What’s going on in the Missouri Valley Conference. As any regular reader of this column knows, we’ve been positive about the overall basketball strength of the Valley this season. All of a sudden we’re beginning to wonder.
Wichita State loses at Evansville. Illinois State is unable to break out of its prolonged slump and loses to Drake, of all teams.
Note: we did not include SIU defeating Indiana State as any kind of an upset. A pleasant surprise, but certainly not in the shocking upset category.
Check the records. Indiana State has played 45 games in the SIU Arena and the Sycamores have returned home with only seven wins.
SIU owns a 38-7 edge over Indiana State in games played in the Arena.
We don’t have the records, but we seriously doubt if there’s a wider spread by any Valley team over another conference opponent.
At one time, 1982 through 2005, Indiana State was almost an automatic “W” for the Salukis.
An indication of how the Sycamores have struggled in Carbondale is noting that SIU even defeated Indiana State last season when victories were almost an unknown happening.
For whatever reason, Indiana State does not play well at SIU and it certainly didn’t Saturday night. Thank goodness. Oops, there we go sounding like coach Barry Hinson.
While we, just like all Saluki fans, appreciated the win, we’re still a long way from cancelling Thursday night reservations in St. Louis come Valley tournament time.
SIU will win more conference games than the five it was forced to settle for last season, but not quite enough to finish among the top six teams in the MVC. That means “play-in” time in the Valley.
The other fortunate happening last weekend, other than having the Sycamores in town, was that Desmond Jackson had his second straight big night scoring which provided Hinson with a no-brainer when considering his “bus ticket home” threat to the junior transfer from Wyoming.
Without Jackson, the Salukis would have difficulty in even matching their win total of a year ago and we’d like to believe Hinson would be able to find some other way to discipline the problem player other than shipping him home.
Jackson, who is among the top scoring leaders in the Valley, is a major contributor to whatever success SIU has this season.
And, yet, even if he had messed up in some way last week after Hinson’s ultimatum and the first-year SIU leader had followed through with his threat, it wouldn’t have been the first time in history that the Salukis lost their best player.
Charlie “Chico” Vaughn, SIU’s all-time scoring leader, actually played only three full seasons due to being ruled ineligible twice during his career.
The same thing cost the finest all-around Saluki of all, Walt Frazier, his second year of play before athletics director Don Boydston persuaded him to return to school and sit out a full year before leading the Salukis to their National Invitation Tournament championship in 1967.
And, too, captain-elect Ed Spila, a former Marine and outstanding rebounder, quit the team in 1963 when he and first-year coach Jack Hartman didn’t see eye-to-eye.
So even if Hinson had followed through on his threat and believed it necessary to ship Jackson home, it wouldn’t have been the first time the Salukis had lost their finest player.
Fortunately it wasn’t necessary partially due to a 29-point performance and another win over the Sycamores who seemingly can’t handle the drinking water in Southern Illinois.