It’s no secret that the Saint Louis Billikens have been on a hiatus due to multiple positive covid tests. It has been so bad for the Bills that they have not played in almost an entire month, hence not playing a single game in conference play yet. Still, Saint Louis has been ranked in the AP top 25 and also remains a shoo-in for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
With that in mind, I pondered upon what this means for many parties directly involved with the Billikens. Mainly: SLU itself, its opponents that they missed a game, the opponents left on their schedule, and the Atlantic 10 conference as a whole. Frankly, I want to dive deep into the different effects of SLU’s covid break and answer this question:
Who Does Saint Louis’ Covid Pause Hurt the Most?
First, let’s start with the most obvious.
Does SLU’s Pause Hurt Themselves?
Let’s get this out of the way: We do not want any players to get covid or for any college basketball program to go on a covid pause. We want life to go back to normal, for people to remain healthy, and for the teams to play games.
Anyway, to answer this question, I would say yes and no.
Yes it hurts because the guys want to play basketball and they were on the verge of a special season. They sat at 7-1 with two really good wins over LSU and NC State, and they hung in there with a very good opponent on the road against Minnesota. They are in line to be a higher seed in the NCAA tournament. From that stand point, yes it hurts them this way. Not to mention that when they come off their covid pause, they could be rusty and drop a game right out of the gate. Once again, they haven’t played in almost a month.
Alternatively, it doesn’t hurt them due to the games they have missed. Let’s look at the games that were postponed while they were on break:
at La Salle
vs St. Bonaventure
Every single one of these games they were favored to win. If you want to find a game or two that they could have lost, it’s probably at UMass or home vs St. Bonaventure. The only one that would hurt would be at UMass. Even then, it wouldn’t hurt their chances of getting an at-large bid to the tournament, but it would drop them a seed line or two. Still, not the end of the world. But just imagine if they were to drop a stinker to one of those teams. It would look awful. And we all know that even the best teams have potential to drop a stinker to a terrible team in the Atlantic 10. The Bills avoided all of those land mines, therefore it helps them. And the A10 should only reschedule the St. Bonaventure game. The other games do not help either team and a loss only hurts Saint Louis. More on this later.
With the Billikens scheduled to return to action next Tuesday against Dayton, the rest of their schedule shapes up to look like this:
at George Washington**
vs Rhode Island
vs La Salle
vs George Mason
The two asterisk games are against teams that currently have covid pauses, which means those games might be postponed. Go figure, right? And if you have read this far, you can guess my stance on rescheduling either of those games. Do it for Richmond, not for George Washington. It’s that simple.
Does Saint Louis’ Covid Pause Hurt Other A10 Programs?
Depends on which program.
By that, I mean any team that has at-large chances. That means Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and VCU. Remember, Saint Louis doesn’t need these games more than these teams need to play Saint Louis. The Billikens have a tournament-qualifying resume already, and they aren’t going to lose all of their games against these teams. A win for any of the three aforementioned teams would significantly help their resume. With St. Bonaventure getting their game against SLU postponed and not playing them again later in the season, that really hurts the Bonnies if they do not reschedule that game and now requires them to absolutely win against VCU or Richmond, again.
Now, one team not mentioned that the SLU pause helps is UMass. The Minutemen are not going to get an at-large bid, but with a 4-1 conference record, they are a sneaky team and could potentially get a top 4 finish in the A10. And not playing SLU reduces the amount of losses since they were most likely going to lose both of those games, if not, at least one. The rest of their schedule is fairly easy with only having to play Richmond, VCU, and Bona once. Plus, they get Fordham and Joe’s again. They do get Mason again, but they should be able to win that one this time around after losing their first game against the Patriots.
To the rest of the A10, it doesn’t matter. Moving on.
Does Saint Louis’ Covid Pause Hurt the A10?
Mostly yes, but in some ways no.
Why it hurts: Your best team this year is ranked and everyone was talking about them. I’m sure many were tuning in to see if the Billikens were for real. Enter covid pause. Now, the conference loses out on exposure on TV and in the media, not to mention TV money losses. I’m not exactly sure if any of their six games missed were on national tv, but I would guess one UMass game and the St. Bonaventure game were. Oh yeah, and the Richmond game is a Friday night ESPN2 game and one of the marquee games of the season for the A10. That would really suck to lose that game. Also, the GW game is on CBSSN for some reason. Luckily, they have still been ranked to get that exposure, but that’s about it.
Another reason why it hurts: the A10 could lose out on bids. The A10 needs to put itself in the best position to get multiple teams in the NCAA tournament. They have 4 teams in the running, and St. Bonaventure so far has lost their biggest opportunity for a marquee win for their resume. That’s rough for the Bonnies. If SLU loses the Richmond game next week, it’s not the end of the world because they play again at the end of the season. VCU is in the clear now too. Right now it looks like they are good, but if any of those games with those four teams gets postponed or cancelled now that the Bona game is postponed, the A10 should absolutely reschedule them to give their 4 best teams a shot to make the tournament.
The reason why I’m getting deep into this is because I think about the Big 10 and college football season. The big controversy was Ohio State not having 6 games in and the Big 10 bypassing that rule to put them in. They chose to not reschedule Ohio State’s games against some of the worst teams in the Big 10. Just ONE loss by the Buckeyes would kick them out of the college football playoff discussion. By doing that, the Big 10 put itself in position to get a team into the college football playoff, and lone behold, they did it. And then Ohio State rewarded the Big 10 with a national championship appearance.
How is this relevant? The A10 needs to put its best teams in position to make the NCAA tournament. Rescheduling SLU’s games against La Salle, Davidson, UMass, and Duquesne would do nothing for anyone. Neither team needs the win and a loss hurts SLU the most. God forbid if the Billikens crap the bed and drop one or two of those games. Therefore, let those games go; they don’t help anyone no matter the result.
The A10 needs to reschedule the game against St. Bonaventure and Richmond (if it gets cancelled). A win by either SLU or Bona/Richmond only helps the other and hurts no one. And this is how SLU’s covid pause can help the A10.
So, Who Hurts the Most from SLU’s Covid Pause?
I think the A10, due to the money and exposure. The A-10 needs all the exposure it can get, and we all saw what Dayton did for the conference’s exposure last season. Saint Louis has provided that so far this year. It can still make up ground from what they lost from being on a pause, but it still stinks that they were the team to be on a pause.
The pause also hurts St. Bonaventure because of their resume, as discussed before. Hopefully the A10 can reschedule that game. I know getting four teams in the NCAA tournament is tough for the A-10, but you still have to put your best teams in the best situation possible to make the NCAA tournament if they have a resume that has a chance to get in as an at-large team.
Hopefully, the A-10 does the right thing.