#TeamBlue has traveled the 2,500 miles to Cancun, Mexico for tonight’s matchup with the Illinois State Redbirds – who traveled to Cancun themselves from Normal, Illinois… just 170 miles from Chaifetz Arena. The Billikens and Redbirds are two of eight teams in the 2021 Cancun Challenge and each will stay for two games between today and Wednesday the 24th.
Today’s game comes after Saturday’s 15-point victory for the Billikens over the Mercer Bears, which followed the team’s first loss that Tuesday to the 11th ranked Tigers in Memphis. Illinois State is the median opponent in terms of strength of SLU’s schedule so far – much stronger than Central Arkansas or Eastern Illinois, but significantly worse than Mercer or Memphis – but will be a viable test for SLU’s second game away from home this season. Illinois State’s starters combine for roughly 77 points per game while they only average a total of 88, so much like Mercer their depth will be an issue and the Billikens should be able to tire them quickly with a variety of rotations and the fast-paced tempo we’ve grown accustomed to this year. SLU opens as 11.5 point favorites in the game and I personally expect us to cover that handily.
Looking past tonight to tomorrow’s matchup against the winner of tonight’s game between Buffalo and Stephen F. Austin, if the heavily favored Buffalo emerges victorious SLU will have another Top-100 matchup to add to their already impressive non-conference schedule. Buffalo enters the Cancun Challenge with a record of 2-1, their only loss being on the road to the then 6th ranked Michigan Wolverines.
After returning from Mexico the Billikens will travel to Boise State for their second-most difficult matchup yet on the year, until hosting the University of Alabama Birmingham that following Saturday, December 4th. A stretch of great opportunity for the Billikens will serve as a great test and the amount of success they have during that stretch could be enough to elevate them into national conversations – they could enter their Atlantic 10 conference schedule with as many as six Top-100 wins.
Both games will be televised on CBS Sports Network and aired on KMOX 1120AM. As always, be sure to follow @SaintLouisMBB, @ChapleyMedia, @EarlAustinJr, @StuDurando, @MidtownMadPod, @WestPineBills, and @BillsBy40 for live updates, news, and commentary. #BillsBy40