Team preview: Southern Illinois
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
With the attitude the Salukis took into off-season workouts you might have thought they were the ones who were jilted by the NCAA last season.
Southern Illinois made its fifth straight appearance in the Big Dance, but the stay was a brief one as West Virginia triumphed in the first-round game, 64-46.
"One and done last year -- that bothered the kids," said coach Chris Lowery, who led SIU to the second round the year before. "After winning in the first round and almost upsetting Oklahoma State [in 2005], [losing early in 2006] really bothered them."
Even though they won the MVC Tournament title and received an automatic bid to the NCAA, the Salukis are also irked about a second-place finish in the conference during the regular season.
That combination of disappointment is not the only thing fueling a team that returns everyone from last year's 22-11 campaign.
This year's Salukis also don't want to be the group that ends the string of postseason berths. That could have happened last year when SIU struggled to a 2-3 start without a contributing senior on the roster. The Salukis settled in from there, though, and won 11 straight games, including six in the Valley.
"We've been afraid to fail," said Lowery, who has one regular-season Valley title and one tournament title on his two-year resume. "The biggest thing is they've all been part of the success here."