St. Louis University vs. USC-Upstate: Game Preview
The St. Louis University Billikens closed out last season on the national stage, losing a heartbreaker to the Michigan State Spartans in the NCAA tournament.
As things end, so they begin.
The stage will be a little smaller when the Billikens next take the court to open their regular season schedule, but they will be opposed by a group of Spartans again.
This time, the University of South Carolina-Upstate travels to St. Louis for a 7 p.m. CT tipoff on Friday evening.
This game marks the opening round of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, which will ultimately finish in Kansas City, Mo.
Here's a breakdown of the game.
Scouting St. Louis U.
This will be the first regular season game for the Billikens without the team's starting point guard, and best player, Kwamain Mitchell.
The minutes at guard will most likely be split between Mike McCall and Jordair Jett. If the game gets out of hand, as it should for SLU, expect to see heavy minutes from freshman Keith Carter.
Billikens fans should pay attention to McCall's aggressiveness with the ball. USC-Upstate is not nearly as talented as SLU, so McCall will have plenty of opportunities to attack the basket.
If McCall is not able to find open lanes to the rim against this team, it will be difficult to imagine him doing it against much superior competition.
Up front, expect Dwayne Evans, Rob Loe and Cody Ellis to start, and play significant minutes.
It was reported Thursday evening by St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer, Tom Timmerman, that Cory Remekun missed Thursday's practice with a knee sprain, and is unlikely to play in the opener.
The Billikens frontcourt will have a nice size advantage over the projected frontcourt starters for the Spartans, particularly at the center position. The average for SLU will be 6'8", 240 pounds., while the Spartans average 6'7", 220 pounds.
Billikens fans should pay attention to Loe's presence in the middle. Last year, Loe (6'11") could afford to spend time on the wing waiting for the spot-up jumper. That's because the Billikens had Brian Conklin to clean up down low.
Conklin has graduated, and now it's just Loe in the middle. Evans will be a beast on the boards and the block, but at 6'5", he's not capable of manning the middle by himself.
As always, early season games offer the chance to see the progress of the bench players, who should all receive significant minutes. John Manning is the next big frontcourt player for SLU to watch. Grandy Glaze and Jake Barnett also figure to see action in the back end of the rotation.
USC-Upstate was picked to finsh second in the Atlantic Sun Conference by the league's head coaches. That was after a 21-13 season (13-5 in conference, third place) last year for the Spartans.
The Atlantic Sun is of Belmont and East Tennessee State fame, having sent one of those two schools to the NCAA tournament the last seven years.
The player to watch for the Spartans is junior forward Torrey Craig (6'6", 215 lbs.). Craig led the team in scoring (16.4 per game) and rebounds (7.7 per game) last season.
Craig is also the defending conference Player of the Year for the Atlantic Sun, and he is just 10 points away from reaching 1,000 in his still young career.
The Spartans frontcourt also starts two more juniors, Ricardo Glenn (6'8", 246 lbs.) and Jodd Maxey (6'8", 200 lbs.). Maxey is an interesting talent, as he can do a little bit of everything.
Last year, Maxey averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He also led the team in blocks and steals, despite starting less than half of the team's games.
The Spartans have a very young backcourt, as they are projected to start two sophomores this year, Ty Greene and Mario Blessing.
Greene (6'3", 185 lbs.) led the Spartans in minutes last year (30.5 per game) so he is not your ordinary second-year player. He averaged 11.4 points and 2.4 assists last season.
Greene is not a very good field-goal shooter (38.4 percent last season), but he is very strong from the three-point (40 percent) and free-throw line (77.8 percent).
Blessing (6'2", 165 lbs.) is originally from Germany. He also received heavy minutes (22.9 per game) last year for the Spartans. It is worth mentioning that Blessing was voted by fans at the Atlantic Sun Defensive Player of the Year.
Off the bench, watch out for junior center Babatunde Olumuyia (6'8", 220 lbs.). Olumuyiwa may not look like a center, but he plays like one. He is already third all-time in Spartans history in blocks (106).
USC-Upstate is led by head coach Eddie Payne. Payne is in his 11th year with the Spartans and 27th overall. He has 401 career wins, and was given the Hugh Durham Award as the nation's top mid-major coach.
SLU and USC-Upstate have met only one time before, in 2008. The Billikens won that matchup 55-38. Mitchell scored seven points in 35 minutes as a freshman for SLU that year.
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