2019 MVC Women’s Basketball: Taking a look at the Salukis home schedule

By Sean Cooney, Sports Contributor

Southern begins their Missouri Valley Conference schedule tonight against the Evansville Aces tonight at 6 p.m. after ending their non-conference schedule on a four game win streak.

The Salukis finished 7-4 in non-conference play with wins over regional rivals Southeast Missouri and Murray, as well as intrastate foes Eastern Illinois and Northern Illinois.

The Salukis (RPI 117) best non-conference win came over the Horizon League’s IUPUI (RPI 103) in overtime, on Dec. 21.

The NCAA will continue to use the RPI ranking system, unlike men’s basketball, for women’s basketball this season and will be the main metric the committee will look at for March Madness bids.

The Salukis will enter conference play on a high note as they finished their non-conference schedule winning their final four games and finishing 4-0 in the month of December for the first time since 1987.

Players to WatchJunior forward Nicole Martin is the second leading scorer and rebounder for the Salukis averaging 14.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Sophomore forward Abby Brockmeyer is SIU’s leading rebounder and third leading scorer averaging 8.5 rebounds and 12.9 points per game.

Sophomore guard Makenzie Silvey is the Salukis leading scorer averaging 15.3 points per game.

Now let’s look at the rest of the MVC field and their non-conference performances beginning with this weekend’s home opponents, Evansville and Indiana State.

University of Evansville Purple Aces (2-9, RPI 348) January 4th at SIU 6 p.m.

Evansville’s 2-9 non-conference performance has done little to question anyone’s preseason predictions. The Purple Aces were picked to finish last in the preseason conference poll. They were also the 4th lowest ranked team in the RPI in the nation at 348. But on a positive note, Evansville has almost matched their win total of 3-27 from last season.

Evansville’s best win is over Chicago State (331). Although they lost to all of the common opponents they have with SIU – losing to Marshall, Murray State and Southeast Missouri.

Player to WatchSenior guard Kerri Gasper is the Purple Aces’ top scorer and rebounder, averaging 11.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Indiana State University Sycamores (6-5, RPI 172) January 6th at SIU 2 p.m.

The Sycamores were selected 7th in the preseason conference poll after a 2017-18 season included a coaching change midseason. First year Head Coach Vicki Hall and the Sycamores started the season with 3 straight wins. After the fast start, Indiana State went just 3-5 down the stretch heading into conference play finishing 6-5.

Indiana State’s best win was against common SIU foe Saint Louis (205) in Missouri. The Sycamores did challenge themselves, falling to Butler (17), University of Illinois (176) and common SIU foe – IUPUI (105). Indiana State had mixed results against the other opponents in common with SIU, defeating Marshall and Southeast Missouri and falling to EIU.

Players to WatchJunior guard Ashli O’Neal is the Sycamores’ leading scorer averaging 14.6 points per game. Senior forward Regan Wentland is Indiana State’s leading rebounder with 5.8 rebounds per game.

Valparaiso University Crusaders (4-8, RPI 306) January 25th at SIU 6 p.m.

The Crusaders were selected 8th in the conference preseason poll after a 13-18 first season in the Valley last season. Valpo has had a rollercoaster non-conference schedule, beginning the season losing 4 in a row, then winning 3 of 4 games, then losing 3 of 4 games to close out the non-conference schedule at 4-8.

Valpo’s best win was over their single SIU common opponent EIU (194). Valpo’s games against top 175 RPI schools included losses to Toledo (82), Miami-Ohio (131) and Bowling Green (154).

Players to WatchRedshirt sophomore Addison Stoller is Valpo’s leading rebounder and second leading scorer with 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Senior guard Meredith Hamlet is the Crusaders top scorer averaging 14.1 points per game.

Loyola University-Chicago Ramblers (6-5, RPI 255) January 27th at SIU 2 p.m.

The Ramblers were selected 9th in the preseason conference poll as they continue to rebuild after a difficult past few seasons. After beginning the season winning 6 of 8 games, the Ramblers finished out their non-conference slate losing 3 in a row, finishing 6-5 heading into MVC play.

Loyola’s best win comes against SIU Edwardsville (259). The Ramblers lost to their toughest opponents, Purdue (73) and #20 DePaul (49). Loyola did not have any common opponents with SIU.

Players to WatchSophomore guard and forward Abby O’Connor is the Ramblers leading scorer and rebounder averaging 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Ellie Rice is Loyola’s second leading scorer averaging 13.2 points per game.

Missouri State University Lady Bears (4-7, RPI 151) February 8th at SIU 6 p.m.

The Lady Bears were selected 3rd in the preseason conference poll after a trip to the WNIT last season. The began their season losing 7 of 8 games before finishing non-conference on a 3-game win streak heading into conference play at 4-7.

Missouri State’s best wins came over Louisiana Tech (164) and Arkansas-Little Rock (170). The Lady Bears did play a tough non-conference, losing to #16 Missouri (50), Indiana University (12), University of South Dakota (15) and #21 Gonzaga (9). Missouri State did not have any common opponents with SIU.

Players to WatchSenior guard Danielle Gitzen is the Lady Bears’ top scorer averaging 12.6 points per game. Sophomore forward Brice Calip is averaging 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for Missouri State.

Bradley University Braves (10-1, RPI 137) February 15th at SIU 6 p.m.

The Braves were selected 6th in the preseason conference poll after finishing in 7th or worse each of the last 5 seasons in the MVC. Bradley blew through their non-conference schedule starting out with a 9-game win streak before losing at Purdue and then finishing on a high note, winning their last non-conference game, heading into conference play in first place at 10-1.

The Braves best win was over common SIU opponent EIU (194). That was the Braves only win over a top 200 RPI team. Bradley’s only loss was at Purdue (73). Other than EIU, Bradley also played common SIU opponent Southeast Missouri, defeating them in Peoria at the beginning of the season.

Players to WatchFreshman guard Gabi Haack is the Braves’ leading scorer averaging 16.1 points per game. Junior forward Chelsea Brackmann is averaging a double-double this season, averaging 10.6 rebounds and 10.1 points per game.

Illinois State University Redbirds (7-4, RPI 195) February 17th at SIU 2 p.m.

The Redbirds were picked to finish 5th in the preseason conference poll after finishing with their best record since the 2012-13 season. Illinois State’s non-conference is a tale of two halves – they opened the season losing 4 of 5 and then closed out the non-conference schedule on a 6-game win streak.

Illinois State’s best win came on the road at UMKC (171). The Redbirds lost to Butler (17) – the highest ranked team they faced. Their only common opponent with SIU was Saint Louis (205), who unlike SIU, the Redbirds defeated.

Players to WatchSenior forward Simone Goods is the Redbirds’ leading scorer and rebounder averaging 18.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Junior guard Tete Maggett is the second leading scorer averaging 15.1 points per game.

Drake University Bulldogs (8-4, RPI 10) March 1st at SIU 6 p.m.

The Bulldogs are once again the favorite to win the MVC in the preseason conference poll. They return all of their top scorers from last year’s MVC Championship and NCAA tournament team. The Bulldogs have not lost a conference game since the 2015-16 season going 36-0 the last two seasons.

Drake played the toughest non-conference of any team in the Valley and they racked up big wins over Nebraska (63), University of South Dakota (15), Rutgers (24), Creighton (60) and #12 South Carolina (64). Even Drake’s losses nothing to scoff at, losing to #1 Notre Dame (1), #16 Iowa (11), Iowa State (6) and South Dakota State (33). The Bulldogs did not have any common opponents with SIU.

Players to WatchRedshirt junior forward Sara Rhine, coming off the bench in 9 of the 12 games for the Bulldogs, is the leading scorer and rebounder averaging 18.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Junior guard Becca Hittner is the second leading scorer for Drake averaging 17.8 points per game.

Honestly, the entire team.

University of Northern Iowa Panthers (7-5, RPI 74) March 3rd at SIU 2 p.m.

The Panthers were selected to finish 2nd in the preseason conference poll after finishing 3rd in the Valley and playing in the WNIT last season. Northern Iowa did not win or lose more than two games in a row during their non-conference schedule.

Northern Iowa’s best win came against Creighton (60) in Cedar Falls. The Panthers challenged themselves during their non-conference schedule but ultimately fell to Kansas State (68), Iowa (6) and Marquette (16). UNI played two opponents in common with SIU losing to NIU and defeating IUPUI.

Players to WatchSophomore guard Karli Rucker is the Panthers’ leading scorer averaging 15.8 points per game. Senior guard Ellie Howell is the second leading scorer and third leading rebounder averaging 10.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.

After looking at each team’s non-conference performance, here is my prediction for what the standings will look like heading into Hoops in the Heartland this March:

1. Drake Bulldogs
2. Northern Iowa Panthers
3. Southern Illinois Salukis
4. Missouri State Lady Bears
5. Bradley Braves
6. Illinois State Redbirds
7. Indiana State Sycamores
8. Valparaiso Crusaders
9. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
10. Evansville Purple Aces

I predict that the Drake Bulldogs will be the regular season MVC champions and will go on to win Hoops in the Heartland to claim another NCAA tournament berth.

Sports contributor Sean Cooney can be reached at [email protected].

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