Are the Salukis ready? I hope so.

After last night's 66-52 win against California (Pa.), SIU head coach Chris Lowery made a clear statement as his team prepares for its first match-up against a Division I school.

We need to get better in 24 hours.

Well, that 24 hour mark is coming close as the Salukis get set to tip-off against the Minutemen of the University of Massachusetts. UMass is fresh of a 2K Sports Classic opening 90-71 win against Arkansas-Monticello. It's safe to say that this will be a test for both teams tonight.

The Minutemen and the Salukis are a lot alike. Both teams will succeed if their guard play is successful. If the guard play struggles, then each team will struggle.

Senior guard Chris Lowe scored 14 points and dished 11 assists against the Boll Weevils and will be the focal point of the UMass offense, which is well documented by Don Ford at Saluki Hoops.

SIU will also look for its backcourt to shine as senior Bryan Mullins and freshman Kevin Dillard look to duplicate what they did last night. The two combined to score 16 points and contribute 17 assists.

If the Salukis are going to pick up the win, they will need to take advantage of the team's frontcourt depth. Senior Tony Boyle will need to perform better than the 11-minute, 2-point showing he gave last night. If not, sophomore Carlton Fay and freshman Nick Evans look ready to perform admirably for the home crowd.

Fay notched a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double last night and Evans scored 8 points and pulled down 5 rebounds in 16 minutes sof play.

While valuing the ball has become the most overused phrase in Saluki basketball, if each player values their minutes tonight (and throughout the season) they'll go places.

And I know I don't need to remind anyone that if SIU wins tonight they'll be going to New York City's Madison Square Garden to take on the Duke Blue Devils.

But first on the agenda: Just win (tonight) baby.

Lowery: We need to get better in 24 hours [Daily Egyptian]