By W.E. Sauls
This past April our beloved Billiken’s made it to the big dance for the first time in half a decade. They bullied their way through the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament to place their name in the history books and remind the midwest that they are a program to be reckoned with. 23-13 was the record when the final ink dried upon the pages, but it could have been so much more…let’s take a quick look back.
Historically Poor Shooting (We have to clean out the bad to introduce the good 🙂 )
In my season wrap up back in the spring I lamented the inability of SLU to shoot the rock. Revisiting these numbers I am astounded that team won 10 games, let alone 23.
Free throw shooting: 467-778 at 60%, good for 352 out of 353 in the nation
Three point shooting: 5.8-18.5 per game at 31.3%, good for 317 out of 353 in the nation
Overall Field Goals: 23.9-57.1 per game at 41.9%, good for 298 out of 353 in the nation
Scoring: 67.4 points per game, good for 299 out of 353 in the nation
Why and how did they win? Defense, grind, offensive rebounding and guts. This team was absolutely suffocating when they were on their defensive game. And, they owned the glass throughout the last season.
Overall Rebounding: 39.8 per game, good for 16th in the nation
Offensive Rebounding: 13.8 per game, good for 5th in the nation. IN THE NATION.
When you clean the glass like that you mop up a lot of mistakes. But, maybe things will change?
What one Exhibition Game Showed
Last week the Bills thumped Kentucky Wesleyan 77-48, but that score can be tossed into the nearest recycling bin. A quick glance at the shooting percentages from deep and the stripe tell a grim tale not fit for the ears of children.
SLU from the Charity Stripe: 10-21 for 47.6%
SLU from beyond the Arc: 3-21 for 14.3%
“Ugh” was my lone thought when I read those stats.
Will Coach Travis Ford change his approach?
The one constant during this multi-year campaign of poor shooting is the head coach. Ford was the definition of a sharpshooter in his days running the one for Coach Rick Pitino at Kentucky. Ford missed a total of 39 free throws in his four year college career. That’s less than 10 a season. This year’s Billikens missed 11 in an exhibition game.
If this continues, this team will be good, but not great. But God…great lies in the 15 feet between the free-throw line and the basket…15 measly feet.
Milestones on the Horizon (Time for the good!)
Only two men stand between Hasahn French and the all time Billiken Blocked Shots record. French is alone in 3rd place with 123 rejections, only 4 behind Melvin Robinson, and 12 behind the current record holder Ian Vouyoukas. French is poised to shatter this record and put it far from reach for generations. French is also only 367 points away from becoming only the 32nd player in school history to reach 1,000 career points.
Hasahn also has an outside chance of cracking the top 5 all-time in Billikens’ rebounding. He currently sits at 530, while the great Roland Gray currently holds 5th place with 811. If French matches last season’s 300 he will stand alone in 5th place all-time.
Jordan Goodwin is on pace to put together one of the most impressive overall statistical careers in the history of Billiken blue.
Points: 677- He will most likely join the 1,000 point club this season
Rebounds: 465- He will most likely crack the top 10 this season
Assists: 226- He will most likely crack the top 10 this season
Steals: 118- He will most likely finish the season 2nd or 3rd all-time
No other player in Billikens’ history has accomplished what Goodwin is poised to do. Not Bonner, Not Claggett, Not Jett. Just J-Good.
Travis Ford keeps piling up wins. Before tip tonight, Ford’s overall record from 2000 to 2019 stands at 330-276 for a winning percentage of .545. If this year’s squad matches last year’s 23 wins, Ford will pass some pretty impressive company. Names like Butch van Breda Kolff with 346 wins, and Jim Valvano with 337 wins, are well within Ford’s reach. He will easily crack the top 200 All-Time this season. A 10th 20-win season and an 8th trip to the dance are all realistic goals for 2019-2020.
I Will Remain Positive…I Will Remain Positive
That is what November Basketball is for! Looking at the schedule as it lays out gives me great hope that we will be watching a second straight tournament team this season in the Gateway to the West. The Bills will have at least 10 wins before the new year, well on their way to a second straight 20 win year. If they learn to shoot, they could win 25 games this year and be a top 8 seed in the dance.
Just keep your eyes on the shooting percentages, they will tell you everything you need to know to predict the fate of our faithful Billikens.
Until next time, long live Roland Gray.
Follow Sauls on Twitter @Will_ArchCity