Saint Louis University moved into the Top 25 for the first time in over a year this week, clocking at No. 18 in the Associated Press rankings with 495 votes and No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches Poll with 199 votes. This is the latest point in the season that the Billikens have been ranked since they checked in at No. 16 in late February 1994.
SLU (21-5, 10-2) last cracked the Top 25 in November 2011 following a 6-0 start to the season that included victories over Boston College, Villanova and Oklahoma as part of the 76 Classic in Anaheim. Its stay was short lived, however, as a 75-68 loss to Loyola Marymount later that week dropped it from the rankings.
“I think [last year’s experience] gives the guys the knowledge that they are capable of really doing well,” interim coach Jim Crews said prior to the start of the season. “Hopefully, they’ll understand the slim margin of error that you have to get to that point and that they’re coming from a different place. Last year, we were basically stealth for most of the year… This year everyone thinks we’re good.”
The Billikens seized control atop the Atlantic 10 following a decisive victor over No. 24 VCU on Tuesday, followed by a come-from-behind victory on the road at No. 15 Butler. The win Friday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse—just its third ever road win over a Top 25 team—figures to have sewn up a spot in the NCAA Tournament for SLU, who has appeared in back-to-back Tournaments just one other time in 1994 and ’95. The Bills’ resume includes victories over four ranked teams this year, including then-No. 20 New Mexico, who is currently ranked third in RPI by RealTimeRPI.com.
With Butler and VCU in its rearview mirror, SLU’s attention turns to separating itself from the pack, starting Wednesday night against St. Joseph’s, the coaches’ preseason pick to win the A-10.
“It’s in reach, but then again, we still have more games in the A-10 season and can’t take anyone for granted,” forward Dwayne Evans said. “We can’t focus on what we’ve done, we have to focus on what we need to do to become a better team and move forward.”
Tip-off for Wednesday night’s matchup between the Billikens and Hawks is set for 7 p.m. at Chaifetz Arena.