Saint Louis is a team that has appeared to have peaked later in the season. They have won 15 of their last 16 with the exception being an overtime loss to Xavier. They ran the table in the Atlantic Ten conference tournament including wins over NCAA tournament teams Butler and VCU. When they played VCU it was a huge contrast in styles as VCU likes to push the tempo and press for 40 minutes while St. Louis leads a balanced patient offense that uses a lot of the shot clock on many possessions. They managed to keep the game at their pace and were able to overcome a VCU team that many prognosticators think have a chance at another final four run.
The Billikens are led by junior Dwayne Evans despite his relative small size is able to score on the inside and create shots for himself. He can also create a shot for himself off the dribble. He is a strong rebounder averaging almost 7 per game. Senior guard Kwamian Mitchell is an aggressive penetrator capable of breaking down the defense and getting open looks for his teammates. Senior Cody Ellis is a hard working big body who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. New Mexico State had an up and down season that concluded with ten losses. They have one of the most intriguing players in the dance in 7 foot 5 355 pound freshman center Sim Bhullar. His conditioning has improved as the season went on and has recently averaged over 30 minutes per game. His size is an obvious distraction for teams as he bloked 82 shots on the season. His 10 points per game average is not a reflection on the impact he can have on both ends of the court. Sophomore guard Daniel Mullings is the team’s leading scorer at 14 points per game and a strong rebounder for his size at 5 per game. Senior Bandja Sy is another big body who plays heavy minutes and can hit an occasional 3 pointer.
The huge X-factor is that any team that has something or someone to play for can be extremely dangerous. Saint Louis suffered the death of Coach Rick Majerus and have been playing with heavy hearts ever since. Majerus was a coach who left an impact whether positive or negative on every player he ever coached and he was particularly close to this unit. Their conference tournament championship may have been an example of the coach they have up in the clouds. The Aggies have been playing much better as of late and have a conference championship of their own to build confidence from. In the end it should be a much more entertaining game than the 13 vs 4th seed game would indicate. St Louis should have enough experience and defense to pull out the win but not enough to cover the spread.
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