High expectations. They are hard to live up to in the sports world. The Saint Louis Men’s Basketball team will face that during their upcoming season. With high expectations comes excitement. The city of St. Louis has a hunger for sports, but a thirst for winners. You can live a lot longer with no food then water. The Billikens are set to provide the city with all of the refreshment they want in 2018-19. They may even take over the sports scene in this city. I can be as bold as to say in three months SLU Basketball could take over the #2 role in the city behind the Cardinals and a head of the Blues.
Most polls have the Billikens as the team to beat in the Atlantic 10. Lead by stars and Preseason All Conference Second Team selections Javon Bess and Jordan Goodwin the Billikens will look to take a step forward in the exciting A-10. If rising sophomore Hassan French continues his development, the Billikens will be an A-10 title contender for the next several years. From a talent perspective, this is the best team on paper in the conference. But with there being so many new faces, there may have been chemistry concerns in the preseason. Those concerns were wiped away after game one of the preseason as SLU dismantled Quincy with a dominate 85-42 victory. Transfer Tramaine Isabell lead the way with 19 point and 7 assists.
St. Louis is a city that loves its sports, despite not having an NBA team the city still shows its passion for basketball every year during the Arch Madness Tournament (Missouri Valley Conference Championship) held at the now Enterprise Center. Fans also made their passion for the game very evident when the SEC tournament made its way to St. Louis in 2018. It is also hard to find a fan base that takes a basketball rivalry as serious as the Bragging Rights Game between Illinois and Missouri. I know most North Carolina basketball fans will rightfully argue their rivalry is bigger but from a midwestern standpoint there is very little that lives up to hype of that game. As good as that rivalry is though both Illinois and Mizzou have not been conference championship contenders for a few years now. SLU is a legitimate contender in a conference known for shaking up March Madness. Dayton and St. Bonaventure just last season made an impact in the tournament of basketball Goliath’s. Why can’t SLU be next? Since the exit of the Rams just two years ago there has been a gap in the sports community. The Cardinals have struggled for relevancy in the NL Central, the Blues have broken our hearts on more than one occasion and the dream of a soccer team is still a few years away. This is the perfect time for the Billikens to take advantage of a city that still feels abandoned.
The talent of this team is great but their charismatic leader is the perfect person to lead them to victories on the court and victories in the local media. Ford has a knack for recruiting high level talent going back to his days with Oklahoma State when he convinced Marcus Smart, now of the Boston Celtics, to not only come there but stay an extra year. Ford has begun to work his magic on the transfer market with Tramaine Isabell, as well as the local market convincing local 4-star recruit Cart’Are Gordon to join his already rising SLU squad. Ford is what the city needs after dealing with a litany of coaches whom have personalities that are not exactly media friendly or attention grabbing. Cough, “Mike Matheny”, Cough “Jeff Fisher”, Cough “Ken Hitchcock”.
For a good example of the personality of Travis Ford check it his role in the comedy movie “The Sixth Man”.
The Blues have not lived up to expectations. Mizzou Basketball just lost its best player Jontay Porter. Mizzou Football is a mid-level SEC team, that’s being polite. The Billikens have a chance to take this city by storm and create a new love for the sport of basketball. We early season matchups with Florida State, Seton Hall and Butler will show us what this team is really going to be all about. They have the potential to be great. The expectations are high, isn’t that where we want them to be.
Check out the next SLU preseason game against UMSL Thursday November 1 at Chaifetz Arena.