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Keys and Qs: Saint Louis vs. Butler

This Saturday is a big day for the Saint Louis University Billikens. They face off against the Butler Bulldogs in a game will have huge implications for their tournament resume, and Red Panda performs at halftime. But it’s, uh, mostly important for the game, I suppose. Butler is a tough opponent, 25th in KenPom, with their only loss coming to Dayton. SLU so far has been a clearly talented team that has struggled to put it all together, so it will need to play one of its best games of the year so far to knock off the Bulldogs. I’ve put together some keys and questions for the Billikens ahead of the game.

Can Tramaine Isabell and Jordan Goodwin be their best selves together?

Isabell and Goodwin are two of the most talented guards in the entire A-10, but they have struggled to play with each other. They’ve started to look a bit more comfortable together on the court, however, Goodwin has looked more aggressive when he’s been able to run the team without Isabell. Isabell didn’t get much practice time before the season started and it’s completely natural that two ball-dominant guards would need time to work out the kinks. With Isabell’s dynamic scoring and Goodwin’s ability to do a bit (or a lot) of everything, on paper they should be complementary players and I think they will be by the time conference play starts. But it sure would be nice to see that against Butler.

Javon Bess must be his usual self

Bess has been the best player on the Billikens, showing an improved three point stroke while shutting down the opponents’ team best player. SLU will need Bess to have his usual game. Butler’s Kamar Baldwin is a dangerous scorer, averaging 19.7 points a game. On the offensive end, if Bess is hitting his three pointers, it makes it that much harder for Butler to try a zone on the shooting-challenged Billikens.

Can the Billikens stay out of foul trouble?

To put it lightly, the Billikens have struggled with fouls, particularly in the games against Seton Hall and Pitt, the two power conference opponents they’ve faced thus far. Some of the calls have seemed suspect, but if you’re putting teams in the bonus with 10 minutes left in the half, something needs to change. The Billikens are a physical team and that’s good, but if they are hampered by foul trouble early, it will put them in a tough hole to dig out of.

Carte’Are Gordon needs to be aggressive

Gordon is an incredibly talented freshman who’s made his impact on both ends of the floor. He can be physically dominant with his mix of size and quickness, and has a polished offensive game. If he can assert himself early, Butler is going to have a very big problem on their hands.

Can SLU get some bench scoring beyond DJ Foreman?

Foreman is usually good for some scoring off the bench, but with Dion Wiley questionable for the game, it’s unclear who else can give the starters some scoring relief. All of Ford’s other bench options are freshmen. Fred Thatch Jr. has already emerged as a shutdown on ball defender, but is still adjusting to the offensive side of the ball, too often settling for threes. Demarius Jacobs got some good minutes against Central Arkansas, and is a good offensive player, but he’s yet to make a field goal this year. KC Hankton can shoot it, but may be too much of a defensive liability to get minutes against a team like Butler. Hopefully Wiley will be able to go and give the Bills some shooting.

How will Red Panda fare?

Red Panda is obviously the best halftime act in the game, but she’s getting up there in the years. Will she drop a plate? Probably not, it’s Red Panda!

Jack Godar covers Saint Louis University for A10Talk. He is a St. Louis native who grew up rooting for SLU, but is a graduate of College of the Holy C...