The St. Louis University Billikens will leave the state of Missouri for the first time this season as they head to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies (2-3) on Wednesday night.
Tipoff is scheduled for 11 p.m (CT), providing Billiken fans with a little "Midnight Madness" drama on an otherwise calm November weeknight.
West Coast Bound
Wednesday's game provides the Billikens their one true road contest of the non-conference season. The team returns to Chaifetz Arena for nine consecutive home games stretching into the second week of January.
The West Coast has provided the Billikens a mixed bag of memories in recent time. Last year, the team followed an impressive victory in the 76 Classic in Anaheim with a terrible loss to Loyola-Maramount two days later in Los Angeles.
There will be no championship hangovers to blame this year for a sluggish game at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Real Life M * A * S * H Unit
SLU (3-2) will be looking to stop the seesaw of wins and losses this season and instead win consecutive games for the first time this year.
That will be no small task, as the team is essentially a band of walking wounded.
Guard Keith Carter remains out of action with a foot injury. He has missed the team's past three games, however, Tom Timmerman reported Tuesday morning (via STLToday.com) that Carter was not wearing a protective boot anymore.
Forward Grandy Glaze is still wearing a sling to help heal his dislocated shoulder. There is no timeline on his return to the court. Guard Kwamain Mitchell has also moved off the crutches and Timmerman reports that he looks fine. Mitchell is still targeting a late-December return from a broken foot.
More importantly, guard Jordair Jett and forward Cody Ellis are dealing with injuries of their own. Jett pulled his groin against Kansas last week in the CBE Classic. He was able to play Saturday in the team's 61-51 victory over Southern Illinois, but his hobble was obvious. Jett flashed his explosiveness a few times, but for the most part, he limped up and down the court.
Jett is still not 100 percent, although he reportedly told Timmerman that he was practicing with the team and getting better.
If Jett is unable to contribute on the floor, the Billikens will be left with only two guards on the roster: Mike McCall and Jake Barnett.
Head coach Jim Crews noted in Saturday's post-game radio interview that Ellis dinged his shoulder in Kansas City and that the injury was still affecting him against SIU.
Ellis could be seen working on the shoulder in pre-game and halftime shootarounds, but his play was not markedly affected, as he made three of his six three-point attempts.
The Billikens will most definitely need Jett and Ellis at their best, if they are going to have a shot at taking down the Huskies on their home court.
Breaking Down the Huskies
The Huskies came into the season with high hopes. Picked by media writers to finish fourth in what is a very underrated Pac-12 conference, Romar did not look to be missing a beat with this year's squad, despite losing the team's top two scorers from last season.
Without Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten (32.4 points per game combined last year), the Huskies have become junior guard C.J. Wilcox's team.
Wilcox (6'5", 195 lbs) has not disappointed, averaging 18 points per game, including a career-high 26 points in the Huskies' loss Wednesday night at home to Colorado State.
The Pac-12 All-Conference first-team guard will be a matchup nightmare for the much shorter Billiken guards (I feel like I've been saying that a lot so far this season), stressing the need for Jett's defensive presence even more.
In the frontcourt, eyes will naturally go to the Huskies' big man, Aziz N’Diaye. At 7'0", 260 pounds, N'Diaye will give SLU's Robert Loe and John Manning all they can handle.
N'Diaye is averaging a double-double this season (10.8 points, 11.0 rebounds) and has a solid enough post game that he should be able to take advantage of the subpar defense Loe and Manning have displayed so far this year.
At the point, the Huskies are led by senior guard Abdul Gaddy. Gaddy (6'3", 195 lbs) has NBA-type passing skills, leading last year's 24-11 Huskies (14-4 conference) in assists last year (5.2 per game).
Gaddy has flashed a newfound scoring ability. He has upped his average from 8.1 to 14.6 points per game, while increasing both his overall shooting from 40.0 to 50.0 percent and his three-point shooting 33.0 to 42.1 percent.
Fortunately for the Billikens, they will not have to face the Huskies' best low-post presence, as Shawn Kemp Jr. (yes, his dad is who you think it is) remains sidelined until January with a torn patellar tendon.
Washington has lost back-to-back homes games (Colorado State and Albany) for the first time since 2008. They are not the kind of team to lose three in a row at home.
It will take solid performances from the entire Billikens rotation to overcome the injuries, travel and late start to take down the Huskies and return to St. Louis with a solid 4-2 record.
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