A 4-9 record has never made me happier. That’s the Saint Louis Billikens’ A-10 conference record, and while it’s very bad, it’s so much better than anyone could have expected. Before Tuesday’s matchup against Dayton, the Billikens had won three of their four February games. It was very exciting. I came dangerously close to convincing myself the Billikens and their 9-17 record were a good team.
They aren’t a good team. I know this, I know this deeply. Ball State beat us by 19. However, this team makes me feel hope, and I haven’t felt that since Jordair Jett, Dwayne Evans and company graduated, and the Jim Crews era really took place in full. Those were dark times, as Crews transformed SLU from one of the best teams in the A-10 to one of the worst in a manner that made me genuinely wonder if he actually coached his players.
But the Billikens are going to be a good team again and it’s wildly exciting. Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French are both top-150 recruits, and they’ll be joined by a quartet of talented transfers in Adonys Henriquez(UCF), D.J. Foreman(Rutgers), Javon Bess(Michigan State), and Ty Graves(Boston College). ESPN has SLU verbal commit Carte’Are Gordon as the 10th best recruit in the class of 2018. The Billikens haven’t had players of this caliber since Larry Hughes, and that was last millennium.
Travis Ford has brought light and hope and happiness, and actual inbounds plays. It’s beautiful. I was expecting the A-10 conference play to be an endless, depressing slog where any game within 10 points is a major moral victory and maybe we’d pull out one win. Compared to that, 4-9 is flying high. 4-9 is even more impressive considering that Ford is doing this with a seven man rotation comprised of the vestiges of the Crews era, one freshman he recruited, and a walk-on starting point guard.
Junior guard Davell Roby has been scoring consistently, with 12.9 ppg in conference play, while playing excellent defense, and manning the point when Aaron Hines isn’t in. Hines, a junior walk-on, has been limiting his turnovers and playing smarter basketball, and he’s been key in the Billikens’ improved play. Again, Hines is a walk-on and he’s averaging 36.5 minutes a game in A-10 play. Freshman Jalen Johnson, Ford’s first recruit, has thrived since Ford inserted him in a starting role. He’s been great as a stretch 4, providing three-point shooting, rebounding and energy.
While the Billikens aren’t a good team, they’ve consistently played hard, and hung with teams they weren’t expected to, and that bodes well for next year. Given the influx of transfers and recruits, many of these players will have different and possibly smaller roles next year, and the experience they’ve gained this year could give SLU one of the most dangerous benches in the A-10 next year.
It probably seems that I’m overly excited about this 4-9 record, and,honestly, that’s probably true. But hey, that’s the magic of lowered expectations!