From his chair in the corner of the crowded St. Louis University locker room late Saturday afternoon at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., Billikens freshman forward Tanner Lancona could see both the program’s past and its future.
“These guys have taught me so much,” Lancona said, looking out at the team’s seniors. “I’m grateful to be on this team and feel blessed. Now we’re going to have a great offseason and, you know ...”

It’s how college basketball works. One era ends and another begins. SLU’s five seniors — Mike McCall, Dwayne Evans, Rob Loe, Jordair Jett and Jake Barnett — are done playing and the team now belongs to the next generation, such as Lancona. Only two players on the team, Grandy Glaze and John Manning, were coached by Rick Majerus. Only one other, Austin McBroom, met him.

The footsteps are big to fill. SLU’s past three seasons rank among the four winningest in school history. SLU is one of just 10 schools to win at least one NCAA Tournament game in each of the last three seasons. The others: Florida, Syracuse, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Iowa State, Gonzaga, Creighton and Louisville.

That’s good company.

When they arrived, there was no reason to think the group of seniors was any different than any of the others that went before. There were no five-star recruits. But a series of events conspired to put them in place for this to happen.

The university’s suspensions of Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed before the 2010-11 season suddenly opened up swaths of playing time. McCall, Jett, Loe and Evans — Barnett had to sit out that season after transferring from Toledo — quickly found themselves playing a lot, even more after Cody Ellis was hurt. That first season wasn’t easy — SLU went 12-19 — but they were able to learn a lot, on the court, in games, leaving them much more prepared for the season that was to follow.