Stop and go

ON A LATE NOVEMBER AFTERNOON at Chaifetz Arena, there are fewer than 30 ticks left in the first half as Saint Louis' Kwamain Mitchell eyes a Washington defender at the three-point line. The point guard calmly backs the ball out toward halfcourt and composes himself. Then he crosses over, hesitates for a beat and buries a three from the top of the key. The Billikens never look back, beating the Huskies 77-64.

It's one of the many moments Mitchell and his SLU teammates have been in complete control this season. If they maintain their momentum, the Billikens, who bolted to a 10-1 start, not only should challenge Xavier and Temple for their first Atlantic 10 title but also end their 11-year Tournament drought. The success is bittersweet, though: This was all supposed to come last season.

Just before the start of practice in October 2010, the Jesuit private university quietly announced that both Mitchell and junior forward Willie Reed -- the team's leading scorer and rebounder, respectively -- would be suspended from SLU because of sexual assault complaints made by a female student. Although criminal charges were never filed (the circuit attorney determined there was insufficient evidence for a case), SLU's student conduct committee ruled that the players violated the school's code of conduct. As a result, the pair couldn't re-enroll until the second semester, and Reed was suspended from the athletic program until further notice. "It was disappointing," Mitchell says. "I let down my teammates and myself."