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St. Louis University: 2012 CBE Hall of Fame Classic Preview

Matthew MeltonContributor IIINovember 17, 2012

St. Louis University: 2012 CBE Hall of Fame Classic Preview

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    There is no simpler way to put it: the Saint Louis Billikens stunk up the joint last Wednesday against Santa Clara.

    The 74-62 loss doesn't look as bad on paper as the play on the court actually reflected. The Billikens were down by double digits very early in the first half, and the lead bounced between 15 and 20 points for much of the rest of the game.

    I'm not one for looking at a game's box score when the game stopped being interesting less than halfway through the actual game.

    However, it's worth noting that in just the first half, Santa Clara scored 44 points while shooting 58 percent from the field. Kevin Foster already had 17 points, before finishing with a game-high 30.

    In a most unlikely manner, turnovers bedeviled the Billikens. They allowed 17, which turned into 24 points for the Broncos.

    It feels like the 2012-3 season has hit rock-bottom. After just two games.

    SLU announced on Friday that Rick Majerus will not be returning to coach the Billikens next season. Majerus' contract expires as the end of this season and he was already ruled out for its entirety.

    But the university, with Majerus' blessing, wanted to make the inevitable official. The coach's health problems are gravely serious and SLU probably felt as many fans do: they wanted to show their appreciation and send their well wishes to the Coach.

    Freshman guard Keith Carter left the Santa Clara game early with a leg injury. There is no official indication of the injury's seriousness, and he was able to walk off the court under his own power.

    Tom Timmerman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted Friday that Carter should be "good to go" on Monday.

    However, when I asked Carter how the leg was feeling and whether he would be on the court for the team's next two games, Carter responded via Twitter saying it was "not looking 2 gud rite now."

    Watching Carter's leg bend sideways, I can believe that this injury will not be one from which Carter quickly bounces back.

    If Carter is out for an extended period of time, it will leave just two legitimate options at guard for SLU, juniors Jordair Jett and Mike McCall.

    Jake Barnett came off the bench against Santa Clara and provided an offensive spark for the team, scoring seven points and grabbing five rebounds. But nobody planned such a large role for Barnett at the season's outset.

    The Billikens now must pick up the pieces after a terrible loss, then travel to Kansas City for two matchups in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.

    The Billikens will face Texas A&M (Nov. 19), and depending on the result, either Kansas or Washington State (Nov. 20).

    Here is a preview of all three potential opponents for SLU.

Texas A&M

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    The Billikens' first matchup will be against the Aggies of Texas A&M. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Monday and will be televised on ESPNU.

    Texas A&M (3-0) comes into the CBE Classic with double-digit victories over Louisiana Tech, Troy and Prairie View A&M.

    The Aggies haven't exactly faced a murderer's row of basketball talent, but then again, the same things were said about SLU's two opponents to begin the season.

    Last season, the Aggies struggled, finishing the year 14-18 (4-14 in conference play). The team lost its best player, Khris Middleton, to the NBA Draft.

    The player to watch on the Aggies' roster is senior guard Elston Turner. Turner (6'5", 212 pounds) led the team in scoring last season (13.8 per game). Thus far, he continues to lead the Aggies, averaging a team-high 17 points per game.

    Turner loves to shoot the three and he's very good at it, averaging 39 percent last year and 43 percent so far this season.

    Turner's size will be a most difficult matchup for the smaller Billikens' guards. Jordair Jett (6'1") will be the most likely candidate to guard Turner. However, when given the assignment against a similarly skilled offensive force (Kevin Foster of Santa Clara), Jett fouled out in just 22 minutes, while scoring only eight points.

    Another Aggie who will give SLU fits is senior forward Ray Turner. Turner (6'9", 232 pounds) is exactly the kind of low post presence the Billikens have missed since Brian Conklin graduated last season.

    Ray Turner (no relation to Elston) averaged 9.1 points per game last season, with a team-high 5.5 rebounds. He is the reason why the Billikens need Cory Remekun to immediately return to the lineup after missing the first two games of the season due to a knee injury.

    Without Remekun's size and athleticism, the Billikens will unfortunately be in a similar position as they were against Santa Clara.

    Ray Turner has improved his game around the basket, upping his scoring to 13 points per game this season, to go with 6.7 rebounds.

    Assuming Jett and Remekun are matched up against the Turners, that will leave McCall to defend junior guard Fabyon Harris. Harris (5'11", 174 pounds) is a junior college transfer who brings an offensive spark to the Aggies.

    Harris is averaging more than 15 points per game, including a game-high 18 points against Prairie View A&M, with 4-of-6 shooting from three-point range.

    The Aggies will be the third team the Billikens have faced that want to run the floor and get into a high-paced game. The Billikens succeeded in slowing down USC-Upstate, but they failed miserably against Santa Clara.

    The only question facing the Billikens is: Which team will show up in Kansas City on Monday?

Kansas

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    If the Billikens are able to defeat Texas A&M on Monday, they will most likely face Kansas on Tuesday in the CBE championship game. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. (ET) and will be televised on ESPNU.

    Kansas is set to face Washington State on Monday after the SLU-Texas A&M matchup, with tipoff scheduled for 10:00 p.m. (ET). The game will be televised on ESPN2.

    The Kansas Jayhawks come into the CBE Classic as the obvious heavy favorites.

    That's probably even a severe understatement, inasmuch as the Jayhawks (2-1) are ranked in the top 12 of both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls and coming off a finish last season that saw the team in the National Championship game.

    The Jayhawks will look different from what we saw in last year's national final after losing the team's top two scorers, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Robinson and Taylor also led the team last year in rebounds and assists, respectively.

    No worries, though, as head coach Bill Self has reloaded the roster. Again.

    Kansas is led by senior guards Elijah Johnson (6'4", 195 pounds) and Travis Releford (6'6", 207 pounds).

    You read that right. Those are the heights and weights of the Jayhawks' starting backcourt. 

    While not scoring machines, Johnson and Releford are experienced players who execute Self's offensive system as well as anyone.

    Johnson averages 12.7 points per game this season after scoring 10.2 points per game last season. Releford's scoring is down from 8.5 to 6.3 points per game in the season's early going.

    The man on Kansas' roster that the Billikens have no answer for is senior center Jeff Withey. Withey (7'0", 235 pounds) came into his own last year as a full-time starter and averaged 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.

    This year, Withey's numbers are on the rise, as he's averaging 12.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game.

    Withey is your classic center. Unlike the Billikens' Rob Loe, Withey will not stray from the paint on the offensive end.

    The Billikens will have no match for Withey. Unless Loe has a complete change of playing style, the expectation is that SLU's John Manning will draw the tough defensive assignment.

    Kansas' depth will be even more apparent when SLU fans see two of the team's nine freshman: guard Ben McLemore (6'5", 195 pounds) and forward Perry Ellis (6'8", 225 pounds).

    After redshirting last year, McLemore leads the Jayhawks in scoring this year, with 16 points per game, to go with his 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

    For a freshman, McLemore is a particularly efficient player. In Kansas' 67-64 loss against No. 21 Michigan State, McLemore had 14 points on just seven shots. Against Chattanooga last Thursday, McLemore led the scoring with 25 points.

    Ellis is a true freshman on the Jayhawks, and has one of the brightest futures. While Ellis will probably not get the minutes against SLU to make a huge impact, he averages a solid 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds a game.

    The problem for the Billikens will be finding enough players to match up against the never-ending array of talent Kansas will bring.

    If SLU gets the chance to play Kansas on Tuesday, their only chance of winning is if the team shoots lights-out, Santa Clara-style.

Washington State

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    If the Billikens fail to defeat Texas A&M, they will most likely face the Washington State Cougars (2-1) on Tuesday night. Tipoff for the CBE consolation game is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (ET) and will be available on ESPN3.

    Washington State is in the middle of a rebuilding program under head coach Ken Bone. The Cougars finished last year 19-18 (7-11 in Pac-10 conference play), and made it all the way to the finale of the CBI postseason tournament.

    Washington State is led by senior forward Brock Motum. At 6'10", 245 pounds, Motum is everything Billikens' fans want their big man, Rob Loe, to become.

    Motum is averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game, with 6.7 rebounds and a block per game. Those are right in line with last year's averages of 18 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

    Motum can also shoot from three-point land, as evidenced by his near 40 percent success rate (29-of-73) last season.

    Should the teams meet, it will be fun to watch Loe and Motum chase each other around the court trying to find an open look from behind the arc.

    The Cougars suffered a huge blow when senior guard Reggie Moore was kicked off the team in September for violating team rules. Moore led the Pac-10 in assists per game last season (5.2). He also led the Cougars in minutes and averaged a solid 10.2 points per game.

    The team has attempted to replace Moore at the point guard position by splitting time between sophomore DaVonte Lacy, redshirt senior Mike Ladd and redshirt sophomore Royce Woolridge.

    Lacy (6'3", 206 pounds) and Ladd have held their own on the offensive end, averaging 12.7 and 11.3 points per game so far this season. Ladd (6'5", 195 pounds) got his first double-double of the year on Friday against Pepperdine, scoring 10 points with 13 rebounds.

    Woolridge (6'3", 175 pounds), is a transfer from Kansas, so it will be interesting to watch him play against his former Jayhawk teammates.

    Woolridge is averaging a solid 7.7 points and 3.3 assists with his new team, and should provide the Cougars an outside scoring threat, especially from three-point range (4-for-8 this year).

    Billiken fans do not want to face Washington State in the CBE Classic, but if the consolation game comes calling for SLU, the Billikens should be able to get credit for a quality win if they pull out the victory.

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