Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ingredients in Place for Another NCAA Trip for SLU

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ingredients in Place for Another NCAA Trip for SLU

Article excerpt

Losing locker rooms at the NCAA Tournament are never happy places. Seniors are facing the reality that their college careers, maybe their entire basketball careers, are over. Juniors realize they are down to one more chance. Hopes that had been so high just two hours before are gone.

That was certainly the case for St. Louis U. on Saturday evening at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Dwayne Evans was getting emotional thinking about the team's three seniors. Players either sat with their heads down or slouched back, long legs extending into the center of the room. The only sounds were the low tones of reporters delicately asking questions and players quietly responding.

A little more than 24 hours earlier, the eternally cheerful Grandy Glaze had sat in front of his stall and talked of winning five more games, and as farfetched as it may have sounded, no SLU team ever had a more legitimate chance to make a claim about winning multiple games at an NCAA Tournament. Sure, there would have been some very big obstacles along the way, but this SLU team, with a tenacious defense that had taken on almost all comers, had repeatedly been able to rise to the occasion.

Optimism waits for another day, and that one will probably come soon for the Billikens, who at the moment are feeling the sting of a missed chance to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, something the school has never done. For the second straight season, the core of the team four of its top six scorers this time will be back, though the absence of Kwamain Mitchell and Cody Ellis, two of its leaders on and off the court, will be felt. SLU will probably contend again, possibly even being preseason favorites, in next season's scaled-down Atlantic 10. A third straight NCAA berth, something the school has never done, is a real possibility.

SLU was not the preseason pick in the Atlantic 10 this season and did not make the AP preseason top 25, most likely because people were unsure how the team would react in the wake of the absence of coach Rick Majerus. Those around the team had fewer doubts, knowing how deeply the Majerus lessons had been ingrained in the team. In the early stages of this season, the bigger absence was that of Mitchell, who broke his foot on the second day of practice.

And SLU got through it, even getting through the big jolt delivered when Majerus died Dec. 1. Seldom are teams called upon to carry their coach's coffin during the season, and the players and coaches handled the situation as well, if not better, as anyone could have thought possible. …

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