Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top 14 Coach Countdown of the 2016-17 season. We like to rank the players of the A-10 each season, but we’d also like to take a look at the brains of the operations. Who were the best coaches of the 2016-17 season? Who were the worst? Our site voted and compiled a list based on last season alone. This list is representative of how well each coach performed in the 2016-17 season, not in his entire career. Today, we feature #9 Travis Ford.
1. Recruiting and landing transfers
Let’s be honest; it’s not like Travis Ford is in the 9 spot for the work he did on the court last season. In regards to recruiting, that’s another story. Ford managed to land transfers Adonys Henriquez, Javon Bess, and D.J. Foreman, all of whom sat out last season. In addition, the Billikens’ head coach brings in ESPN 4 star recruits Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French next season. And who could forget that Saint Louis has the top committed recruit in the Class of 2018 currently, 5 star forward Carte’Are Gordon who ranks 10th overall in ESPN’s 100.
2. Season sweep over George Mason
Saint Louis won 6 conference games, which was a step in the right direction for the Billikens. That said, if you look at their wins, none really stand out too prominently. This team did not beat a Kenpom Top 100 squad last year, and they ranked 273 overall according to the same source. Interestingly enough, Kenpom had this team as the worst in the conference, by far, but that didn’t seem to be the case late in the season. Travis Ford didn’t do a great job, but he did snag two wins over a much-improved George Mason team. Ford willed his team to withstand a second half Mason comeback in Fairfax, and pulling out that win was probably the biggest of his young career at SLU. But spoiler alert: given point #1, his best moments with the Billikens are yet to come.
1. Home losses to Samford and Ball State
Looking at this team’s overall record and schedule, there aren’t too many games that the Billikens definitely should have won. But, if you had to pinpoint a few, you could definitely look at these two non-conference games. Losing by 21 at home to Ball State was not the way Travis Ford envisioned starting his career at Saint Louis. Similarly, Samford walked into Chaifetz Arena and embarrassed the Billikens. I know that Ford was limited in players and was working with a developing roster, but he’s going to have to win those games. If you can’t close at home against Samford, you can’t compete for a spot in the top half of the league.
2. Road losses to Fordham and Duquesne
These weren’t some of Travis Ford’s brightest moments as Saint Louis’ first year head coach, but again, you have to put things in perspective. If Ford is losing on the road to Duquesne and Fordham this next season, you’ve really got a problem. You can live with 6 conference wins and some down moments here and there in Ford’s first season. Maybe the most concerning showing was the 40 points SLU put up against the Rams in the Bronx. If Ford’s offense is stagnant next season, even with its plethora of talent, it could lose embarrassing conference games.
Saint Louis should be the most improved Atlantic 10 team next year, and I don’t think enough people realize just how good this team might be. It’s going to have the talent to finish top 6 in the league, but a lot of its potential success is going to come down to coaching. Travis Ford has been criticized in the past; some say he’s merely a recruiter and can’t find success when his players take the court. Last season was a success from a historical standpoint if you’re a Saint Louis fan, but the expectations are only going to raise in the coming seasons.