The Sons of Majerus will never pass this way again. This is their final NCAA Tournament, the last dance. You just hope that this isn’t their last game, not after all that the St. Louis U. seniors have done to redefine and rebrand the SLU program. Before SLU meets 12th-seeded North Carolina State tonight at Amway Center, let’s pause for a while to reflect. When none of the big programs made a recruiting pitch, the late Rick Majerus saw something in each of them. Something that convinced the wise old coach that they’d help him build a winner at a place where mediocrity had settled in. Brian Conklin, Kwamain Mitchell, Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett, Mike McCall Jr., Cody Ellis, Rob Loe, Cory Remekun, Kyle Cassity. The names written on the Majerus building blocks. Others would come in later to help, including Grandy Glaze and Jake Barnett. But only a few of the Sons were there to endure the worst of times, including a 12-19 record in 2010-2011, as Majerus labored to reverse years of futility. In his senior season, Conklin anchored a breakout SLU team that surged into the 2012 NCAA Tournament to defeat Memphis and drag top seed Michigan State down to the final seconds before succumbing in the last game Majerus ever coached. More work needed to be done. Conklin passed the shovel to the others, including transfer Barnett, who had been recruited by Majerus. Mitchell, Ellis, Remekun, Evans, McCall, Jett, Loe and Barnett took it from there. In an incredible display of character and camaraderie, the 2012-2013 Billikens rallied after grieving Majerus’ death. Under the steady influence of coach Jim Crews, the Sons won 28 games, the Atlantic 10 regular-season title and the A-10 conference tournament, and captured another victory in the NCAA Tournament. With that achievement, time was up for Mitchell, Ellis and Remekun. The responsibility to keep the ball rolling was promptly handed to Evans, Jett, McCall, Loe and Barnett. They’ve done a terrific job of maintaining the standards. “It’s meant a lot,” Jett said Wednesday. “It’s always good to have a class older than you that has success, and then they can bring it down to you, and you have success. And hopefully the next group of guys will have a lot of success.” Over the past three seasons, SLU is 80-21 and has the 11th-best winning percentage (.792) in Division I. Including the conference tournaments, the Billikens have gone 42-12 in the Atlantic 10. This season SLU clinched its second consecutive A-10 regular-season title, ascended to No. 10 in the national polls, zoomed to a 19-game winning streak, won 26 games and cruised into a third consecutive NCAA Tournament. But the Sons have flattened out, losing four of their last five as they prepare to play a hot N.C. State team. If you’ve been reading or listening to any of the national NCAA forecasts this week, you’re aware that SLU is the trendy choice for an immediate ejection from the tournament. Heck, they’ve already been eliminated in the brackets of the mind. Can you blame anyone who views SLU as a quick out? Let’s be honest here: SLU has shown disappointing form down the stretch. The sharpness of the offense deteriorated into an alarmingly high count of foolish, avoidable, self-created turnovers. They failed to box out on the boards. And the most consistent SLU trait of them all — smart, stubborn defense — fizzled. Blame it on fatigue, injury or mild complacency, but this group hasn’t been playing up to the standards installed by Majerus, supervised by Crews and executed by the Sons. The Billikens are running low on time now. This is it for the Sons of Majerus. Tonight against N.C. State, they can stand by their work of the past three seasons, and defend it as if protecting a sacred monument. Or they can go quietly off into the night, haunted by what went wrong and why they failed to correct it.
It's up to the 'Sons of Majerus'
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Mar 20