he Saluki men’s and women’s basketball teams were ranked in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll of league coaches, media and sports information directors Monday.
The men’s team was picked to rank last, while the Saluki women were predicted eighth on the annual poll.
The SIU men finished in ninth place last season with a 5-13 conference record, and the team returns four starters and eight letter winners for first-year head coach Barry Hinson.
“You turn programs around by getting players that make you better and have great character,” Hinson said during a morning conference call. “We need total culture change, not so much on the court, but off the court.”
With junior guard Desmar Jackson leading the charge, the Saluki men are deep and experienced in the backcourt with seniors Kendal Brown-Surles, T.J. Lindsay
and Jeff Early. However, the front court doesn’t look as productive or as experienced as last year.
The men lost Mamadou Seck, Treg Setty, and Harry Whitt from last year. Sophomore Dantiel Daniels is out five weeks with a leg injury, and freshman forward Chase Heins will likely redshirt after having surgery, Hinson said. Freshman Bola Olaniyan, an NCAA partial qualifier, is also likely to redshirt.
“If we can ever get healthy, we can play guys without having oxygen tanks behind our bench,” Hinson joked.
Receiving 38 of 40 first-place votes, Creighton University was named the favorite to win the MVC this season. The Blue Jays were picked as high as No. 10 in nation preseason polls.
Creighton’s junior forward Doug McDermott, the reigning Larry Bird Player of the Year, recieved preseason honors as a projected All-Conference player and All- American.
The Saluki women, however, placed eighth in the poll above only Drake and Evansville. The team is coming off an 8-22 season, including four conference wins to put the team ninth in the MVC.
“I don’t put much thought into preseason rankings,” women’s coach Missy Tiber said. “I am more concerned with the daily development of our kids and where our team will be come March.”
Creighton took the top predicted seed for the women’s division as well, followed by Wichita State in second. Creighton’s Carli Tritz was also named MVC preseason Player of the Year. No SIU players were named to the preseason all-conference team.
The lady Salukis will start their season Friday in an exhibition game against Central Methodist, and the men will play an exhibition game against Upper Iowa University Saturday. Both games will be played at the SIU Arena, and tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.