First, apologies for not writing as much so far this year. Turns out law school is both difficult and time-consuming, but I’m hoping I can get back to writing more consistently as conference play continues, especially since I suspect I am a better writer than I am a tweeter, frankly.
Anyway, SLU is kinda weird this year, huh? This team lost two generational players in Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French to the pros, and another in Javonte Perkins to a season-ending knee injury before the season even began. If you’d told me after the Perkins injury that SLU would be 11-5, with no bad losses, had nearly defeated Auburn (currently the top-ranked team in the country), and still had an outside shot at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid at this point, I would have been pretty happy. There’s certainly been a lot of pleasant surprises this season, particularly Gibson Jimerson’s emergence as a well-rounded scorer and overall development and SLU actually being a very good free throw shooting team, but there’s also been some confounding frustrations.
This team has often made me ask myself if SLU is a good team, if SLU has a good offense and if SLU has a good defense. The Billikens are ranked 73 in KenPom and are 78th in offense and 76th in defense by his metrics. Combined with SLU’s record, it’s clear that SLU is a very good team that is, at minimum, above average on both sides of the court. SLU’s been about as good as anyone could have possibly expected after Perkins’ injury, but they’ve done it in a manner that can make fans forget this.
For instance, SLU is 232nd in the country in 2-point field goal percentage, but they are 20th in the country in 2-point attempts. Conversely, they are 38th in the country in 3-point percentage, shooting at nearly a 38 percent clip, but they rank 326th in the country in 3-point attempts. It’s hard not to think about what a SLU offense with a more efficient shot distribution could look like. SLU is also one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, pulling down 12.7, which is good enough for 22nd in the nation. However, they also give up 10.3 offensive rebounds a game. After 4 years of Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French spoiling fans, giving up those o-boards can be tough to stomach.
It’s good to step back and realize that, despite losing 3 big-time stars this season, SLU has continued to be one of the top-tier teams in the A10 and a very good team. Travis Ford deserves a lot of credit for this, and so do the players. Yuri Collins is second in the nation in assists and has done a great job asserting himself as the leader of this team. Gibson Jimerson has become a legitimate scoring threat from all three levels and has shown a lot of hustle and grit in the process as well. Terrence Hargrove has expanded his offensive arsenal and established himself as a vital starter for the team. Fred Thatch has had some huge games as SLU’s sparkplug off the bench, providing stout defense and highlight-reel worthy offensive rebounds. Jordan Nesbitt has shown elite athleticism, a unique skill set at 6’6’ and has the potential to be an all-time great SLU player. Francis Okoro has emerged as one of the best defensive big men in the A10 and his offense has been improving as the season wears on. This is a very good SLU team and it’s been exciting to watch them this season!
However, as we get into the thick of conference play, there’s a feeling that this could become a great SLU team if a few things get figured out. Here’s hoping they do.