Salukis Nearing Crossroads In The Missouri Valley

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIJanuary 12, 2010

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 16:  Head coach Chris Lowery of the Southern Illinois Salukis cheers from the bench while taking on the Holy Cross Crusaders during the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 16, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s do or die time already for the Southern Illinois Salukis.

After a somewhat promising start to the season, the Salukis find themselves in the midst of a three-game skid. A loss to Northern Iowa, who have clearly separated themselves from the pack in the Missouri Valley and a road loss to Illinois State are easy to understand. But the home loss to winless (up until that point) Drake isn’t something you want on your resume.

Road games this week against Creighton and Evansville will almost certainly reveal whether or not the Salukis can become one of the upper tier teams in the Valley. Creighton has struggled all season but their record could be a little misleading. They have played a much, much tougher non-conference schedule than Southern and this may pay off down the road. There just have been any consistent signs of this to date. Now would be a good time for the Salukis to take advantage of their inconsistent play. Last season, only a last second brain cramp prevented the Salukis from leaving Omaha with a win. Cavel Witter was fouled shooting a three, made the foul shots and Creighton won in OT.

Evansville is always tougher at home but are inexperienced and are having a down season, after welcoming many newcomers. The Aces are 0-5 in the conference and really haven’t been that competitive in those games. Perhaps the lone bright spot for the Aces is a close loss to Butler (64-60) at home early in the season. The Salukis have to take advantage of Evansville’s inexperience and come away win a win or they will be battling for 8th instead of third.

Whatever the issue is with Kevin Dillard (he didn’t start against Northern Iowa) and whatever reason Chris Lowery has for starting Nick Evans over Anthony Booker, these things need to get resolved quickly. This is not a stalwart defensive team - they are average in their own end - but they do have some explosive scorers that need to be utilized more. This is a team that can actually outscore some people and maybe a better tempo is what they need.

They do have skill but they need to gel and in a hurry. Everyone knew NI would be good, and Wichita State finished strongly last season. Missouri State has literally come out of nowhere to contend. The Salukis had better start winning or a top-tier finish will be out of reach again.

Upcoming SIU games:

Wednesday @ Creighton

Saturday @ Evansville