Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
9 p.m., ESPN2 (Terry Gannon, Len Elmore)
"I think if we play as well as we can, we have a chance. They're about as young as we are. I could be crazy, but stranger things have happened." -- coach Brad Soderberg
"When I heard about it on the schedule. I kind of marked it down because North Carolina is such a historic school and it's a great opportunity for us as a team and as individuals to show what we're made of." -- Ian Vouyoukas
Season To Date: The Billikens enter Wednesday night's game with a 3-2 record, having posted wins over Eastern Illinois, Jackson State and Southern Illinois (normally a mid-major powerhouse, but a team that has struggled thus far this season), while losing to Hawaii and UW-Milwaukee.
Defense: When you've got a starting lineup as undersized as St. Louis -- with only one starter the first five games over 6-4 -- you've got to find ways to make up for that deficiency. Coach Brad Soderberg's plan has been to institute a fast, spread offense, and more importantly, he's prioritized defense. The Billikens' opponents are shooting 39.3 percent from the field. Simply put, when SLU plays good defense, they win. In the three wins, opponents are shooting just 31.8 percent and averaging 46.7 points per game. But Soderberg will also make a change to the lineup. After starting the same five players through five games, he's going to put 6-8 junior Justin Johnson into the starting lineup in place of 6-4 sophomore Danny Brown to give his team more size.
The Big Greek: Ian Vouyoukas, a 6-10, 270-pound junior center, has developed into the Billikens' best player. His 16.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks leads the team. After a slow start his freshman year, the Greece native earned the team's Most Improved Player award as a sophomore and has taken another step this season. He's more than just a shotblocker/rebounder now, as a developing offensive arsenal has him shooting 59.1 percent from the field this season and led his coach to call him a "complete post player."
Freshman Impact: SLU's incoming freshman class was its best in years and has already begun to live up to the hype. Tommie Liddell, a 6-4 playmaker, was supposed to enroll last season, but had to prep a year at Hargrave Academy. Upon his signing, Soderberg called Liddell as skilled a guard as he'd ever coached. Liddell was in the starting lineup the first game of the season and has made a big impact, as the team's second leading scorer (11.6) and rebounder (6.0). Kevin Lisch chose to stay close to home and signed with St. Louis over offers from Illinois, Purdue, Notre Dame and Marquette. He's struggled to find his range thus far, but is averaging 7.6 points off the bench. The third member of the heralded freshman trio is Obi Ikeakor, a promising power forward who will redshirt this season as a result of knee surgery.
Long Range Woes: St. Louis' perimeter shooting has pretty much been a one-man game. Senior Anthony Drejaj is shooting 50.0 percent on three-pointers, while the rest of the team is at 20.0 percent, including point guard Dwayne Polk's 0-for-13.
Series History: UNC and SLU have only played twice in program history, with the series tied at 1-1. They last met during the 1959-60 season, when the Billikens took down the Tar Heels, 68-52, at the Kentucky Invitational at Lexington. Carolina won the first meeting in the Dixie Classic in Raleigh, 63-48, during the 1957-58 season.
Background Location: St. Louis, Mo. Enrollment: 11,422 Conference: Atlantic 10 Nickname: Billikens Colors: Blue & White Head Coach: Brad Soderberg Record at SLU: 44-48
Projected Starters: 00 Dwayne Polk (5-9, 160, So.) – 5.6 ppg, 3.6 apg 20 Anthony Drejaj (6-2, 205, Sr.) – 8.8 ppg, 50% 3pt 25 Tommie Liddell (6-4, 200, Fr.) – 11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg 23 Justin Johnson (6-8, 230, Jr.) – 4.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg 15 Ian Vouyoukas (6-10, 270, Jr.) - 16.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg Key Reserves: 21 Kevin Lisch (6-2, 180, Fr.) – 7.6 ppg 1 Danny Brown (6-4, 200, So.) - 5.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg 33 Vas'Shun Newborne (6-6, 220, Sr.) – 3.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg 44 Bryce Husak (7-0, 260, So.) – 3.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg 32 Luke Meyer (6-5, 200, So.) – 2.4 ppg
Vouyoukas ... Polk
Brown ... Drejaj
Lisch ... Soderberg