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Prep sports writer

So as we get ready for the yearly headfirst dive into a turkey, what should a southern Illinois sports fan be thankful for this Thanksgiving?

How about these things:

1. Good basketball tournaments: Lots of good basketball tournaments. Between the start of the girls season last week and the end of next weekend, I’ll get to see at least three of them, probably four. And if you were so inclined, you could go see two or three of them in a day.

Of course, your significant other might think you were somewhat nuts, and he/she might just be on to something. And your pet might want to disown you as a human. But hey, that’s the risks you take when you’re a fan, right?

Think about it, though. You’ve got your choice of Herrin, Crab Orchard, Vienna, Hamilton County, Harrisburg, Goreville, Du Quoin, and Murphysboro/Trico between this weekend and next. All kinds of options, and for those of us who are paid to write about it, all kinds of good hospitality rooms.

Remember, folks, if it’s free, it’s for me. Which brings us to our next thing for which we should be thankful:

2. No shortage of competitive games — and, before you disagree with me on that one, let’s look back to Monday night at the Pyramid Plus tourney in Herrin for this final score: Carterville 60, Herrin 51.

Yep, that would be a 3-27 team from the season before taking out the tourney host who, incidentally, was favored to win SIRR Ohio by that league’s coaches. Now, one game is a small sample size, and on paper, the Tigers are too good a team to deliver a sub-optimal return of that ilk all season.

But you never know what you might see in a one-game shot. And if you saw the Lions pull off that upset, you don’t know if that might propel them to a great turnaround. The history books are full of stories about teams going from 3-27 to successful years, all because they built up some confidence early and started believing they were really good.

Speaking of possibly being really good, we delve into this concept:

3. What if the SIU men were to get a shot at No. 6 Nevada Friday in Las Vegas and pull it off?

I hear you laughing through that first helping of cranberry sauce and stuffing. But really, it can happen, and it wouldn’t be as impossible as you might think.

I know, the Salukis first have to take care of business Thursday against Massachusetts. That should happen with a decent performance. While the Minutemen have the top returning scorer in the Atlantic 10 Conference in guard Luwane Pipkins, who scored 21.2 points per game last year, SIU has fared well early this season against prolific scorers.

Which brings us to the Wolf Pack, this year’s official mid-major darling, and with good reason. The lineup is tall and talented. The team is deep, and they play with the extra meanness that every team itching to prove themselves owns.

But Nevada has a couple of possible weaknesses. Its 3-point shooting is merely OK and its defense against the one good team it’s played, BYU, showed that it can be vulnerable to a quick, penetrating guard. You know, sort of like SIU’s Aaron Cook.

So if Cook has a good game and the Salukis can at least compete with the Wolf Pack inside, well, stranger things have happened.

If not, pass me the leftover turkey, and don't forget the gravy. 

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Bucky Dent covers high school sports for The Southern. He can be reached at bucky.dent@thesouthern.com.

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