By Carter Chapley
St. Louis, MO
The men’s basketball program at Saint Louis University is in a state of disarray after losing a home game to Duquesne Wednesday evening. After being embarrassed in their own gym, every member of the program was left shaking their heads and with looks of defeat and confusion. From Head Coach Travis Ford, to Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French, to the rest of the coaching staff and players, the atmosphere in Chaifetz Arena was unlike any there has been in the Ford era.
Travis Ford was at a loss for words, all Hasahn French could say was that it was “unacceptable.” But the fortunate thing about college basketball is that there is always another game just over the horizon. And the horizon, in this case, hosts a significant opportunity.
The loss to Duquesne is not so much about who they lost to, but how they lost. The Dukes are a clear second-tier team in the A-10, but the performance out of the Bills was disappointing. It is a big if to say that this will “wake up the Billikens” or “they will be out looking redeem themselves.” But if there was ever a time for those things to happen, it would be against the Dayton Flyers.
In the second meeting of the Arch-Baron Cup this season, not much has changed from a basketball perspective. Dayton is still very, very good. If not better now than they were when they came to St. Louis. SLU, on the other hand, still has all the same attributes they had before but have been trending downwards going 3-2 in the 5 games in between the two matchups.
Based on this poor trend of play, with the defensive intensity/ferocity being the largest concern right now for the Billikens, it isn’t clear if Bills are still “tough matchup” for the Flyers. In their previous game, the Billikens were able to use their athleticism and physicality to force the Flyers out of the paint, stop them in transition, and outrebound them. Essentially turning the game into a midrange/three-point shooting event. Which worked for about 35 minutes.
There are ample changes the Billikens can make to better close that game out. But it is more a question right now as to if they have that extra boost in them to play up to a higher standard and add those adjustments. With the current trend of how they are playing, seeing a strong, consistent performance is somewhat of a small victory regardless of the final score.
With all that being said, what has changed is the narrative. Yes, SLU gave Dayton its most significant scare yet, but since then, they have played themselves out of the conversation for an at-large bid. SLU allowed bottom feeders like Fordham, La Salle, and Saint Joe’s to play far tight with them, and the loss to Duquesne essentially sealed the deal.
Without a win over Dayton, in Dayton, there aren’t enough opportunities to get quality wins to boost yourself into the upper tier of college basketball teams. Obviously, they could still make the tournament the old fashion way by winning the A-10 tournament outright. But for what they can control now, this should be the mental priority.
The Billikens need a win badly. Both for their ability to maintain the dream of being a postseason team and for the mental psyche of this group. Dayton is arguably the last team you want to see when trying to get your “mojo” back, but why not take on arguably the best team in the nation to turn your season around.
There isn’t a lot clear about how this game is going to go. But the Billikens aren’t scared of what they will face Saturday afternoon. They know they can beat the Flyers if they play their best basketball. But it’s been a while since they’ve played their best basketball, and that fact is scary for the Billikens.