Vaughn: SLU has a chance to win it all

Vaughn:  SLU has a chance to win it all

Credit: Bill Greenblatt / UPI

Saint Louis University Billikens head basketball coach Jim Crews boards a bus in St. Louis on March 18, 2013, that will take them to the airport for a flight to San Jose for the NCAA Tournament. SLU, seated number four, will face New Mexico State on March 21. Saint Louis University won the A-10 Conference Tournament Championship on March 17. UPI/Bill Greenblatt


by Doug Vaughn

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 9:53 PM

( -- It would have seemed like a ridiculous notion a few years ago, but now it doesn't seem so crazy. The Billikens are a legitimate contender to win the National Championship. There isn't a team in the NCAA tournament that would want to play the Billikens right now.

SLU makes other teams uncomfortable. They play in-your-face defense that other teams hate. They don't make many mental mistakes. They usually hit their free throws. They don't turn the ball over very often. They get scoring from all five positions. They're well coached. They have a roster made up mostly of battled tested juniors and seniors.

That explains why they've won 15 of their last 16 games, with the only loss coming in overtime on the road. The Billikens are playing as well as any team in the country right now, and have a realistic chance of winning another six in a row to capture the national title. 

The Billikens will face a New Mexico State team on Thursday that boosts a freshman center named Sim Bhullar who stands 7 foot 5, and weighs 355 pounds. He's a snootful, but shouldn't give SLU too many problems.

The Billikens will find a way to defend him, just as they've found a way to defend every player and team they've faced this season. SLU should be able to handle either Oklahoma State or Oregon in the next round also. The problem will come in the Sweet 16, where they will likely face Louisville, the number one overall seed.

The Billikens may have trouble putting the brakes on Louisville's high octane, athletic team. But it won't be an impossible task. I wouldn't put anything past St. Louis U. at this point.

The Billikens are currently ranked 13th. That's their highest ranking since 1964. Anyway you look at it, this has been a special team in Billikens history.

They won't be satisfied just appearing in the NCAA tournament and making a quick exit. The time is right now for SLU. Jim Crews has a team with a solid chance of going all the way. They'll need a couple of breaks here and there, and if they get them, this could be the year the Billikens shock the nation.