
• The Billikens shot 57.7 percent against La Salle, the fifth time SLU shot better than 50 percent in league play this season. The other four were wins as well - VCU (55.3 percent), at Fordham (56.9 percent), Dayton (50.9 percent) and Butler (50 percent).
• The Billikens' 90 points at Fordham marked the first time SLU scored 90 or more since winning 90-52 against Chicago State on Feb. 22, 2011.
• The last time SLU scored 90 or more in a conference game was against Conference USA foe DePaul during the 2001-02 season, a 92-74 win. SLU last scored 90 or more on the road against Murray State on Dec. 18, 1993 (W, 92-89). Finally, the last time SLU scored 90 or more in a conference road game was on March 1, 1990, a 102-86 win at Loyola Chicago in MCC play.
• SLU registered 80 or more points in consecutive games (Dayton, at Fordham) for the first time since last year's ESPN 76 Classic in Anaheim, when the Billikens scored 80 and 83 points in wins against Villanova and Oklahoma, respectively.
• In research conducted by Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Billikens won eight consecutive league games (St. Bonaventure on Jan. 26 - VCU on Feb. 19)by 10 or more points for the first time in SLU history.
• Saint Louis leads the A-10 in scoring defense, giving up just 58.1 ppg.
• The Billikens have played exceptional defense as of late. Saint Louis has held opponents under 60 points in the last four outings. Two of those were against VCU and La Salle, the No. 1 and No. 5 scoring teams in the A-10, respectively.
• SLU has regularly finished among the top 30 in the country in scoring defense the last five years. Last season, the Billikens allowed just 57.6 ppg to rank eighth in the nation.
• Limited opponents to a .371 field goal percentage in the three games in the A-10 Championship. Teams scored just 55.7 ppg against the BIllikens during the tourney.
• Limited La Salle's Ramon Galloway (17.8 ppg) to eight points March 9. Also held the Explorers to just 2-of-15 from long range.
• Held Saint Joseph's to its lowest point total in an A-10 game and its lowest shooting percentage (.326) overall this season.
• VCU, which leads the league in scoring offense, didn't record its 10th point until the 4:08 mark of the first half in the game Feb. 19.
• Saint Louis held Charlotte to 58 points, the 49ers' second-lowest total in A-10 play.
• SLU held Richmond to 46 points and just 10 field goals.
• Against Dayton, SLU forced the Flyers into 21 turnovers, scoring 30 points off those TOs. That is tied for the most points scored off of turnovers by the Billikens this year, matching their output in the New Mexico game.
• Against Butler, the Billikens forced the Bulldogs into 23 turnovers, the most by a Butler squad since the 2002-03 season.
• Against St. Bonaventure, SLU forced a season-high-tying 19 turnovers. SLU also forced Texas A&M and Savannah State into 19 turnovers earlier this year.
• Against UMass, the Billikens held the Minutemen to 10 points below their average, and the 62 points allowed were tied for UMass' lowest scoring output of the season.
• SLU yielded fewer than 50 points in four consecutive games earlier this year for the first time since the 1949-50 season. SLU allowed 45 points against Eastern Illinois, 44 vs. Loyola Marymount, 41 to SIUE and 46 against New Mexico. During that four-game stretch, teams shot just 35.1 percent (65-185) from the field and 27.3 percent (15-55) from beyond the arc.
• Saint Louis had won 11 in a row before falling in overtime at Xavier March 6. The streak was the longest in the A-10 at the time and tied for the seventh-longest active winning streak in the country. SLU bounced back from the loss in a big way, topping La Salle 78-54 March 9 at Chaifetz Arena to clinch the No. 1 seed in the A-10 Championship.
• The Billikens had a nine-game winning streak earlier this year. It is the first time in school history SLU has had two streaks of at least nine wins in a single season.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB
• Senior forward Cody Ellis became the 27th member of the Billikens' 1,000 points club when he drained a 3-pointer at George Washington. He joins Kwamain Mitchell as an active member of the club.
• Junior forward Dwayne Evans needs 16 more points to reach 1,000 for his career.
• Six Billikens score 7.2 ppg or more.
• SLU's scoring is so spread out, that no Billiken appears in the top 15 in scoring in the A-10 statistical report. In A-10 games only, SLU did not have a player in the top 10, despite ranking seventh in the league in scoring offense during A-10 play. SLU's leading scorer, Dwayne Evans, is 16th in the A-10 in all games and was 13th in A-10 games only.
• Junior guard Jordair Jett is 12th overall and first among guards in the A-10 with a 51.7 percent shooting mark from the field.
• Junior guard Mike McCall Jr. is seventh in the A-10 in 3-point field-goal percentage, hitting 41.6 percent from long range.
• Senior forward Cody Ellis is sixth in the A-10 in free-throw percentage (83.5 percent).
MOVING ON UP
• Kwamain Mitchell is seventh on SLU's all-time scoring list with 1,550 points. Mitchell is third all-time in steals and assists. He is the only player in school history to rank in the top five in assists and steals, as well as the top 10 in career points.
• Cory Remekun continues to climb the blocked shots chart. He is fourth on the all-time list.
• Mitchell is fifth on the all-time list in 3-pointers made list, while Cody Ellis is sixth. Ellis is fourth all-time at SLU in 3-pointers attempted, while Mitchell is sixth.
BILLIKENS VS. RANKED FOES
• The Billikens have a school-record five victories against ranked foes (New Mexico, Butler, VCU, Butler and VCU).
• No. 9 Butler was the highest-ranked opponent SLU has beaten since knocking off No. 2 Louisville in 2003.
• Here is a look at the Billikens' victories against ranked squads:
March 17, 2013 #25 VCU W, 62-56
Feb. 22, 2013 #15 Butler W, 65-61
Feb. 19, 2013 #24 VCU W, 76-62
Jan. 31, 2013 #9 Butler W, 75-58
Dec. 31, 2012 #20 New Mexico W, 60-46
• The Billikens led wire-to-wire in eight games this year, including three in conference play (at St. Bonaventure, at Fordham, VCU).
• The Billikens led wire-to-wire in three contests in a row earlier this season (Eastern Illinois, Loyola Marymount and SIUE). New Mexico snapped that streak when they opened the game with a 3-pointer. However, SLU quickly responded with a trey of its own, then took the lead minutes later and led the rest of the way.
MCCALL, MITCHELL NAMED TO COUSY AWARD WATCH LIST
Saint Louis junior guard Mike McCall Jr. and senior guard Kwamain Mitchell were named to the watch list of candidates in December for the 2013 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. The annual honor, named for Hall of Famer and former Boston Celtic Bob Cousy, recognizes the top point guards in men's college basketball.
SLU ADVANCES TO CBE HALL OF FAME CLASSIC FINAL
The Billikens topped Texas A&M 70-49 on Nov. 19 in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic to advance to the championship game versus Kansas. Against the Jayhawks, SLU rallied in the second half but came up short, 73-59. Cody Ellis led the Billikens with 19 points against KU. Last year, the Billikens won the 76 Classic in Anaheim (now called the DirecTV Classic) by topping Boston College, Villanova and Oklahoma.
EVANS NAMED TO ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Junior forward Dwayne Evans was named to the CBE Hall of Fame Classic All-Tournament team. In four games (which included SLU's home games vs. USC Upstate and Santa Clara), Evans averaged 14.8 ppg and 7.8 rpg. He tied his then career scoring high in victories against USC Upstate and Texas A&M with 21 points.
MITCHELL, JETT HONORED BY A-10 DURING PRESEASON
Senior point guard Kwamain Mitchell was named first-team preseason All-Conference by A-10 coaches and media. Last season, he was named third-team All-Conference after finishing second on the squad with 12.4 ppg. He led the Billikens in assists (126) and steals (44). Junior guard Jordair Jett, an All-Defensive team selection last season, earned the same honor in preseason voting of A-10 coaches and media.
A trio of Billikens played overseas last summer. Junior forward Jake Barnett went on a goodwill tour through East Asia. Senior forward Cody Ellis attended training camp with the Australia national team and proceeded to appear in exhibition games with the Aussie national team set-up. Junior forward Rob Loe competed with New Zealand in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.