Possible rematch with Jays won’t distract Salukis

By Gus Bode

Third match with Creighton looms on horizon

SIU and Creighton could battle it out for the championship

With the Missouri Valley Conference tournament starting today, the biggest question seems to be if SIU and Creighton can avoid being upset and resume what has become a heated rivalry for a third time in Monday night’s championship game.


The No. 1 seeded Salukis and No. 2 seeded Bluejays dominated the MVC during the regular season and are hoping to do so once again at Arch Madness at the Savvis Center in St. Louis.

Both teams finished the regular season with identical 14-4 conference records, but the Salukis had the tie-breaker, having come from behind to beat Creighton twice by a combined total of five points.

Creighton, which squandered a chance to be outright champions by losing two of its last three, including a stunner Monday night at home to Drake, comes into the tournament a wounded animal that would love to exact revenge on SIU.

The Bluejays are about the only team in the conference that has a bench as strong or stronger than the Salukis, which should enable them to remain fresh throughout the tournament.

With the way the two teams ran through the rest of the league, they are the favorites to meet up in the championship game Monday night, with the winner earning the MVC’s automatic bid to the Big Dance.

But while some are already penciling in an SIU versus Creighton finale, the Salukis aren’t focusing on that third go-round just yet.

We’re the top two teams in the league and on paper it should work out that way, but most of the time it doesn’t, said senior guard Marcus Belcher. I wouldn’t mind playing them again, but I’m just looking forward to getting in and just trying to get a championship.


SIU head coach Bruce Weber said he hopes his team isn’t looking ahead, as the Salukis have shown they aren’t invincible.

First we’ve got to win a game, Weber said. Then we got to win, it might be Southwest [Missouri State] who just beat us. They’ve been through it, we’ve had our butts beaten by Southwest, by other people in the league, so I hope we get to the championship game. Whoever else is there, we just got to deal with it.

The Salukis don’t want to look ahead, but are aware if they do get as far as they’re expected to, their nemesis will more than likely be there waiting for a shot at revenge.

I’m pretty sure it’s going to be Creighton waiting for us, said freshman guard Darren Brooks. They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, but I think we can do it. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.

If the two do meet up and the Salukis come out on top yet again, they will be headed to the NCAA tournament on the high of having beaten the best possible opponent in the MVC as their tune-up for their first Big Dance invitation in seven years.

While some teams would rather draw an easier opponent as their final roadblock, the Salukis would have it no other way than having to go through the Bluejays.

We had the best two records and we pretty much played the best basketball, Belcher said. It’d only be fit to have the best two teams playing in the championship game, coming out to a good battle.

Reporter Jens Deju can be reached at [email protected]