With 23 wins in three of the past four seasons and only one NCAA Tournament appearance to show for it, Saint Louis knows the feeling of being disappointed on Selection Sunday.
Playing in the Atlantic-10, Saint Louis (3-0) also knows the importance of games against power conference schools.
The Billikens get a chance to play two of them this weekend, starting with Maryland (3-0) of the Big Ten on Saturday in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, Conn.
The other semifinal pits Providence (3-0) of the Big East against Miami (3-0) of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The championship and third-place games are set for Sunday afternoon.
Saint Louis is coming off a resume-boosting 90-84 victory Tuesday over visiting Memphis. Yuri Collins tallied 22 points and nine assists while Gibson Jimerson added four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points as the Billikens held off a late charge by the Tigers.
Saint Louis has a veteran rotation that includes four returning starters plus transfer Javon Pickett, a four-year starter at Missouri who is one of four Billikens averaging at least 12 points per game.
Collins, who leads the nation in assists with 12 per game, feeds a potent offense that averages 88 points per game.
“I truly believe Yuri Collins is the best point guard in America,” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford said after the Memphis win.
Maryland hasn’t been as tested, beating up on three mid-major foes. Each of the Terrapins’ wins has come by at least 20 points, including a 76-52 romp over Binghamton on Tuesday.
Emerging interior force Julian Reese matched his career high with 19 points, hitting 8 of 9 shots, and Hakim Hart scored all of his 13 points in the first half when the Terps rolled to a 25-point lead.
The best sign for Maryland was the continued aggression of its defense. First-year coach Kevin Willard has installed an attacking mindset, a contrast to his Terps predecessor Mark Turgeon, who favored a passive, position-oriented approach.
“We wanted to make sure we came out with an intensity that they knew they weren’t going to win,” Willard said. “That was our mindset, that we wanted to set the tone very early.”
–Field Level Media