The Saint Louis University Men’s basketball team sits at 18-8 prior to the Friday evening match-up with Virginia Commonwealth University at Chaifetz Arena. VCU is the first of five remaining conference games before the A10 tournament in Brooklyn starting March 11th and is a great opportunity for SLU to regain momentum in their effort to climb the A10 standings and receive one of four conference tournament double-byes. Despite a second half collapse in a loss to the Minutemen in Massachusetts this past Tuesday only two games separate SLU and the final double-bye tournament seeding and with match-ups against competing VCU and St. Bonaventure teams, as well as bottom-dwellers St. Joseph’s and George Mason, the chances to reach that 4th seed are higher than recent performances may lead fans to believe.
The loss on Tuesday comes after holding a 16 point lead in the first half and is in part due to the another quiet offensive performance from Hasahn French and a negative assists-to-turnovers ratio from starting point guard Yuri Collins. Despite shooting 50% from the field and 46% from the perimeter, as well as getting a 22 point 14 rebound performance out of double-double machine Jordan Goodwin, unnecessary turnovers and extreme offensive inefficiency in the final minutes of the second half allowed the Minutemen to escape with a 67-63 win in front of their home crowd.
Although the Billikens have only won one of the last four games the team has shown signs of increasing chemistry and is continuously showcasing new offensive capabilities, two of the biggest factors alongside the significantly easier upcoming schedule that provide me with the confidence to predict a 4 win 1 loss finish to the regular season. The remaining conference schedule pits SLU against VCU, St. Joseph’s, and St. Bonaventure at home, and on the road against George Mason and Rhode Island.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s game against the Rams I would like to highlight a few keys to the game: Defensive match-ups, Rebounding advantage, and Javonte Perkins.
- 1. VCU’s top two players are 6’7” PF Marcus Santos-Silva, and 6’5” SG De’Riante Jenkins, who are averaging 12.7/9.1 and 10.7/4 PPG/RPG respectively. These two starters will match-up with the only two division 1 teammates to average double-doubles: Hasahn French (6’7”, 11.9/10.4) and Jordan Goodwin (6’3”, 15.7/10.5.) Defense will be the differentiating factor between these two duos and playing at home in front of a packed Chaifetz Arena will not be easy for the Rams.
- 2. Once again I highlight the fact that Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French are the only two teammates in the NCAA Division 1 that both average double-doubles; they contribute 20.6 RPG towards the team average of 40. That average is nearly 6 rebounds per game higher than VCU’s team average and that number rises slightly when the Billikens play at home. The rebounding difference is the only stat category besides steals that is separated by more than 1 unit per game. Rebounding and scoring on second-chance opportunities is certainly the Billikens’ biggest advantage tomorrow night, as is in most games.
- 3. Javonte Perkins. If you’re so much as an average fan you do not need me to tell you how much of a factor Javonte has been for the Billikens this year, specifically in conference play, and he is doing so from the bench. The 6’6” first-year small forward has averaged over 17 points per game in less than 30 minutes per game since the beginning of conference play, including a career-high 33 points versus St. Joseph’s on February 1st. In that stretch of 13 games Javonte has been incredibly efficient, shooting 45% from the field and 30% from the perimeter, helping to provide an outside threat that has been missing since the season-ending injury of Gibson Jimerson in mid-December. While putting together a convincing campaign for 6th Man of the Year, Perkins’ energy and production off the bench maintains the level of energy established by the starting lineup and his ability to score from anywhere on the court is a nightmare for opponents. When Javonte gets his game going it takes a lot to go wrong for everything to not go right.
I can assure you there is nowhere better to be than Chaifetz Arena this Friday night, and if you are interested in attending there are still tickets available for as little as $10. Visit the link here to purchase, or if you’re unable to attend you can tune in to ESPN2 at 8pm to watch the action from home. Radio coverage is also available on 106.5 The Arch, and make sure to follow Carter Chapley on Twitter @ChapleyMedia for live updates every game day.