ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis University unveiled its men’s basketball schedule for the upcoming 2013-14 season Tuesday morning.
The Billikens will open the season at home on Fri., Nov. 8 against Southeast Missouri, with a trip to Rhode Island on Jan. 7 to open up Atlantic 10 play.
“It’s an exciting [time of year] for a lot of reasons here at SLU,” coach Jim Crews said. “It was such a unique and special combination the past two years—I think what was happening last year was our players really fueled the fans and our fans really fueled our players, which made a tremendous atmosphere at Chafietz.
“That’s what sports are supposed to be about. It’s about competition, but it’s also about having a good time and having fun with it. That was a really cool and neat combination and I think that’s really growing in the area. We’re excited about having that atmosphere.”
Among the highlights on SLU’s 31-game schedule is a Dec. 1 matchup with Wichita State (a 2013 Final Four participant), the Cancun Challenge in Playa del Carmen in November, a late-December trip to Vanderbilt and home-and-home series with A-10 newcomer George Mason and last year’s A-10 runner-up VCU.
The Bills will play 14 teams that reached the postseason last year, including seven NCAA Tournament squads.
“From a coach’s standpoint, from a players’ standpoint, each and every team is a different challenge, different players, different systems of play, different parts of the season,” Crews explained
There will also be a significant boost in television exposure for Saint Louis who will participate in 14 nationally televised games this season, including four on ESPN or ESPN 2, six on CBS Sports Network and four on NBC Sports Network.
As was the case last season, the department of athletics is negotiating local TV deals to televise as many games as possible.
“[The exposure] does help. When we’ve gone over nationally recruiting, we’re very well received,” Crews said. “People have certainly been very aware of Saint Louis for a myriad of reasons. Coach Majerus being one and that sad situation, number two our guys played pretty well and number three I think they liked how we played—not only did we win, but they enjoyed how we played. So, that exposure certainly helps us get into homes and people know about you.”
After opening the season with two of its first three games on the road (vs. SEMO, at SIUE, at SIU), Saint Louis will close out the month of November with home games against Oral Roberts (11/21) and Bowling Green (11/23), followed by the tournament round of the Cancun Challenge, which features matchups with Wisconsin (11/26) and either Old Dominion or West Virginia (11/27).
Upon returning home, Saint Louis will play Wichita State on Dec. 1 in honor of former coach Rick Majerus, who passed away on Dec. 1, 2012. It will be the 61st meeting between the Billikens and Shockers, who were both members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1945 through 1975. Saint Louis leads the all-time series 42-18.
Including the Wichita State game, SLU will play five of its six games in the month of December at Chaifetz Arena. Rockhurst (12/3), Wofford (12/13) Indiana State (12/18) and North Carolina A&T (12/21) will all come to St. Louis, while the Billikens will travel to Valparaiso (12/7) and Vanderbilt (12/30).
After a visit from Yale to ring in the New Year on Jan. 4, Saint Louis will begin its defense of the Atlantic 10 title with road games at Rhode Island (1/7) and at Dayton (1/11 – ESPN2). While the Rams may not be considered among the A10 elite, they have given the Billikens fits over the years, winning seven of the last nine meetings, including all but one of the games in Kingston.
Much like last season, SLU’s conference slate is set up for the team to build momentum heading into the more “crucial” conference games. Case in point, following their games at URI and Dayton, the Bills will face St. Bonaventure (1/15) and Fordham (1/18) at home, followed by a trip to Duquesne (1/22)—those three teams had a combined 11-37 record in A-10 play last season and SLU managed to knock off all three with relative ease.
The Billikens’ season (or at least their final position in the A-10 standings) will likely come down to two three-game stretches. The first includes games at Saint Joseph’s (2/5), at La Salle (2/8) and at home versus VCU (2/15), while the second features road games against VCU (3/1) and UMass (3/9) centered around senior night on March 5 against Dayton.
Richmond (1/29), George Washington (2/22) and Duquesne (2/27) will also visit Chaifetz Arena, as will George Mason, with whom Saint Louis has a home-and-home series (2/1-home; 2/19-away).
This story will be updated with updates from coach Crews on staffing, the status of his team and some other items later this afternoon.