SIU Arena's new lookSIU Arena is renovated. Much needed. SIU’s style of play should also change. Amazingly, the Salukis need to get back to playing defense. The Salukis finished seventh in the MVC in scoring defense (67.5 points), ninth in shooting defense (44.3) and seventh in three-point defense (34.4). Those numbers aren’t horrible, but they aren’t good enough to win in a defense-first conference.
1. Can a team with seven newcomers mesh on defense?
The Salukis need their new guys to contribute right away. SIU returns six scholarship players (two starters) and brought in four transfers and a freshman. Two redshirts are now eligible. That’s a lot of new faces to work with for coach Chris Lowery. Transfers seem to struggle for at least the first two months of the season. Playing good defense may be the hardest thing for them to learn.
2. Does Gene Teague become the MVC’s best big man?
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Maybe one day. Teague, a sophomore, can score inside with anybody. He needs to cut down on fouls, shoot better from the line and reduce turnovers. He needs to be in shape to play more than 17 minutes a game. Teague says he is in better shape and ready to average a double-double.
3. Will Lowery survive a losing season?
It seems doubtful. SIU slipped a long way from its MVC dominance earlier this decade. SIU went 15-15 last season, but finished ninth in the MVC. The 2009 team went 13-18, 8-10. Even the most patient athletic director would be unlikely to put up with a third straight poor record. A series of off-court problems and roster turnover doesn’t help. The Salukis didn’t seem tough last season, which is a sad statement for a program built on grit and muscle. Lowery needs to show he can get the Salukis to play like they did when Darren Brooks was running things and avoid the play-in round of the MVC Tournament.