Thoughts from Southern Illinois
We were in Carbondale, Ill., on the campus of Southern Illinois, for the second week of GameDay. Southern Illinois has been to the NCAA tournament for six straight years, but it has struggled this year at 10-10. The Salukis are a much better team than their record indicates, but they miss guards Jamal Tatum and Tony Young (graduation). They played a difficult nonconference schedule, going up against four teams in the RPI top 50. That doesn't include Mississippi State (who is undefeated in the SEC), and Western Kentucky, who could easily win the Sun Belt Conference and has one the best 2 guards in the country, Courtney Lee.
This is a down year for the Missouri Valley Conference. They had only three top 50 wins as a conference during nonconference play compared to 15 top 50 wins last year. Drake, who is undefeated in the Missouri Valley Conference at 8-0, has a good RPI only because they haven't played anybody bad. They played one team in the current Top 25 and they lost by six to Saint Mary's. Because of the conference's lack of success in nonconference play, I believe they are not going to get multiple bids into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 9 years.
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