Saint Louis University (4-2)
Location: St. Louis, MO
Mascot: The Billiken
Conference: The Atlantic 10 Conference
Last season: 11-21 (3-15)
Coach: Jim Crews – 4th season
On Saturday the Wichita State Shockers travel to St. Louis for the third of a four game series with Saint Louis University. The Shockers have won the two previous meetings in the recent series, and the series will conclude next season when SLU visits Koch Arena. The all-time series record is 41-21 in favor of Saint Louis. Prior to the restart of the series in 2013, the two programs hadn’t played since 1975.
Jim Crews is in his 4th season as the head coach of Saint Louis University. Crews is 424-385 in his career, and 70-37 while at SLU. The Billikens are coming off their most disappointing season since the 2004-05 campaign when SLU finished 9-21.
On the court, the Billikens are lead by 6’4″ senior guard, Ash Yacoubou. Ash is averaging 31.2 minutes, 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2 steals per game this season. Yacoubou is joined in the backcourt by junior, Mike Crawford, and sophomore, Miles Reynolds. Crawford is averaging 12.8 points, 3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Reynolds is averaging 11.2 points, 3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.5 rebounds per game. SLU is a relatively small team with just 3 players taller than 6’9″.
For Wichita State, the biggest question will be whether Fred VanVleet is available for the game on Saturday. VanVleet has been resting his hamstring and missed all three games in the AdvoCare Invitational. The Shockers are 2-4 thus far this season, marking the first time under .500 since 2009.
The Shockers will also be without Grady and Shamet; Anton Grady is walking without crutches for the first time since his spinal concussion occurred against Alabama in Orlando, Florida. His timetable for return, or if he will return, has not been released. Grady’s recovery gives hope for a return, but the most important thing for Anton right now is being healthy for the rest of his life after basketball. Landry Shamet is recovering from his surgery to repair his stress fracture. Ron Baker had the same injury his freshman year and it took Ron 10 weeks to get back into the roster. Shamet is expected to be out up to 12 weeks, which would put his availability for return in February.
Wichita State is looking for an impact from Rauno Nurger after his red shirt was burned in Florida. With the devastating loss of Anton Grady to the already inexperienced front court, Nurger’s size and ability to play center made it an obvious choice to put him in the game. Nurger, paired with youngsters Markis McDuffie and Eric Hamilton, will need to produce for their Shocker squad with Grady out. Shaq Morris played more minutes against Iowa than any other game so far this season. Playing 24 minutes, Shaq was able to score 11 points, grab 3 boards, and steal the ball away from the Hawkeyes twice. A promising statistic for Morris is that he only had 3 fouls for the game, 1 every 8 minutes of play. Previously, Shaq fouled once every 3 minutes against Tulsa, and once every 4 minutes against Charleston Southern. The inability for Shaq to stay on the court for long stretches of time is something that has frustrated many regarding Shaq’s performance. One can only hope that this is a turning point in Shaq’s season, similar to being left at home rather than travel with the team to Drake last season.
Ron Baker is playing his heart out this season, making every effort to carry the load of the team on his shoulders with VanVleet sidelined. Baker is averaging 18 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game this season. Wichita State will look to rely on Baker against SLU, which is nothing new to the senior guard. Ron has averaged 20 points per game against SLU, and scorched the nets for a fiery 77% from the field against the Billikens in his career.
After the Saint Louis game, the Shockers will finally be back home after 4 straight road games. The Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV will visit Koch Arena on December 9th, and Utah will visit Intrust Bank Arena on December 12th. The importance of December 12th? Conner Frankamp will be available.
As of just a few minutes after this preview published, Reid Forgrave of Fox Sports tweeted that Conner Frankamp will be available on the 9th of December. The Shockers take on UNLV on the 9th.
Update from banged-up Wichita St: VanVleet a maybe for StL on Sat. Marshall says Grady still uncertain. Good news: Frankamp eligible on Wed.
— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) December 4, 2015