The Saint Louis University men’s basketball squad was ranked 26th in the USA Today Sports preseason men’s college basketball poll. With 58 points, the Billikens were the highest ranked team out of the Atlantic 10 conference and just three points behind Florida State and Texas, who tied for the final spot in the poll. A-10 newcomers Virginia Commonwealth (27th, 40 pts.) and Butler (38th, 6 pts.), as well as preseason favorite Saint Joseph’s (T-42nd, 2 pts.) also received votes.
“Adversity—staying humble [is the biggest challenge this team will face],” All-Conference guard Kwamain Mitchell said. “The talk about how this team will win and all the rankings, that’s not what we’re worried about.”
The Billikens opened last season with a six-game win streak to crack the Top 25 for the first time since 1993-94. That stay was short-lived, however, as a road loss to Loyola Marymount dropped SLU to 6-1 and out of the Top 25.
“I think [the experience from last year] gives the guys the knowledge that they are capable of really doing well,” interim head coach Jim Crews said. “Hopefully, they’ll also understand the slim margin of error that you have to get to that point and you’re coming from a different place.”
The Billikens enter this season looking to reach the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons. It would be the first time that the team has attempted to reach the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons since the Charlie Spoonhour era. However, they will have to do so without head coach Rick Majerus, who took a leave of absence in August, and Mitchell, who will be out at least six weeks with a fracture in his left foot.
“We’ve got a fairly old team right now,” senior captain Cody Ellis said in regards to sticking with Majerus’ system. “There are a lot of us that have been in the system for a couple of years and know it like the back of our hand right now. So, even without him being here, he’s still going to make a huge impact on the team.”
Indiana, Crews’ alma mater, sat atop the season’s inaugural poll, with Louisville, Kentucky (last year’s national champion), Ohio State and Michigan rounding out the top five. The only other Missouri school represented in the coaches poll was the University of Missouri, who was slotted at 17.
The Associated Press will release its preseason rankings on Oct. 26.@Brian_Haenchen) or email him (email@example.com).