The madness of March is back in the MVC

By Tyler Dixon

The best time of the year for a basketball fan is finally upon us: March Madness.

After almost four months of Saluki basketball, it is time for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

SIU did not start the season off the best way, but being 7-3 in its last 10 games gives the team momentum in the tournament. The Salukis had wins over Indiana State University, the University of Evansville and played the Shockers of Wichita State University closely for 38 minutes.

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If the Salukis can click at the right time, they could surprise teams and fans this weekend.

SIU plays Friday for the first time since 2009, but the game will not be easy. The Salukis take on the Panthers of the University of Northern Iowa. Which team will show up for SIU? On Jan. 14, the Salukis squeaked out a win against the Panthers 68-66.

The game in Cedar Falls, Iowa was a different story.

The Salukis were outmatched, and it showed. They were 4 of 15 from the 3-point line while the Panthers were 10 of 25. UNI is a tough team to play because they have several good players. Junior Seth Tuttle is their leader. When he has the ball he can do whatever he wants with it.

Coach Barry Hinson said he has watched game tape of every basket Tuttle has made this season.

“He can go right, he can go left, he can catch it, he doesn’t have to put it on the floor,” Hinson said. “He can throw it in, he can throw it out. I’ve said this before and I believe it, he’s the best big man in the Valley, he’s hard to stop.”

A few things must happen for the Salukis to get a win Friday.

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Number one: the post players must stay out of foul trouble and need to stay on the court. The last game against the Panthers, freshman Bola Olaniyan played eight minutes and finished with zero points, zero rebounds, three fouls and a turnover. If Olaniyan has a similar stat line, the Salukis will struggle. Hinson said he wants to average a double-double from his post players and he has not gotten that.

Number two: sophomore guard Anthony Beane needs to continue playing at a high-level. It gives the Salukis another dimension when they have Beane and Senior guard Desmar Jackson playing to the best of their abilities.

Number three: role players are vital to any team and it holds true with the Salukis. Freshmen Tyler Smithpeters and Sean O’Brien have to contribute in the tournament. O’Brien was key at the beginning of the season, but has fallen off as of late. He played well in the second meeting against UNI and needs to continue that trend.

Smithpeters is clutch. He has not played like a freshman when it has mattered most this season.

He hit two free throws with only a few seconds left on the clock to send the Loyola University game into overtime and the 3-pointer he hit Saturday against Illinois State University is still fresh in the minds of fans.

These players have to produce in every facet of the game this weekend if the Salukis want a chance to cut down the net Sunday afternoon.

The Salukis head to St. Louis Thursday with an open practice from 3-3:30 p.m. at the Scottrade Center.

Tuesday, the All-MVC teams were released along with the player of the year.

Shocker sophomore Fred VanVleet was named the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year. The top three spots were claimed by Wichita State while SIU Senior Desmar Jackson finished seventh in the voting.

Jackson and Beane were named to the All-MVC Second Team. Jackson was also named to the All-Defensive Team and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Tyler Dixon can be reached at [email protected] dailyegyptian.com, @tdixon_de on Twitter or 536-3311 ext. 256.

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