Not that Southern Illinois basketball is the center of the universe, certainly not this year anyway, but you can't read anything generated in this state without noticing that future Saluki Hall of Fame candidate Bryan Mullins is done for the season with a stress fracture.
Everywhere I read, from blog posts, message board posts and otherwise, I see people thinking that the world is over in terms of SIU basketball.
I'm here to tell you that this one-trick pony of a program was put out to stud months ago.
It all started going down hill last season when the Salukis scheduled three too many tough teams than they could handle and missed out on the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the Bruce Weber/Matt Painter/Chris Lowery administration got the ball rolling on the right path in 2002.
That notwithstanding, SIU made it into the second round of the NIT after a shameful early exit in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Everyone was disappointed then but how are you all feeling now?
This team is struggling to stay around .500 after a slew of bad losses to start the season.
But after the bad start fans continued to make excuses for this sub-par team saying that after the defections of Torres Roundtree and Christian Cornellius the Salukis turned the corner.
Did they really?
This team still hasn't won more than two games in a row this entire season and if you throw out the win against California (PA), SIU has pulled in only two stretches of back-to-back wins.
So back to the current state of the team, one which we see the body count on the bench continue to shrink.
This season has been over long before Mullins went down with a stress fracture.
Sure the Salukis' losses haven't been bad non-conference wise (Duke, UCLA, Nevada, Western Kentucky, Saint Mary's College) but what about the quality wins? On top of that, what about the bad losses?
This team lost at home (which is unheard of to begin with) to Charlotte, currently a 7-13 team with one win in the Atlantic-10 Conference. Their two "quality" wins? UMass and Saint Louis, both sub-.500 in the A-10.
In fact, SIU didn't beat a team that currently owns a .500 record or better in its conference.
In the end, the loss of Mullins is a loss of both a production and leadership aspect, but in the end, this is what is best for this team because the Salukis were not going anywhere in the postseason and Mullins, along with Wesley Clemmons and Tony Boyle, are gone after the season.
Now it's time for this vaunted recruiting class to get its minutes.
Frankly, there's no reason not to run a lineup out there that consists of Kevin Dillard at point guard, Ryan Hare as the shooting guard, Justin Bocot at small forward, Carlton Fay as the power forward and a split of minutes for Anthony Booker and Nick Evans at center.
Off the bench you give Boyle and Clemmons minutes to give the kids a blow and that's it. In fact, there aren't anymore healthy players on the team.
Next year, transfer Tony Freeman enters the picture in a starting role pushing Bocot or Hare to the bench unless coach Chris Lowery is interested in running a Villanova four-guard offense.
If not the team will benefit from having one of the guards off the bench along with either Booker or Evans off the bench as well. You also have to hope that the trio of newcomers are ready to go out of the gate, otherwise depth will yet again be a major issue.
Before the season started, SIU appeared to have too much depth to keep everyone happy and three players left after their minutes were squashed.
Funny how times change.
- Tuesday, February 3, 2009
- Posted by M.J. Hartwig at 3:10 PM