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Vaughn: Billikens are for real

Vaughn: Billikens are for real

Credit: AP

In this photo taken on Friday, Oct. 30, 2009, Saint Louis basketball coach Rick Majerus watches his team during the first half of a preseason NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas Fort-Smith in St. Louis. In 22 seasons, the 61-year-old Majerus has never had a losing record. But it appears he'll need a lot of overachieving to keep that streak alive given the kiddie corps roster he's guiding. (AP Photo/Whitney Curtis)

by Doug Vaughn

KMOV.com

Posted on February 9, 2012 at 1:09 PM

(News 4 Sports) -- It appears Rick Majerus has the SLU Billikens headed toward the NCAA tournament.

It took him longer than we expected to get the program to this level, but the Billikens are on the verge of becoming a legitimate tournament team. Last night's road win at St. Joseph's was huge. The Bills are now 19-and-5 and unless they fall apart completely down the stretch, should earn their 7th NCAA tournament berth.

The Billikens are an uncomfortable team to play against because of the way they play defense. It's not easy to get college players excited about playing tough d, but Majerus has been able to do that. SLU is ranked in the top 10 nationally in defense. A team that can stop the opposition from scoring is a threat to beat anybody. That's not to say this team is a national championship contender, but at least it's clear they're heading in the right direction. The Billikens figure to be even better next year, as they'll lose only two seniors off this year's team.

There is a perception among some people that St. Louis U. doesn't play at the same level as a team like Missouri. Mizzou has a huge enrollment, plays in a major conference, regularly has crowds of 15,000 in Columbia, and has many games on national television. St. Louis U. is a much smaller school, and often times the Billikens are playing in front of less than 5,000 fans. But the reality is that SLU can play with the Missouris and the other big boys of college basketball. There's a reason why Mizzou, and many other schools from major conferences, refuse to put SLU on its non-conference schedule. This year's Billikens team is one of the best at SLU in many years. They could be a tough team to play against in the tournament. Hopefully we're seeing just the beginning of what will become a very successful era in Billiken basketball. 

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