#54 Saint Louis: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #54
Conference Rank: #6 Atlantic 10 Conference
2009-10: 23-13, 11-5
2009-10 postseason: CBI
Coach: Rick Majerus (57-42 at Saint Louis, 478-187 overall)
With six players returning who started at least 16 games last season, it is not a stretch at all to say that this is Coach Rick Majerus’ best team during his four years at Saint Louis. The Billikens do lose a few roleplayers, but they generally left the program due to the fact that they would not see too much playing time on a team that is getting more and more talented every year.
Key Losses: G Femi John, G Justin Jordan, F Jon Smith
The newcomers will help compliment a few returning players to allow Coach Majerus to go about ten deep again this season. Point guard Jordair Jett highlights the class and not just because he has a neat name. Jett lives up to what his name implies and should develop into a solid point guard. Fellow guards Mike McCall and Brian Daly will look to find a few minutes at the shooting guard spot. Small forwards Dwayne Evans and Grant Gehlen are not highly touted newcomers, but Evans has the potential to make an impact during his freshman campaign. Rob Loe is the only true big man coming in this season, but he should be able to spend most of the year learning from the bench barring an injury.
On a team full of underclassmen, Kyle Cassity developed into a leader. Now he and a bulk of the rest of the team are upperclassmen, but it should still be Cassity who is the leader on the floor. Cassity is not a great scorer, but he has a decent shot and could turn into a much more dynamic threat if he attacked the basket more often. More importantly, Cassity led the team with 3.2 assists per game and always plays tough defense. Speaking of assists and defense, Kwamain Mitchell does both things very well. Mitchell will let Cassity handle the ball part of the time because Mitchell can score in bunches. Despite being 5-10, Mitchell led the team with 15.9 points per game. Those two are both point guards, but having Mitchell off the ball makes him much more difficult to defend. Christian Salecich does not do any one thing particularly well, but he is a solid wing who can score in a variety of ways and play decent defense. The backcourt gains some depth with the return of Paul Eckerle after he missed all of last season with a knee injury. Even if he can stay healthy, Eckerle will have to battle it out with the newcomers for minutes off the bench.
Willie Reed and Cody Ellis are the two forwards who will do plenty of scoring. Ellis averaged 10.5 points and 4.9 rebounds last season and started 19 of the 22 games he appeared in during the 2009-2010 campaign. On the offensive end of the floor it is Ellis who stretches out the defense with his outside shooting ability. However, it can be argued that he spends too much time on the perimeter. But if he can shoot better than 30.0 percent from beyond the arc, St. Louis will not mind at all. Reed is the interior scorer and averaged 12.4 points and a team high 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last season. The emergence of Reed has really made the Billikens dangerous on both ends of the floor. When he is dominating offensively and forcing the opposition to double down in the paint, the guards can knock down some long balls.
Who to Watch:
The depth and experience in the paint is one reason this team can improve on last year’s record. Brian Conklin earned 16 starts last season and, despite being only 6-6, has enough strength to spell Ellis and Reed. Ideally, Conklin can just be a power forward, but he may need to play a little at the five spot until Loe is ready for more minutes. The other option would be to move the 6-8 Ellis to the center position at times, but that would hurt the Billikens on the glass. Cory Remekun lacks the size and strength to do too much damage in the paint, but he showed some potential during his freshman campaign and should again be in the regular rotation.
A year from now St. Louis will be eyeing an A-10 title. But for now a step up from the CBI is a step in the right direction. This is a team that has the talent to make it to the NCAA Tournament, but they have to get past some good teams in their conference. The A-10 may be looking at four tournament teams, but there are five teams that appear capable of making the big dance. St. Louis’ recent lack of big game success could leave them on the outside looking in.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Kyle Cassity, Junior, Guard, 6.0 ppg
Kwamain Mitchell, Junior, Guard, 15.9 ppg
Christian Salecich, Sophomore, Guard, 6.4 ppg
Cody Ellis, Sophomore, Forward, 10.5 ppg
Willie Reed, Junior, Forward, 12.4 ppg
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