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SLU's national status has risen while Billikens are in quarantine

SLU's national status has risen while Billikens are in quarantine

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St. Louis Billikens vs. UMKC Kangaroos

The stands sit mostly empty due to COVID-19 restrictions during an NCAA basketball game at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020. This is the first game for the Billikens where a few select fans, like parents, have been able to attend. The Billikens won 62-46. Photo by Christine Tannous, ctannous@post-dispatch.com

It won’t be known until at least next week how St. Louis University will respond on the court to a long layoff due to positive COVID tests that forced the team into quarantine and weeks of inaction.

However, if the Billikens are able to return to practice and play their next scheduled game Jan. 20, they may emerge on paper in better shape than when they were shut down.

How so?

1. SLU debuted last week at No. 12 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, a tool used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee in choosing and seeding the field. The Billikens actually improved to No. 10 before slipping to No. 15 to start this week. It’s a better scenario than anyone might have thought possible, even with a 7-1 nonconference record and two good wins.

2. The Billikens moved into the Associated Press rankings last week at No. 23 after not playing a game the previous week. It was the program’s first appearance in the Top 25 since the last week of the 2013-14 season.

This week they are No. 24 and were voted as high as No. 16 after being no higher than No. 20 last week. They were on 52 ballots this week, the most this season. And although it means nothing when it comes to the postseason, the ranking does put the Billikens back in the national spotlight while they are idle.

3. SLU held steady around the No. 30 spot in the KenPom rankings, which are significant in the analytics world. The Billikens are 34th in adjusted offense and 35th in adjusted defense.

4. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi moved the Billikens to a projected No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament last week. He has them as the No. 21 overall seed. Meanwhile, Jerry Palm at CBS Sports projects the Billikens as a No. 5 seed.

5. After having its first five Atlantic 10 games postponed, SLU is still just one game out of first place. Every A-10 team has at least one loss in league play. With five games postponed, it remains to be seen how many of the 18 league games SLU will be able to play. But so far, no team has looked like it’s going to run away from the pack.

SLU hasn’t played since Dec. 23 and announced its quarantine on Dec. 30 after multiple positive tests among Tier 1 personnel. However, that group had at least one more positive test after halting activity, a development that prolonged the quarantine by an unknown amount of time.

It is not known if the cases are among players, coaches or staff. However, athletics director Chris May said no one has had anything more than minor symptoms.

The Billikens still have plenty of time to get the required minimum of 13 games necessary to qualify for consideration in the NCAA Tournament. They also have opportunities for Quad 1 or 2 wins with games against VCU (No. 46 NET), St. Bonaventure (No. 56) and Richmond (No. 58).

The women’s team is finishing its third quarantine of the season and hopes to return to action Saturday at home against Davidson.

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