The Saint Louis Billikens haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2014, but this off-season has provided SLU fans with plenty of expected excitement moving forward.
After firing Jim Crews in mid-March, the Billikens opted to hire for Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford. Ford made the NCAA Tournament in five of his eight seasons with the Cowboys and finished with a 155-111 record overall.
Then Ford went out and landed three transfers who each have two years of eligibility remaining, Michigan State forward Javon Bess, UCF guard Adonys Henriquez, and Rutgers forward D.J. Foreman.
The icing on the cake came on Friday as 2017 6’4″ point guard Jordan Goodwin committed to Saint Louis over Illinois (his hometown school), Alabama, Butler, Creighton, and Missouri, amongst others.
Goodwin is ranked 53rd in ESPN’s top 100 for the class of 2017, is the second ranked player in the state of Illinois, and is the 13th best point guard in the nation. The Althoff Catholic High School product has great size for his position and is one of the more physicality tough guards you will find on the recruiting trail.
The lead guard doesn’t back down from anyone, using his playmaking abilities, creativity, transition attacking style and slashing skills to keep the defense off balance. He is also a remarkable defender because of his effort, intensity levels and height.
Goodwin is the first member of Saint Louis’ 2017 recruiting class, and completes what is expected to be a really nice core group of players.
While Saint Louis will likely finish near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 in 2016-17, 2017-18 could be a breakout season with Bess, Henriquez, Foreman, Goodwin, Jermaine Bishop, Davell Robey and Aaron Hines and Jalen Johnson leading the way.
Ford has clearly put his foundational pieces in play for the start of what could be an impressive and complete rebuilding process.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Fighting Illini are scratching their heads. With Tracy Abrams out of eligibility following this upcoming season, the Illini are looking for a talented point guard to supplement their other young wing players (Jalen Coleman-Lands is the top player).
But instead of joining a program that competes in a Power Five conference and has had success in years past, Goodwin opted to join a team in a mid-major conference that has struggled to remain relevant, at least in recent years.
Sure, Illinois has a question mark with head coach John Groce and has underachieved the last two seasons, but they are still a program that is capable of building themselves out of their rut and still receive national attention in the Big Ten.
Illinois does have three committed members of their 2017 recruiting class though; four-star center Jeremiah Tillmon (who very well could save John Groce’s job), four-star shooting guard DaMonte Williams and non-ranked shooting guard Javon Pickett.
However, it’s an issue that Illinois cannot reel in a hometown recruit. They could have capped off their class with another monster addition, which in turn, would have set the a tone for both this season and next.
It’s all good times in Saint Louis.
Meanwhile, there is a bit of concern creeping in in Champaign.
Rick Barnes Says He Would Have Left Tennessee if UCLA Paid Buyout
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes could have been the next head coach for UCLA, instead of Mick Cronin, if only the Bruins were willing to open up their wallets.
Barnes says that if UCLA would have promised to pay Barnes’ $5 million buyout, he would have left Tennessee to take the job at UCLA.
“I think I would’ve been the coach at UCLA,” Barnes said (h/t ESPN). “I’ve said that to people before. I really felt at that time that’s what would happen.”
Barnes was honest and open with his decision process during the news conference, saying that he struggled with making a final decision due to financial matters.
Barnes has since agreed to a new deal with Tennessee that will pay him $4 million per year before increasing to a $6 million annual sum by the end of the contract and provide more cash for his assistants.
“I’m supposed to be at Tennessee,” Barnes said. “And it’s really above and beyond the basketball program. I’m in love with this community. I’m in love with this state. I just think we got a lot of great things going on in this town.”
“A lot of praying went into it, I can tell you that,” Barnes said. “There was a lot going on. When you get down to a situation like that, it has to make sense from a financial standpoint. Bottom line is we couldn’t work it out with the buyout.”
Barnes also informed UCLA that he would not depart Knoxville without talking to athletic director Phillip Fulmer and others in the community.
I told them point blank, ‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with my team,'” Barnes said. “‘I’m not going to walk out of here and not meet with people here that have been really good to me.’ … I said, ‘You just can’t say send a plane tomorrow and we’re leaving. I’m going to make sure this is done the right way.'”
“There was one time in my mind I truly felt that’s what would happen,” Barnes said about potentially taking the UCLA offer. “It got to that point where I felt like my prayers had been answered.”
The Madness is Underway
As we inch closer to selection Sunday, many conference tournaments are underway finding teams who will automatically make the NCAA Men’s basketball. Here are the teams that currently in the tournament:
Atlantic Sun: Liberty
Big South: Gardner–Webb
Horizon: Northern Kentucky
Missouri Valley: Bradley
MEC: Fairleigh Dickinson
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Summit League: North Dakota State
Summit League: Saint Marry’s
Out of the 32 conferences with automatic bids in the tournament, 12 of them have been clinched. All the until selection Sunday the remaining 20 conferences will have their tickets punched. Who will that be? Stay tuned!
Tennessee Basketball Ranked 4th In (Early) Preseason Top 25
A school built on football lure now has a thriving basketball team to get behind. In a early CBS basketball poll, the Volunteer squad is ranked 4th in the preseason. This should bring relief to a fan base whose struggled with a lackluster football team in recent years.
Under Coach Rick Barnes (SEC Coach of the year 2017) the Vols went 26-9 last year, won a share of the regular season SEC title and reached the final of the SEC tournament. Tennessee should return most of their pivotal pieces for the 2018-19 season.
Admiral Schofield (2017-2018 ALL SEC second teamer) who tested the NBA waters has returned for his senior year to play along side Grant Williams (SEC player of the year) and Kyle Alexander. If they can stay healthy along with the supporting cast, this team has a legitimate chance to reach the final four.
According to Andy Katz, “Tennessee is the team to beat in the SEC this year,” and did I mention Coach Barnes recruiting is nothing to take lightly. Recently committed 5 star combo guard, Josiah James added his name to the class of 2019 and pushed the Vols recruiting into the top 10 nationally.
Although it’s too early to tell how this season will play out its certain the hype is warranted and reaching heights it hasn’t seen since the Bruce Pearl era.
Could it be!? Tennessee – a basketball school?
Follow the journey when the Volunteers tip off against Louisiana Lafayette on November 9th.
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