Before the NCAA Tournament started, the Billikens said they would not be intimidated by Memphis or any team that followed. To their credit, they weren’t scared at all.
I know it’s a cliché, but SLU played their hearts out in both games and should be commended for their outstanding effort. Sunday, the production wasn’t there all game, but their effort certainly was.
I never like to say teams or individuals “choked” during big games because I think that’s pretty harsh to do. But I do believe in the early part of the first half against Michigan State the Bills’ nerves got the best of them. I counted three air balls, a handful of close-range shots missed, and it just didn’t seem like they were comfortable at all. Early on, SLU struggled to establish an interior game. Multiple times when they brought the ball down the court, they would feed it inside to Brian Conklin or Dwayne Evans, only to have them back down the defender and have to kick it back out because nothing was there; give credit to the Spartans ‘bigs.’
But the second half was a different story. Conklin and Kwamain Mitchell found a little bit of a scoring touch, but it seemed too little too late. The NCAA Tournament is fueled by relatively no-name players stepping up and playing out of their minds; just asked Mizzou if that’s a true statement. The Billikens needed Kyle Cassity, Cody Ellis, or any of the guys to catch fire against Michigan State, and that never happened. Before the tourney began, I thought the nation was going to know Ellis like they know a famous name such as Jared Sullinger. I fully expected one of those guys to go on tear and capture the nation’s attention; but again, that never occurred.
I don’t want this article to seem too negative, because being a St. Louisan, growing up and watching Charlie Spoonhour and Billikens, I felt proud because of what SLU accomplished this season. They marched into the NCAA tournament confident and not afraid of anything. They took a number one seed down to the wire and nearly pulled off an amazing upset. It’s just tough that a great year had to end in tears of sadness instead of tears of jubilation.