As we count down the days to the start of the 2018-19 season, A10 Talk will be bringing you its preseason power rankings, as voted on by its team of writers. We continue the countdown with #1 Saint Louis Billikens.
Saint Louis isn’t your typical top ranked team. They only return 4 players from last year’s squad, which only went 17-16. However, Jordan Goodwin, Javon Bess and Hasahn French were picked for preseason all-A-10 honors, and the newcomers include star recruit Carte’Are Gordon, and Tramaine Isabell, one of the top grad transfers in the country. With a focus on recruiting local products, like Gordon and Goodwin, Travis Ford has injected a ton of excitement into a program Jim Crews had drained most of the momentum from. Saint Louis has high major talent and high expectations, but some real concerns as well.
Returnees to Watch
Jordan Goodwin is the headliner of the bunch. Only a sophomore, the Centreville, Ill. (a suburb outside of St. Louis) native came in 3rd in A-10 Talk’s preseason player rankings, and is a nightly triple double threat. The 6’3 point guard can do it all, and plays with a fire that is unmatched in the A-10. Senior Javon Bess is the glue that holds the team together. While he doesn’t get the headlines Goodwin gets, the former Michigan State transfer is just as talented. Sophomore Hasahn French is one of the best defenders in the A-10, and his offensive game grew leaps and bounds as the season progressed. It’s rare to see that type of improvement in a player during a season, and it’s exciting to see what French will look like with a year under his belt.
Newcomers to Watch
Gordon and Isabell are the two headliners of the group, and for good reason. At 6’9, 230, Gordon is already one of the most physically imposing big men in the A-10 and has an advanced offensive repertoire and a nose for the glass. Isabell averaged 21 points at Drexel last year, and gives the Billikens a much needed shot creator. Ford wants Isabell to develop as a point guard this year as well. Dion Wiley and Fred Thatch Jr. are the two X-factors. Wiley is an unknown quantity after an injury riddled career at Maryland, but he’s a former top-40 recruit with a sweet shooting stroke. If he can use his length effectively on defense, it will be tough to keep him off the floor. Thatch is only a freshman, but is already physically ready at 6’3, 210. The Sikeston, MO native is tough as nails and has plus athleticism as well. And if you get to a game early enough for warm-ups, keep an eye out for Demarius Jacobs. The freshman from Chicago might be the best leaper in the A-10 already.
Games to Watch
It’s just over a week from now, but the road game against Seton Hall will be a tough test for the Billikens. This is a team still learning to play with each other, and Seton Hall is a formidable Big East foe. Despite the high expectations, there is going to be a learning curve for the Bills, and Seton Hall will be a good early test for them.
It’s honestly likely that at the start of the year, the Billikens will not look like the best team in the A-10. With so many newcomers, there will be growing pains. Like last year, shooting will be an issue. Don’t be surprised if there’s a rough non-conference loss or two early on. However, they will be a completely different team by the time conference play starts. No other team in the A-10 can hang with the Billikens physically across the board, and Isabell, Bess, Goodwin and French are all threats to go for 20 points on any given nights. Expect a slightly disappointing non-conference slate, and then a pack of absolute destroyers by the time conference play comes around.