2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Southern Illinois

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#5 Virginia Tech (22-11, 10-6 ACC) vs. #4 Southern Illinois (28-6, 15-3
Missouri Valley)

Sunday, March 18, 2007, 2:40 p.m.

TV: CBS

Roster cards for this game are not available

As a reward for defeating Illinois on Friday night, Virginia Tech will get to
face a team that plays almost exactly the same style in the Southern Illinois
Salukis. The winner will earn a trip to the Sweet 16. The Hokies
were defeated by the Salukis 69-64 in Orlando back in November, but the game
could have gone either way. Sunday’s game should be just as good.

Southern Illinois finished the season 28-6. They advanced to the finals
of the Missouri Valley tournament where they fell to Creighton 67-61. They
are a very good basketball team. Despite playing in the Missouri Valley
Conference, the Salukis are #7 in the RPI. They are a very experienced
team that starts two seniors and two juniors.

Southern
Illinois
Starters
Pos Player Ht Wt Class Pts Rebs

G
Jamal Tatum
6-2
175
Sr.
14.9 3.0

G
Tony Young 6-0 190
Sr.
9.6 2.2
G Bryan Mullins 6-2 190 So. 6.3 2.1

F
Matt Shaw 6-7 225 Jr. 11.4 5.7
F Randal Falker 6-7 230
Jr.
12.4 7.5

Southern Illinois suffered some bad luck on Friday night just as the halftime
buzzer sounded. Starting forward Matt Shaw, a very important part of their
team, came down hard on his ankle while going for a rebound. He was on the
court in pain for several minutes, then limped gingerly to the locker
room. His limp hadn’t improved in the second half. He looked to be
in a lot of pain as he returned to the bench. Shaw didn’t play at all in
the second half.

If Shaw can’t play against the Hokies, it would be a tremendous loss.
He averages 11.4 points per game and finishes well inside. He also a good
three point shooter for a forward. He has nailed 42-of-118 from the
outside this year for 35.8%. He is also an 81.1% shooter from the free
throw line. He has started every game this year for the Salukis.

Shaw’s replacement in the second half against Holy Cross was Tony
Boyle. Boyle averaged just 2.7 points and 1.6 rebounds per game on the
season, but he scored 14 against the Crusaders on Friday. However, he
takes away one of Southern Illinois’ important ingredients…three-point
shooting from an inside player. Boyle hasn’t attempted an outside shot all
year.

Southern Illinois senior guard Jamal Tatum is a three-year starter and the
leader of the Salukis. He was recently named the MVC Player of the
Year. He leads his team in scoring, and is their top three-point
specialist. Tatum has hit 40.8% of his three-pointers this year, and he’s
78.2% from the free throw line as well. He isn’t as physical as the
Illinois guards that the Hokies saw on Friday, but he’s a good defender on a
team that has one of the best team defenses in the nation.

Tony Young is the second senior member of the Southern Illinois
backcourt. Young’s scoring has dropped from 11.6 points per game last year
to 9.6 points per game this year,
but he’s still a very dangerous player. He is a 37.3% three-point shooter
and an 85.3% free throw shooter, but he’s known more for his defense. He
is perhaps the best backcourt defender in the Missouri Valley Conference. Southern
Illinois fans affectionately call him “The Secretary of Defense”.

Randal Falker is Southern Illinois’ best player around the basket, and
Coleman Collins will need to play defense on him like he did on Friday against
Shaun Pruitt. Falker averages 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
He is a great finisher around the basket. He leads the Salukis in field
goal percentage, shooting 60.4% from the field on the season.

Despite his 6-7, 230 frame, Falker is a back-to-the-basket player. He
gets most of his points from inside the lane, and he hasn’t attempted a
three-pointer this year. He is the only Southern Illinois player that is
poor from the free throw line. He went to the line 211 times on the
season, but he hit just 54.5% of his shots. He was also named MVC
Defensive MVP.

A total of three Southern Illinois players made the MVC All-Defensive team,
including Falker, who was the conference’s defensive MVP. They are one of
the top defensive teams in the nation. They play defense exactly as
Illinois does. They extend their defense past the three-point line.
They aren’t quite as physical as Illinois, but their guards make up for it with
good quickness.

Southern Illinois is coached by Chris Lowery, a former Bruce Weber
assistant. Weber was the former head coach at Southern Illinois, and
Lowery adopted his system. That’s why the Salukis and the Illini are such
similar teams. There are a couple of differences between the teams,
however.

Unlike Illinois, the Salukis don’t have any huge space eaters on the
inside. Matt Shaw and Randal Falker are very good inside players, but they
both stand 6-7 and neither weighs over 230. They aren’t the Big Ten type
of frontcourt players like the Hokies faced on Friday night against the Illini.
The Salukis aren’t going to be as physical with Tech as Illinois was, but their
defensive principles will be the same.

Southern
Illinois
vs. Virginia Tech

Category
Southern
Illinois
Virginia
Tech
Stat Conference
Rank
Stat Conference
Rank
FG% 45.1% 7 47.2% 7
FG % Defense 41.3% 1 41.7% 4
3-Pt. % 36.4% 7 36.7% 7
3-Pt. % Defense 34.4% 3 34.2% 8
FT % 69.6% 8 66.4% 10
Rebounding Margin +1.6 6 -0.1 11
Turnover Margin +1.35 5 +4.59 1
Assist/TO Ratio 0.82 10 1.24 2
Scoring Offense 63.1 9 72.8 8
Scoring Defense 56.3 1 64.6 2

Southern Illinois ranks at or near the top of the 10-team MVC in all of the
defensive categories listed above. Their offense ranks near the bottom in
all categories, but don’t let that fool you. They run a slow-paced
offense, so they aren’t going to put up a lot of points, but they are very
efficient. They prefer to keep the game low scoring, in the 50s or
60s. They’ve scored over 70 points just seven times this season, winning
all seven times.

Defensively, they’ve allowed 70 or more points just twice during the
season. They’ve held opponents to 50 or fewer points on nine occasions.
They pride themselves on what they do on defense.

The Hokies do have a big advantage in turnover margin, and assist-to-turnover
ratio. The Salukis have a positive turnover margin, but sometimes they do
turn the ball over a lot in the face of a pressuring defense that gets their
hands in the passing lanes. For example, on Friday night Southern Illinois
had 18 turnovers against a very active Holy Cross defense. The Crusaders
had nine steals during the game.

Tech forced 21 Southern Illinois turnovers in the first meeting, but
committed 18 of their own. Tech shot 45.5% from the field and 35% from
three-point range against the Salukis, good numbers considering SIU’s defensive
prowess, but couldn’t win the game. Southern Illinois shot 51.2% from the
field and 53.3% from three-point range in the first meeting. Tech’s
defense has greatly improved since then, so don’t expect them to shoot that well
on Sunday.

This game should be another low scoring, defensive struggle, although it
likely won’t be quite as ugly as Friday night’s game. If the Hokies want
to make the Sweet 16, they’ll have to grind it out yet again.

Why Virginia Tech Might Win

1) If Zabian Dowdell can get back on track, the Hokies will have a good
shot to beat the Salukis. Dowdell has been off the last three games, and
had just eight points on Friday night.

2) If Matt Shaw can’t play, or isn’t 100%, the Hokies’ cause will be
helped quite a bit. It’s doubtful that Tony Boyle would be able to
duplicate his 14-point performance against the Hokies. Losing Shaw would
take a big bite from Southern Illinois’ offense attack, and they don’t score a
lot even with Shaw.

3) If Tech can win the turnover battle and get some points in transition,
they should win. The Hokies made their big rally on a similar Illinois
team by pressuring them defensively. The Salukis are more athletic in the
backcourt than Illinois, but they still can’t match Tech in the open court.

Why Southern Illinois Might Win

1) If Southern Illinois can control the tempo, they’ll have a good
chance to win. How many times have you heard that before? And how likely is it
that the Hokies can win two games in a row when most of the game is played in in
slow-down mode? Not very.

2) If Matt Shaw can play and is effective, the Salukis’ chances of
winning will improve quite a bit. He had 17 points and six boards against
the Hokies back in November.

3) If Tech keeps shooting like they did in their last three games,
Southern Illinois will be tough to beat.
The Hokies shot 43.9% against Wake Forest, 41.9% against NC State and 35.7%
against Illinois.

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