(KMOV) -- It was a disappointing ending for St. Louis U., but then the basketball season ends with disappointment for every team in the country except the National Champion.
Those of us who thought the Billikens actually had a chance to win the national title this year got a rude awakening, watching a more athletic Oregon team beat SLU rather easily on Saturday.
I've heard critics say that the loss tarnishes what the Billikens accomplished this year, and brings into question whether they were really as good as their record might indicate. I think that's unfair.
This was a team that was un-ranked before the start of the season, finished ranked 13th in the country, and won the outright Atlantic 10 conference championship and the A-10 tournament. They won a school record 28 games. An ugly loss in the tournament doesn't change the fact that this team was highly entertaining this year, and made major strides.
52 teams have already been knocked out of the NCAA tournament. Two big name coaches (Ben Howland-UCLA and Tubby Smith-Minnesota) have already been fired after their teams made early exits. I think it's terribly unfair to judge a coach mostly on his team's performance in the tournament. How they play over the course of a long regular season is a much better barometer of a coach and a team.
Crazy things happen in the NCAA tournament every year. Teams come out of nowhere to surprise everybody (Florida Gulf Coast, Butler, VCU, George Mason) and other teams with high expectations get upset (Missouri, Georgetown, Duke). Judging coaches based on a failure to get to the sweet 16 or the elite 8 seems very unfair to me.
The Billikens should be in a good position to have another solid season next year. They lose Cody Ellis, Kwamain Mitchell and Cory Remekun, but the rest of the team is back.
It'll be fun watching Dwayne Evans for another season. No player personifies the Billikens work ethic more than Evans. For his sake, I hope the Billikens can land a recruit or two that will help him under the basket, make an immediate impact, and help sustain the momentum and positive vibe the Billikens program generated this season.