2007-08 Southern Illinois Basketball Preview
Southern Illinois Salukis
Overall Rank: #24
Conference Rank: #1 Missouri Valley
2006-07: 29-7, 15-3, 1st
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Southern Illinois has some issues to address with the departure of both wings. Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young were the leaders of the team and somebody in the backcourt has to step up and fill that role. The duo of Tatum and Young were also the most dangerous shooters on the team and their probable replacements have had some consistency issues shooting the long ball.
It was Tatum who would have the ball in his hands when the Salukis needed a big bucket. He hit nearly 41 percent of his shots from long range and led the team with 15.2 points per game. Young added 9.9 points per game and was nearly as dangerous of a threat from three-point land as Tatum. Losing those two will turn the Saluki’s into a frontcourt heavy scoring offense for now, but SIU will reload quickly. Seldom used Jamaal Foster, Kobby Acquah and C.J. Smith have also wrapped up their careers in Carbondale.
After a year of prep school, a year redshirting at Southern Illinois and another year on the sidelines with a torn ACL, Christian Cornelius may finally be ready to play some college ball. If his knee is healthy, the 6-7 forward should help replace Tatum and Young on the wings. Cornelius has nice size for a perimeter orientated player and will at least provide some much needed rebounding out of the backcourt. Shooting guard Brandon Wood will probably find himself down the depth chart a ways for now, but he definitely has the ability to earn some playing time in what will be a relatively inexperienced group. The newcomer expected to make the biggest impact is Carlton Fay. The 6-8 power forward will be a very effective big man off the bench this year and a starter next year. Nick Evans has that ever ambiguous reputation of having ‘potential.’ In this case, it is really true. The 6-11 center has limited basketball experience and that will keep him on the sidelines for now.
Who to Watch:
The new senior leaders of the Saluki team are Randal Falker and Matt Shaw. The dynamic forward duo averaged 23.6 points and 13.4 rebounds last year. Falker is a monster inside on both ends of the floor. He may only be 6-7, but that does not stop him from dominating bigger opponents. This offense will run through Falker and on the defensive end he will stop just about anybody from getting to the basket. Shaw is much more perimeter orientated than Falker and is actually the most proven long range threat returning to the team. Along with Fay, the depth up front will come from Tony Boyle and Jordan Armstrong. There are major questions around both of those guys, so getting immediate production out of Fay is quite important, especially if injuries or foul trouble strike.
The wings may be gone, but the Salukis do have a leader in the backcourt. Point guard Bryan Mullins now has two years of starting experience under his belt and will be asked to take over some of the on-court management that was previously filled by Tatum and Young. Mullins, who averaged 6.3 points and 3.5 assists last year, is a decent shooter who could see his scoring output skyrocket if Wesley Clemmons, Joshua Bone and Tyrone Green struggle to take over the scoring on the wings. Clemmons has been a major contributor off the bench for a couple years and is a two-time MVC All-Bench team honoree. SIU fans are hoping he will come into his own as a starter this season. Bone saw limited action as a freshman, mostly due to a foot injury, and he is the one who is expected to have a breakout season. Southern Illinois has the talent up front to beat anybody in the conference and throw in an experienced point guard and this is a team that should do some damage in March. The concern on the wings will not last long and Coach Chris Lowery will find himself a shooter and a slasher that can match anybody in the Missouri Valley Conference by January. The team has reached the NCAA Tournament six years in a row and this group will make it seven.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Bryan Mullins, Junior, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Joshua Bone, Junior, Guard, 2.0 points per game
Wesley Clemmons, Junior, Guard, 3.0 points per game
Matt Shaw, Senior, Forward, 11.3 points per game
Randal Falker, Senior, Forward, 12.3 points per game