NCAA countdown: No. 27 Saint Louis
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Saint Louis enters 2013-14 as one of the most veteran-laden teams in the country — returning four senior starters from last year’s Atlantic 10 championship team.
But coach Jim Crews does’t think his team’s advantages can be described specifically by age or experience.
The unique “togetherness” in which Crews believes sets his team apart was born when the players united in the face of adversity — Rick Majerus was unable to coach at the beginning of the season for health reasons and died Dec. 1.
As interim head coach, Crews took over an inspired group that leaned on one another en route to a school-record 28 victories, along with the A-10 regular season and tournament titles.
The bad news for Atlantic 10 teams hoping to knock the Billikens off their perch: The close-knit group is just as inspired this season, Crews said. Versatile forward Dwayne Evans leads a cast of returnees that figure to make up one of the most balanced offenses and suffocating defenses in the country this season despite losing three seniors.
2012-13 in review: 28-7 overall (13-3, Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament champion), lost in third round of NCAA tournament.
Tournament projection: At-large bid, No. 7 seed.
Coach’s corner: “We bring back players with a lot of wisdom and who have a great understanding of what we want done. There’s something about these kids that really makes the team special. There’s no egos; they left their scrapbooks at high school. They come from all different backgrounds but lead by committee. Last year, we all came together. Rick was the common denominator. Some lost a coach, some lost a father figure, I lost a dear friend who I knew since I was a child. We all lost Rick. We all needed each other.” — Crews, who officially became the Billikens’ coach in April.
Star watch: Evans (14.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is a unique talent because of his quickness as a 6-5 forward. He averaged 21.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in the A-10 tournament. He’ll be the best player in the conference in 2013-14. Mike McCall Jr. (9.3 … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 27 Saint Louis, click here.]