SLU goes dancing, lands first NCAA bid since '14

Tom Ackerman
March 17, 2019 - 6:58 pm
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - A blue light flashes in victory above Chaifetz Arena at Saint Louis University. When the Billikens return home from their four-day run to the Atlantic 10 Tournament title, they'll enter their on-campus facility and begin preparations for Virginia Tech -- their first-round opponent on Friday in San Jose.

For the first time since 2014, SLU is going to the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens used a relentless defense and ferocious rebounding to come back from 15 points down to beat St. Bonaventure, 55-53 in Brooklyn on Sunday. The win secured a conference tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA's, where they'll meet the Hokies, a team SLU defeated last season, 77-71 in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.

This time, they'll play across the country in the Bay Area against fourth-seeded Virginia Tech. SLU has been installed as a 13-seed. They'll be the very last scheduled game of the first round, playing on Friday with an 8:57 p.m. tip-off scheduled. The winner of that matchup will play the winner of the No.5 Mississippi State/No. 12 Liberty game in San Jose.

SLU's win against the Bonnies was along the same lines as many of their battles this year: playing aggressive defense, rebounding the basketball and hitting key shots. Granted, free throws were not a strength (46.7%). Jordan Goodwin led the Billikens with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Tramaine Isabell was named Tournament MVP.

Billikens coach Travis Ford cited injuries as one of the obstacles overcome by his team over the course of the season. SLU, a team made up of several transfers, also saw star freshman Carte'Are Gordon transfer to DePaul in the middle of the season. SLU was picked first in the A-10 at the start of the season, shot out to a 5-0 league start before losing four straight games.

They made the conference tournament as a No. 6 seed after losing to St. Bonaventure at the end of the regular season. But after coming back from 11 down to beat Richmond -- and then defeating Dayton and Davidson -- the Billikens stormed back to overcome the Bonnies and get a piece of March Madness.

Now, they'll try to make that blue light flash into April.