Saint Louis (20-11) will get the opportunity to continue its surprising season Tuesday night when it hosts Indiana State (17-14) in a first-round game. The Billikens will also get a chance to atone for their disappointing 63-47 loss to Rhode Island in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament on March 12 in Atlantic City after getting a first-round bye by virtue of finishing in fourth place behind three teams that will play in the NCAA Tournament.
The quick exit from the conference tourney came after Saint Louis finished in a rush by winning eight of its last 10 regular-season. The two losses were to Temple and Xavier, which finished tied for the regular-season title in the Atlantic 10 and ranked in the Top 25.
"We've had a terrific year," Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus said. "We were the youngest team in the country. To win 11 games and finish a definitive fourth in this league and close out with four wins in a row on the road is pretty impressive."
Saint Louis leads the all-time series with Indiana State 11-8, but the schools haven't met since 1990. The winner moves on to the quarterfinals on March 22 to play the winner of a first-round game between Akron (24-10) and Wisconsin-Green Bay (21-12).
- Saint Louis will be participating in postseason play for the first time since 2004 when it was selected to play in the NIT.
- Saint Louis has set a single-season school record with 151 blocked shots. The old mark was 142, achieved in 2006-07.
COACH: Rick Majerus, three years at Saint Louis.
KEYS TO VICTORIES:
Saint Louis will need to find a way to score against Indiana State's strong defense in what will likely be a low-scoring game. The Sycamores have a particularly strong interior defense, which will make it imperative for G Kwimain Mitchell to hit some shots from the outside. Perimeter defense will also be a key for Saint Louis as Indiana State's three leading scorers are all guards: Henry Marshall (13.7 ppg), Dwayne Lathan (12.9) and Rashad Reed (9.9). That bodes well for the Billikens as they lead the nation in 3-point defense, holding teams to 27.1 percent from beyond the arc.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"I think it's good for our young program. It will give our guys a chance to play again." -- Saint Louis athletic director Chris May, on accepting a bid to play in the CBI.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
As G Kwamain Mitchell goes, so goes Saint Louis, as he is the Billikens' scoring leader with a 16.1 average as well as their emotional leader. F Willie Reed is talented as his averages of 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds will attest. F Cody Ellis has given Saint Louis a shot in the arm since being ruled eligible by the NCAA at the end of January as he is scoring 10.4 points a game. The Billikens are a strong defensive team, especially on the perimeter as they lead the nation in 3-point defense. Foul shooting could prove costly in a close game, though, as Saint Louis is shooting just 61.4 percent from the line.
Temple 57, Saint Louis 51
Saint Louis 71, Dayton 66
Rhode Island 63, Saint Louis 47 (Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals)
vs. Indiana State, Tuesday, March 16, CBI first round
- G Kwamain Mitchell was one of the few bright spots for Saint Louis in its 63-47 loss to Rhode Island in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament as he was the only Billikens player to score in double figures with 18 points. Mitchell has reached double figures in 23 of his last 25 games and is averaging 16.7 points in his last eight games.
- F Willie Reed's up-and-down season has again hit a downward trend as he was held to seven points by Rhode Island. He has scored in single digits in the last two games after reaching double figures in six consecutive games.
- F Cody Ellis scored just three points against Rhode Island, the freshman's second-lowest figure in his 17-game college career. He was limited to two points in a loss to Richmond on Jan. 30.