Re: Any WVU fans out there?
If you're curious about SIU here's a quick sketch of the team.
SIU's defense is rugged. The Salukis allowed less than 56 points a game and the way they help frustrated plenty of teams with big posts. One thing that could either help or hurt the Salukis is WVU's outside shooting. SIU's stifling man defense consistently pushes the opponent's offense out beyond the 3-point line. If WVU is on it could kill the Dawgs. If the Mountaineers struggle from beyond the arc it plays right in to SIU's hands.
Depth-wise, the Salukis have some problems. An early-season starter -- Mike Dale -- left the team before the Valley started conference play. That loss pushed a freshman in to serious minutes and affected SIU's bench. The Salukis go nine deep but there is a dropoff in post play once the Dawgs get to the bench. They've got a freshman -- Tony Boyle -- who gets whistled for a foul when he steps off the team bus. Jamal Foster is a shot blocker but he's so thin that larger posts can take advantage of him. Austin Brooks is a senior walkon who doesn't offer much in the way of offense. Wesley Clemmons is a talented freshman who has some defensive deficiencies but can rise and get to the rack.
The Salukis are ridiculously young -- only two seniors are on the roster and one of them -- Kyle Smithpeters -- is the human victory cigar. I think Tatum and Young are juniors. I'm pretty sure Falker and Shaw are both sophs. All this bodes well for the future but what affect it has on the present gets determined in this game.
Defensively, the Salukis usually lose the foul battle. Their practices are incredibly physical and that carries over to gameday. If officials call a tight game, expect WVU to get to the line at least 10 more times than SIU. Part of that problem lies in SIU's offense.
Offensively, the Dawgs are terrible. They run a motion offense that looks for attacks with less than 15 seconds on the shot clock. While Matt Shaw (32) and Tony Young (15) can shoot, only Jamaal Tatum (3) has the skill set to create his own shot. That's why you'll see Tatum take some wild shots as the shot clock runs down.
The Salukis have an injured freshman running the point. Bryan Mullins (10) is a lefty who plays stellar defense but badly twisted his ankle in the MVC tourney. Mullins led the MVC in steals and he's a sparkplug for the offense because he can drive and kick out. His outside shot, however, lacks refinement. He can hit but he's more likely to miss from 19-foot-9.
Randal Falker (14) has played well this season -- leading the Salukis in double-doubles -- but he's prone to take himself out of the game with fouls. His interior defense has frustrated many post players and he's high-energy on the glass. Falker has some questionable hands when he posts and his jumper is anything but accurate.
Tatum plays with reckless abandon and has no fear of taking big shots. He led the team in scoring this season and can score over 30 points if he's on his game. Tatum is the poster boy for the team and if he's playing well the Dawgs are tough to beat.
Young is a shooter. The guy was SIU's defensive player of the year last season -- even over D-player and MVC MVP Darren Brooks -- and he's opened up his offense this season. If his feet are set and his shoulders are squared he can connect from almost anywhere.
Shaw is a horse at forward. It looked like he put on at least 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and he's not scared to mix it up underneath. He's a good athlete with some hops who can also shoot. Unfortunately, he rarely looks to score on his own so he disappears sometimes.
This isn't SIU's best team of their five-year run of NCAA tourneys. The fact that they rallied after a poor start gives Saluki fans hope but the Dawgs haven't played a team of WVU's calibre. If the game stays under 60 points, SIU wins. Anything 70 or over is a WVU victory.
Good luck to both teams.