#48 St. Louis Billikens: College Basketball 111 in 111

st. louis billiken cheerleaders

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series.  Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.

We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

With Rick Majerus having to step down due to health concerns and the injury to starting point guard Kwamain Mitchell, the season has gotten off to an auspicious start for a St. Louis Billikens team that is expected to contend for the Atlantic 10 title.  How they are able to overcome those two obstacles will be the determining factor when the dust settles in March.

[Read more…]

Chicago Invitational Blog Day 2


By Paul M. Banks

Another day at the Chicago Invitational Challenge, and another day that St. Louis Head Coach Rick Majerus camps out along the baseline, and gives me and the other reporters next to me a front row view of his behind. But hey, he wears all black both days, and as we know black is slimming. It’s great to be back watching college basketball, and not out at the shopping malls. I would rather be ANYWHERE than at a shopping mall on these two days. I honestly judge be people’s intelligence and decision-making abilities on whether or not they fight the “door-buster” crowds on these days. brackins2

Worse are the crappy local tv news stations that videotape this and run THE EXACT SAME story EVERY year. I’d quit if they gave me that assignment. I bring this up because I think this may why College Basketball tournaments draw so poorly during this week. Pretty much every tourney you see on tv, the arenas are always 3/4 empty. The Las Vegas Invitational is even held in a high school gym usually.

The 8,000 seat UIC pavilion is no different, as only 3,000 people came to the game last night. I like this little venue a lot though. It’s right there accessible from the EL, and it’s actually in Chicago, unlike the venue that hosted the “CHICAGO INVITATIONAL” during the first three years of its existence. That would be the beautiful and state of the art Sears Centre (also seats about 8,000) located WAY OUT in Hoffman Estates; or pretty much the edge of the suburbs. What makes it seem even farther though is the highways leading too it are ALWAYS the most congested in all of Chicago. Given that it runs right past Woodfield Mall, I’m sure it’s even worse today. So why was this tournament moved from the Sears Centre to UIC Pavilion? Ticket sales? No, it was because when they made the decision, the authorities thought the Sears Centre would be out of money and closed by this time. They were pretty close to shutting down. Of course, what the Sears Centre needs to go is get some actual tenants that people might actually consider wanting to buy a ticket to see.


Currently they have the Chicago Shamrox (indoor lacrosse), Chicago Storm (some sort of indoor soccer league) and the Chicago Hounds I think, which is roller derby or something maybe. Anybody ever heard of any one of these teams? The only reason I’ve ever heard of the Chicago (although when you play your games 1.5 hours outside Chicago, are you really allowed to use that name?) Shamrox, is because a girl from my high school graduating class is a dancer for them. Hence the obligatory dance team pics. The “Hot Rox” they’re called.


Notre Dame is about to beat St. Louis in the Third place game right about now…..actually there’s 1:11 left. with the Golden Domers up on the Billikens 60-48. So I guess that means SLU finishes fourth. Also, there’s a few other mid-major teams in this tournament, Kennesaw  State beat Mississippi Valley St. in the fifth place game, and the battle to finish 7th took place between Liberty and Tennessee St. but I’ll have to go find out the result on that one. If you really want me to I will. I know you’re dying to find out.

ND wins 64-52. Harangody finishes with 18 points, 9 rebounds. He entered the tourney averaging 27.2 Ben Hansbrough had 14. Willie Reed of SLU finished with 20 pts

Highlights of postgame pressers:

SLU Head Coach Rick Majerus:

“We struggle to score, and part of it is unfamiliarity with each other, part of it is some of these teams are more veteran, more physical, part of it is we go backward on misses.” well, you get the point. They scored 52 points today, after just 54 yesterday.

I’ll be back with quotes from Luke Harangody and ND Head Coach Mike Brey. For right now, the title game is in progress.

NU trails Iowa St. 10-8, with their only points coming from John Shurna, two 3s and a “and 1”.

Luka Mirkovic scores inside and score is now Iowa St. 12, Northwestern 11 with 11:51 to go in the half. ISU has a starter named Lucca Staiger, who hails from Blaustein, Germany. This game will probably set the record for a basketball game featuring starters named Luka, or Lucca.

Iowa St. also has a guy named Jamie Vanderbeeken. Sounds alarmingly close to James Vanderbeek, the actor everyone knows as better as Dawson from “Dawson’s Creek” or Jon Moxon from “Varsity Blues”. Sorry for bringing up Dawson’s Creek, I know you’ll inevitably have that annoying theme song by Paula Cole in your head now. I know I do.

With 7:16 left in half NU leads 24-22. This tournament is an example of why a conference having it’s own network is so advantageous. The only games being broadcasted from this tourney are those involving Northwestern. Even though they’re not the best team here (probably Iowa St. but we’ll know for sure in about 1.5 hours) and not the highest profile program either (that would be Notre Dame), their games take precedence because the generous Lord bestowed upon us the gift of BTN.

ISU comes out of the gates firing on all cylinders and extends their lead 43-37 with 16 min to go. Craig Brackins has a NBA body no doubt. There were a few NBA scouts here yesterday, I saw dudes from the Miami Heat and Golden St. Warriors here, and Bulls GM Gar Forman was in attendance too. I could see both Brackins and Harangody being total “John Paxson” picks. Think about his history, then draw the paralells. Both fit in perfectly.


very close game. ISU leads 51-48. Thats a good complement for NU as Majerus said he thinks Iowa St. has a chance to challenge Kansas for the conference title. ISU has a LOT of good athletes and they are a very underrated team. They also have Carlos Boozer’s brother Charles. But he hardly plays more than five minutes a game. And he’s a junior already, so don’t expect him to be in “the league” someday soon.

61-55 NU with 3:32 left. Can lightning strike twice? Is NU going to win the Chi Invitational, when no one gave them a chance in back-to-back games? Would this start up the tourney talk again?

63-61 Cats with 1:16 left. If Juice had knocked down that last shot following an offensive rebound, it might have clinched the game. Instead the crafty German Lucca Steiger went down and hit a big 3 to cut it to a basket.

65-62 NU leading with 8.2 left. Looks like they’re going to be sitting much prettier than Illinois after today. who would have thunk that? Illinois is down four to Bradley, freaking Bradley with 9 seconds left. WHAT? Oh, and after this weekend’s games, so much for the Big Ten being the best conference in AMerica.

My Illini lose…but here, NU is about to claim the invitational trophy and champsionship