Saluki men’s basketball releases strongest schedule in recent history

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SIU coach Barry Hinson reacts to a call during the Salukis’ 66-60 loss to Northern Iowa on March 4 during the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

By Ted Ward

The SIU men’s basketball schedule this season includes three road games against Power 5 opponents, facing teams from the Southeastern, Big 10 and Atlantic Coast Conferences.

The Salukis will make November trips to face Arkansas (Nov. 14) and Minnesota (Nov. 25), while facing Rick Pitino and the 2013 national champion Louisville Cardinals on Dec. 7.

“I’ve coached at games against Louisville and at Arkansas and the atmosphere there is unbelievable,” coach Barry Hinson said during an appearance on Mike Reis’ show this morning. “They sell out almost every game and as a coach it’s really hard to hear so these games because the crowd goes so milly banilly. So those games will definitely be a challenge for us.”

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This is the first time SIU will face three Power 5 opponents since the 2007-08 season.

Saluki coach Barry Hinson celebrates with fans after SIU's 81-78 win against Illinois State on Jan. 12 at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)
Saluki coach Barry Hinson celebrates with fans after SIU’s 81-78 win against Illinois State on Jan. 12 at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Other road games include trips to play SIU-Edwardsville on Nov. 18 and UNLV in Las Vegas on Dec. 19 for the Mountain West – Missouri Valley Conference Challenge.

Rounding out the rest of the schedule are home games against: season opener Wright State (Nov. 11), Division II Missouri Southern State (Nov. 16), Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 21), local rival Murray State (Nov. 29), Texas Southern (Dec. 3), Sam Houston State (Dec. 10), Saint Louis (Dec. 14) and the University of Tennessee-Martin (Dec. 22).

Although the team finished 22-10 overall last season, Hinson received criticism for a schedule that ranked 346 out of 351 Division I basketball programs, according to kenpom.com.

Three opponents played in postseason tournaments last year. Texas Southern participated in the NIT, while Sam Houston State and Tennessee-Martin played in the CIT. Louisville was a projected top-four seed for the NCAA tournament before being ruled ineligible.

This season’s opponents combined for a 209-209 record last season.

Hinson said he was impressed with the team’s work ethic in the offseason and thinks they can ride the momentum of last season’s turnaround to even better results this season.

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“The cops had to be called at 1:30 in the morning this summer to find our guys practicing. That’s exciting,” he said. “This team is definitely a building block towards a bright future for the program and this season will be a good test.”

Staff writer Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TedWard_DE.

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