Men’s basketball announces series with Oklahoma State; Cowboys coming in 2023

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Mallory Aukland | [email protected]

SIU men’s basketball player, Trent Brown, attempts to catch a pass thrown to him by teammate during the game against Indiana State Jan. 19, 2022 at the Banterra Center in Carbondale, Ill.

Just a few days after Saluki football toppled a Power Five opponent in the Big Ten’s Northwestern, the men’s basketball program set up what could be another first-in-fifteen-years moment against a Power Five school.

Saluki men’s basketball head coach Bryan Mullins announced the final additions to SIU’s 2022-23 non-conference schedule last week. The most notable matchup is Southern Illinois’s home-and-home series against Oklahoma State of the Big 12 conference.

“Top to bottom, this year’s schedule is one of the most challenging in a long time,” Mullins said. “To have multiple Quad One opportunities in non-conference was important to us and something that is not easy to achieve.”

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The Salukis will go to Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Nov. 10, and the Cowboys will come to Carbondale in the fall of 2023. SIU will have one more road game against Oklahoma State in 2024 to finish out the deal.

“It’s gonna be a very, very challenging, tough game for us, but I think it’s something that is a great opportunity for this program for that next year’s home schedule,” Mullins said.

The Oklahoma State game will be the first time Southern Illinois will host a Power Five team at the Banterra Center since they faced the Cowboys in the first round of the 2008 National Invitational Tournament. The Salukis also hosted the Indiana Hoosiers earlier that season.

Mullins was a member of that 2007-08 NIT team, but missed the Oklahoma State game due to a season-ending leg injury.

“To have a Power Five program come to Carbondale is something I have wanted for our fans and this community since I have been here,” Mullins said. “It is extremely rare in the college landscape now to have this type of home game.”

Since 2000, the Salukis have hosted three Power Five matchups: the aforementioned Indiana and Oklahoma State games in 2007-08, and a non-conference upset over Indiana in 2001 under Saluki Hall of Fame coach Bruce Weber.

The two Indiana matchups were both sellouts, something Southern Illinois has not experienced since 2016, and only twice since 2008.

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“That’s what made this program so special,” Mullins said. “We used to have those types of teams here. The place was rocking and sold out, and the Dawg Pound was going crazy.”

Southern Illinois leads the all-time series against Oklahoma State 4-2, with a 1-1 record in Stillwater and a 2-0 record in Carbondale. Oklahoma State has been the opponent in some of the most significant games in SIU history.

The first game played at the SIU Arena, now the Banterra Center, saw the Salukis defeat the Cowboys 78-55 in 1964. Oklahoma State would go on to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament later that season.

In the 2005 NCAA Tournament, the two teams met in the Round of 32 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, where the AP No. 8 Cowboys overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to beat the Salukis and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Southern Illinois’s history against Oklahoma State in the postseason makes the Cowboys an ideal opponent for the type of program Mullins has been looking to build: a contender.

“If we can build this thing the way we want to build this program, and get to NCAA Tournaments and advance in NCAA Tournaments, and get that reputation of being a championship-level program year-in and year-out… then I think you might have a little bit more flexibility and get some true home-and-home series,” Mullins said.

The scheduled SIU-Oklahoma State series is what is known as a two-for-one, where a mid-major team like the Salukis will play two road games, while the larger school only goes on the road once. It is seen as a necessary trade-off to get a more reputable school to play a true road game.

“WIth the conference realignments and all these conferences going to 20 games, and the increase of neutral-site possibilities, there’s so many less opportunities to have true home games,” Mullins said. “And so many teams don’t want to do series anymore, so a lot of it is ‘buy games,’ or a lot of it is neutral-site or [multi-team event] games.”

While the challenge ahead of them won’t be easy, Mullins believes the tough schedule will help make his team better when the Valley schedule ramps up in early 2023.

“It’s a schedule that’s gonna prepare us for a very challenging 20-game schedule in the MVC,” Mullins said. “But it gives us opportunities to have a strong net, to play great teams, to have some Quad One opportunities. I think it’s just gonna make us a better team come February and come March.”

The Salukis will play just four “true” home non-conference games this season. Mullins added that, although none of the newly scheduled series will start in Carbondale this year, it will create a great home schedule for the 2023-24 season, including Oklahoma State, Saint Louis and Southern Indiana.

“We didn’t find any programs that wanted to start at our place this year,” Mullins said. “That’s where we were trying to look for a while, to get one more home game for the community. That’s why we felt it was important to make sure next year’s schedule was set up.”

Southern Illinois will have its 2022 home opener at the Banterra Center against Little Rock on Nov. 7, before heading to Stillwater to play the Cowboys the following Thursday.

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