Lisch and Liddell are the Billikens’ two standouts and both are returning senior starters. But after that you’ll find eight freshmen decorating the roster. And two of them are expected to be in the starting lineup when SLU opens against Missouri-St. Louis on Nov. 14 at the brand new Chaifetz Arena.
Rick Majerus’ charges finished 16-15 in his first campaign at SLU after successful stops at Utah, Marquette and Ball State. Now, he’ll have to hope his first true recruiting class can pick up the slack. SLU figures to be one of the youngest teams in Division I.
Kwamain Mitchell, a dimunitive 5-foot-10 guard who hails from Majerus’ hometown of Milwaukee, is expected to be the Billikens’ point guard. The other frosh who could start is 6-10 Brett Thompson from Vienna, Ill. When he signed a letter of intent with the Billikens last year, Majerus said Thompson reminded him of former Utah standout Michael Doleac. Fellow freshmen Brian Conklin (6-6) and Willie Reed (6-9) figure to see extensive playing time at forward.
But if the Billikens’ want to entertain any thoughts of playing in the NCAA Tournament, Lisch and Liddell will have to have big senior seasons. Lisch averaged 14.6 points per game as a junior while Liddell contributed 12.3 ppg as he struggled to acclimate himself to Majerus’ system (He scored 15 ppg as a sophomore).
Majerus has been brutally honest with the media in the preseason when assessing SLU’s chances. But in his last two coaching stops, Majerus’ second seasons have yielded big results.
After going 14-14 at Ball State in 1987-88, the Cardinals bounced back with a 29-3 record. Majerus parlayed that success into a gig at Utah. In his first year in charge of the Utes, Majerus went 4-2 before stepping aside due to heart surgery. In 1990-91, the Utes made it to the Sweet Sixteen with a 30-4 mark and a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.
The Billikens would be hard-pressed to duplicate that success with a lineup full of freshmen while venturing through the Atlantic 10 Conference, where SLU will be presented with numerous long road trips out east.
But there’s no reason to think SLU can’t be marginally better with a home to call their own in Chaifetz Arena. If Majerus can get the most out of Liddell and Lisch continues his strong play at both ends of the court, the Billikens have a chance. Then fans will have to hope the freshmen can grow up quick and prevent opponents from just locking down on the senior stars.