2008-09 Saint Louis Basketball Preview: #81
Saint Louis Billikens
Overall Rank: #81
Conference Rank: #7 Atlantic 10
2007-08: 16-16, 7-9, 9th
2007-08 postseason: none
Many expected Coach Rick Majerus to work miracles overnight. That has not happened quite yet, but St. Louis is bringing in plenty of talent, opening a brand new on-campus arena, and the excitement has not waned. The 2007-2008 season was marred by inconsistency. The 20 point effort against George Washington was memorable for a bad reason, but there were some decent victories against teams like Rhode Island, St. Joseph’s and Massachusetts. With just four players returning, the consistency issues will not likely be addressed by this group of youngsters, but the talent level continues to improve. And with Coach Majerus on their side, that could be enough for the Billikens to make a surprising run in the A-10.
This is a big group of graduates and transfers. Despite the talent lost, St. Louis hopes the influx of Coach Majerus’ players will yield better results. The most productive player lost is Luke Meyer. The forward was third on the team in scoring and led the squad in rebounds last year. Fellow frontcourt players Bryce Husak, Adam Knollmeyer, Anthony Mitchell and Marcus Relphorde have also wrapped up their careers with the Billikens. Sixth man sharpshooter Danny Brown will be missed out of the backcourt. He did not take too many shots, but he did knock down 49 percent of his attempts from long range. Dwayne Polk started 30 games during his senior campaign and Peyton Jacks and Mike Jones have left the program.
With eight newcomers who could see action, the battles for playing time will be fierce. At the point guard spot, Ruben Cotto and Kwamain Mitchell hope to find some minutes. Cotto is a tough and quick player who can score and find his teammates. Mitchell is the more highly touted recruit of the two and could step into a leadership role immediately on this young team. Kyle Cassity, Femi John, and Daniel Lisch give the Bills plenty of options on the wings. At 6-5, Cassity has plenty of size, and he will use that size to get to the basket and make plays. Yet, he is not just a scorer and Cassity can, and will, pass the ball and make his teammates better. Once he gains some strength, he should be a solid scoring threat. The most talent might be in the paint where Brian Conklin, Willie Reed and Brett Thompson join the fray. Reed is a little raw, but the 6-9 center is a good athlete who can run the floor and block some shots. If his game can come together quickly, Reed could make a big impact as a freshman. Yet, it is Thompson who seems to be better equipped to manage significant playing time right away. Thompson uses his body extremely well on the offensive side of the floor. And once he backs down his opponent, he can score with either hand. His outside shooting is not too bad either and Thompson has the potential to become a dominating center in the conference before all is said and done.
Who to Watch:
Saint Louis will not have to field an entire team with newcomers. Four players are back, including the team’s top two scorers in Kevin Lisch and Tommie Liddell. Both are excellent scorers and combined to average 26.9 points per game a year ago. On a team that did not score a lot, 26.9 points is a significant percentage of their overall scoring output. Lisch is a good outside shooter and Liddell does most of his damage getting to the basket. Paul Eckerle also returns after averaging 18.1 minutes per game last year as a freshman. He is a decent shooter and could emerge as a solid third scoring option.
The concern is in the paint where senior Barry Eberhardt is the lone returning player. If the newcomers can fill the void, St. Louis can have a decent year behind their talented guards, but if the newcomers in the frontcourt and Eberhardt cannot handle the load, the Billikens will be in for another long season.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Kevin Lisch, Senior, Guard, 14.6 points per game
Paul Eckerle, Sophomore, Guard, 3.8 points per game
Tommie Liddell, Senior, Guard, 12.3 points per game
Barry Eberhardt, Senior, Forward, 6.0 points per game
Brett Thompson, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season