Saint Louis is off to its best start in 14 years, earning its last four victories over teams from major conferences.
It’s been even longer since it has appeared in the AP poll.
The No. 23 Billikens play their first game as a ranked squad since the 1993-94 season when they visit Loyola Marymount on Tuesday night.
Saint Louis (6-0) earned three consecutive double-digit victories en route to the 76 Classic championship in Anaheim, Calif., capped by an 83-63 win over Oklahoma on Sunday.
The Billikens, who last started this well when they began 8-0 in 1997, beat Washington 77-64 on Nov. 20, then defeated Boston College and Villanova in the tournament before the victory over the Sooners.
Brian Conklin tied his career high with 25 points Sunday and averaged 17.3 in the tournament to be named the Atlantic 10 player of the week.
Cody Ellis, who scored 16 points off the bench in the title game, said the team’s ranking won’t change the approach or mentality of the Billikens going forward.
“Being nationally ranked is a big deal, but we’re not going to practice any different or play any different,” Ellis said. “That’s what’s been keeping us successful.”
Saint Louis hasn’t appeared in the NCAA tournament since losing 48-45 in the first round in 2000 to Utah, which was led by current Billikens coach Rick Majerus.
Despite the early success, Saint Louis has been outrebounded in each game except a season-opening 71-37 win over Tennessee State on Nov. 11. The Billikens’ minus-4.2 rebound differential ranks 290th in the nation.
They’ll look to improve on that against Loyola Marymount (3-2), which has already defeated a ranked team this season.
LMU has no reason to be ashamed of either loss, as MTSU beat UCLA in its next contest and Harvard is undefeated with a win over then-No. 22 Florida State on Friday.
The Lions are coming off an 81-61 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday, as Jarred DuBois’ 17 points led six players in double figures - the first time that’s happened since Dec. 20, 2009.
Leading scorer Anthony Ireland, averaging 15.8 points, finished with only two on 1-for-7 shooting.
“This was a complete team effort,” coach Max Good told LMU’s official website. “We stressed the last couple days the need to move the ball in our offense. We are a much better team when we move the ball. We did a very good job of getting the right player the open shot.”
LMU is beginning a stretch of six straight games at Gersten Pavilion, where it has lost eight of 12.
The Lions have won two of their last three games against ranked opponents after losing their previous 35 such matchups.
Saint Louis and Loyola Marymount have never met, though Majerus brought his then-No. 16 Utah squad to LMU on Nov. 25, 1997, winning 89-50 on the way to his only career appearance in the Final Four.