Back in February, I popped my buttons for the SLU Billikens. Well, it just keeps getting better and better. The Billikens are 27-6, and winners of the regular-season Atlantic 10 conference title and winners of the league's post season tournament. A high seed awaits the Billikens as they launch post-season play this week.
This is a reprint of the article I wrote earlier this year.
Be like a Billiken...Love a Billiken...Scream like a Billiken.
Never in my entire sports crazy life have I been more proud of the Saint Louis University Billiken basketball program than I was Thursday night. Here the Billikens were trouncing the No. 9 team in the country, the mighty Bulldogs of Butler University. Butler hemorrhaged points while the Bills won by 17 big ones. It was an ass whopping. The Bills are a lofty 15-5.
The Billikens were beating the Dogs like a reject from the pound. They tarred and feathered their rivals, sending them back to Indianapolis, licking their wounds, their collective tails between their legs and searching for answers.
None at the moment would be found.
A season on the brink
This thing was coming. Saddened by the death of the beloved coach Rick Majerus last fall, the Bills have played with heart and empathy like no other team I’ve ever seen in decades of sports writing. Their wear their hearts on the sleeves of their blue and white clad warmups.
Jim Crews has stepped in as the man of the hour. Pulled from retirement living and coaching kids in Indy, he answered the cause to carry on for the team and the school in the time of grief. Please, SLU, take away that interim tag and make Crews a permanent coach. Beg him to stay. A gritty leader of men; he’s done wonders as assistant for Bobby Knight (Indiana), head man at Evansville and Army. Those were no simple challenges.
Fun on national television
The night at Chaifetz Arena, before an absolute packed house (shade under 11,000) was pure joy and ecstasy. Watching on national TV on CBS Sports Net was real treat. When the students stormed the court, no one was safe during the wild celebration.
This was kind of a reminder of that glorious night a few years ago when Mizzou students rushed Faurot Field to celebrate the dismantling of the vaunted Oklahoma Sooners. It just doesn’t get any better.
Doc leads the cheers
And to think Dr. Richard Chaifetz was standing (not sitting) court side, leading the cheers with fists in the air. After all, the good Doc gave some $50 million to make this marvelous, home-court-advantaged arena come to fruition.
The Billikens are the ultimate under dogs in collegiate sports. They don’t play football (haven’t since the 1950s); have a modest sports budget while employing a bunch of hard-working dedicated coaches.
Could the Bills beat Mizzou or Illinois this year? Why not.
Coming into this season, the Bills were pre-season No. 25 in the nation. To keep that ranking, they have to be perfect every night out, much like the Butler team. A recent loss at home to lowly Rhode Island made them mortal.
I saw it coming on New Years Eve. The Bills dismantled a nationally ranked New Mexico team before less than 8,000 give or take a few early holiday revelers. The home team deserved a bigger crowd that night.
Now, as in the Charlie Spoonhour era, tickets will be at a premium once again. The Johnny-come-lately front-runners will swoop up those remaining unsold seats the rest of the season.
Thursday night for the Billikens and their wonderful faithful was pure magic. It just doesn’t get any better than that.