Being overworked and burnt out can have negative effects on anyone. Too much all at once can be overwhelming physically and may lead one to not be able to reflect appropriately and adjust for the future. The Saint Louis University Billikens hope a five-day layoff is just what the doctor ordered.

Saint Louis has been playing at a frenetic pace since coming back from Covid pause in January. Their schedule from January 20th to March 5th included nothing longer than 2 days off between games, essentially an adapted NBA schedule.

“I’ve been playing and coaching this game for a long time, and I’ve never had a February like this one” Travis Ford reflected after their win over Rhode Island on March 2nd “Its a lot for these young men, were about to go get on a flight and these guys have to be back in class for 8am. At least in the NBA you don’t have that.”

The four days between their season closing against VCU and the A10 tournament opening game is their longest break since January 20th when they had four days between playing Fordham and UMass. With only the gap between Richmond and Rhode Island matching that.

Typically, it would be rare to have so many games without major calendar gaps for recovery and rehabilitation. But for over a month the Billikens played essentially every third day with exactly one instance of playing in the same city in back-to-back games. When they played UMass and George Washington at Chaifetz Arena at the very beginning of this stretch.

The travel schedule for a D1 basketball team can be harrowing even for the best of them. When given only two days between games it becomes even more unmanageable. Consider what that may look like without back-to-back home games.

For Example: SLU would travel to an opponent on Day 1, play a game on Day 2 and (if they’re lucky) fly back to St. Louis that night. Student Athletes would be in class and practice on Day 3, then practice and travel to their next opponent on Day 4 and play on Day 5.

Now repeat that for over a month.

One might think that these are young men who live to play basketball and who are highly conditioned to overcome such challenges. That technically isn’t wrong. The players have shown no sign of fatigue and injury hasn’t played a role (that we know of) deep into the campaign, however the mental lapses and focus has been challenged.

Saint Louis has struggled holding leads this season, especially of late. It has become routine for SLU to lose double-digit leads deep into the second half. Becoming sloppy and unable to execute systems and plays that were working perfectly earlier in the game. Allowing opponents to get themselves back into contention…no matter the quality of said opponent.

While it would be dismissive and, quite frankly, lazy to suggest that all the Billikens problems simply rest on the lack of time off between games…one must wonder if, on top of all the problems this team has faced…like losing your star player, another covid pause etc.…this doesn’t play a significant role.

One SLU coach said during the week leading up to the A10 tournament, “It’s been good to get a little time off…especially mentally.” Adding the break has been good for both staff and players. While the Billikens did not know who their first-round opponent would be until Wednesday afternoon ahead of their Thursday game, the opportunity to take a step back and take the time to do self-reflection and improvement has led to better, more productive practice time.

The silver lining of the frenetic schedule may have been a blessing in disguise if you prefer to see the glass half full. The Billikens are more than prepared/experienced to play games in short order with little lead time for scouting and recovery. While you may be able to make the case that had the calendar been more friendly, they may have found themselves with a top-4 seed in the conference championship…or maybe even a chance at an at-large bid.

The reality of the situation demands that SLU win four games in four days. Given the amount of rest they’ve gotten over the last month, the four-day break was very welcome, but perhaps that schedule was exactly the kind of battle testing they needed.

Only time will tell.

 

Carter Chapley
Carter Chapley

Carter Chapley has burst onto the scene becoming one of the most trusted voices in Billikens Athletics and beyond for Scoops with Danny Mac.

Starting at the University News, Carter joined Scoops in 2019 and has provided coverage primarily on Saint Louis University Athletics, including Basketball, Soccer, and Baseball. He has also written on such major events as the NCAA Tournament, Arch Madness, the NHL All-Star Game, the founding of STL City FC, and the NCAA reaction to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

You can find Carter more on Twitter at @ChapleyMedia where he will always be talking Billikens, Sports, and More!