The Saint Louis University men’s basketball team tips off at 7PM tonight at Chaifetz Arena to begin their 2021-2022 season against the University of Central Arkansas. This team was met with high expectations after back-to-back seasons were majorly disrupted by Covid-19 and this season looked to be the light at the end of the tunnel. Multiple high-quality transfers – including Deandre Jones of none other than tonight’s opponent UCA – in addition to returning major role players like Yuri Collins, Gibson Jimerson, Martin Linssen, Fred Thatch Jr., Terrence Hargrove Jr., and Javonte Perkins gave fans a variety of reasons to be very excited about what was in store for this season. A very strong non-conference schedule and a competitive Atlantic 10 conference seemed to prepare us for a very successful season until October 26th when Javonte Perkins, the team’s leading scorer from last season and one of the best offensive players in the country, suffered a season-ending ACL injury in an exhibition game against division-II opponent Rockhurst.
Tonight the Billikens look to make a name for themselves as they create a new identity post-Perkins and they will be doing so with what is still a very talented, deep, and experienced roster behind coach Travis Ford in his 6th season with Saint Louis University. The Billikens open tonight’s game as 22-point favorites on their home court with an opportunity to answer a lot of newfound questions, and hopefully not create any new ones.
Tonight’s game is followed by the next-door-neighboring opponent Harris Stowe University and Eastern Illinois University on Friday, both at 7pm. These games all feature a highly-favored Billiken team but will serve as good tests and great preparation before a trip to Memphis next Tuesday to face Penny Hardaway’s star-studded Tigers, who found themselves ranked 12th in the nation in the pre-season AP poll. Similar to tonight’s opener against UCA, star freshman and St. Louis local Jordan Nesbitt will face his former team whom he played with for a semester this past spring after graduating high school a semester early.
Keys to tonight’s game will be controlling the high-speed tempo that Coach Ford has promised we will see this year, winning the defensive and rebounding battles, and keeping our frontcourt players out of foul trouble. Look for Yuri Collins to showcase his improved offensive capabilities as he settles into a newfound scoring role while still being the pass-first court leader that we’ve always known him to be. I predict us to cover the spread of -21.5 but to hit the under 147.5 point total as we work to establish our new team dynamic.
Billiken basketball is poised to position themselves as a staple in the mix of nationally recognized college basketball programs with another successful season and need support from their city in order to do so. Tickets are still available for tonight’s game, as well as the rest of this week’s games, at Ticketmaster.com for as low as $10 a piece.
If you aren’t able to attend in person you can follow the action live via Bally Sports Midwest or ESPN+, as well as on Twitter by following these affiliated accounts and media personalities: @SaintLouisMBB, @ChapleyMedia, @StuDurando, @MidtownMadPod, and @BillsBy40.