Only one of today’s scheduled games survived winter storm Jonas, a game featuring two teams that are now clearly headed in opposite directions.
Starting with the winner of today’s 86-75 A-10 battle…
SAINT LOUIS BILLIKENS
Someone explain this team to me. The nation’s 302nd-ranked scoring offense is now on a two-game A-10 win streak thanks to a 91-point average over the last two contests. Today’s road win at UMass was their first conference road win since beating UMass March 9 of 2014, a season the Billikens claimed A-10 regular season title honors thanks to a talented senior group led by Evans, Jett, McCall and Loe.
SLU entered this season at the No.12 preseason pick (I had them 14th) but at 3-4 are hovering toward the middle of the pack thanks to a breakout from freshman Jermaine Bishop, who’s averaging 18.3 points over his last four games.
The Bills will need Bishop to be even better than that while getting help from is new “supporting cast”, with an upcoming schedule that includes games at Dayton, St. Bonaventure and VCU, with home contests against Richmond and Duquesne in that mix.
With wins over GW and Davidson already it may be foolish to write Saint Louis off against those teams, but being bearish in the Billikens since they graduated that talented senior group, I’ll probably do it anyway, then continue to be shocked when they pull off upsets.
I had UMass 13th in my A-10 preseason rankings and am feeling increasingly more confident in that decision after today’s home loss, even after a surprisingly strong start to the season (5-1 with wins over Clemson and Harvard).
UMass has lost nine of their last 12 including their last five games, giving up 80 or more points in all five of those contests.
They’ve lost four of their last six home games, their two wins coming over kenpom No.285 New Orleans in overtime and No.276 LIU Brooklyn by four points.
Like SLU, UMass will face a very challenging group their next five games, with road games at Saint Joseph’s and Richmond and home contests against VCU, Rhode Island and what I think may be a bit of an underrated Fordham squad.
The good news is Derek Kellogg has one of the best A-10 recruiting classes, if not THE best, joining his team this summer. The bad news is that does nothing to help UMass avoid what could be their worst season since Kellogg took over the program.