Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and correspondent. He filed this report from the first semifinal of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic Monday night.
Here are three thoughts from Saint Louis’ dismantling of Texas A&M:
- SLU Can Get By And Then Some Without Mitchell and Majerus. The Aggies aren’t likely to turn many heads in their first season in the SEC, but Billikens’ head coach Jim Crews did a terrific job executing his game plan in all facets despite some athletic mismatches. Saint Louis frustrated Texas A&M by denying second chances, holding Billy Kennedy‘s team to a meager 15.2% offensive rebounding rate and forcing 18 turnovers. The methodical pace of the game didn’t allow for gaudy individual totals, but a collective defensive effort and constant activity in SLU’s halfcourt sets allowed the Billikens to get stops and open looks with regularity. Transition offense was hard to come by, but in a tougher Atlantic 10, Saint Louis’ patience and defensive toughness will allow the team to hang with the conference’s best squads. SLU also showed an ability to bounce back from adversity. Last week, the team took two significant losses, one to Santa Clara and one to their coach’s declining health as Majerus officially stepped down from his post and the “interim” tag was removed from Crews’ title. Majerus’ departure wasn’t unexpected, but the same can’t be said for Saint Louis’ head-scratching home loss to SCU. Beating a mediocre Texas A&M squad won’t erase last week’s blemish, but there’s something to be said for a team that can bounce back in such convincing fashion.
- Texas A&M Is Sorely Lacking In Cohesion: Ray Turner may have sunk all of his shots tonight, but he attempted only four. As one of the expected leaders at Texas A&M, he’ll have to play a bigger role than what he displayed Monday night. Turner was only passively involved in the offense and his frustration may have been planted in the opening minutes of the game. He was forced to call an early timeout on an inbounds play, and at the foul line a few minutes later, Turner came away with an empty trip. He was hardly the only one on his team who struggled, however. Elston Turner poured in a team-high 16 points, but did so on an inefficient 12 shots while committing five turnovers. The Aggies turned the ball over 18 times as a team, committed 22 fouls, and shot an abysmal 44% from the stripe. Tabbed to finish ninth by the SEC media, A&M was bound to struggle after Khris Middleton’s departure, but the Aggies will need much more from their senior leaders, to say nothing of their role players, to stay competitive in a top-heavy conference.
- Keep An Eye On Jordair Jett In The Backcourt: It wouldn’t be a cliche if there wasn’t some truth to it, but SLU has an invaluable cog in its experienced point guard, Jordair Jett. The junior displayed excellent court vision against the Aggies, dishing out a career-high eight assists. Jim Crews was very laudatory towards his floor general after the game, citing his familiarity with the system and knowledge of where his teammates are at all times. As a big guard at 215 pounds, one might expect Jett to be more aggressive and use his body to absorb contact on the way to the rim at least occasionally, but his patient and savvy style is a breath of fresh air from some of the out-of-control point guard play we’ve seen throughout the country in the young season. Jett wasn’t afraid to use his strength on defense, though, as he grabbed five rebounds and tallied three steals. His four turnovers indicate that he’s far from a finished product, but his willingness to let plays develop could play a huge role in SLU’s chances against Kansas Tuesday night.