Bryan Mullins gets his wish, and an update on some pro players, in today's Saluki Basketball 5@5.
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No. 1 — Mullins gets his wish with practice: The schedule makers didn't do SIU much of a favor this season, sending the Salukis to Drake, Indiana State, Missouri State (once), Bradley and Loyola, but the pace will change a bit after this weekend.
SIU (7-3, 1-3 MVC) played Drake Sunday and Monday in Des Moines, but will now have almost all weekends exclusively the rest of the season. The Salukis play at Indiana State (3-6, 0-4) Saturday and Sunday at noon, and then host four of their next five games, all on the weekend. The exception is the Jan. 21 game at Missouri State that is on a Thursday night. Travel partners in the MVC are scheduled to play true home-and-homes in 2020-21.
The change in the schedule could give the youngest team in the Valley (SIU's average Division I experience is less than a year per player) more practice time moving forward. Unfortunately, the Salukis could still end up playing all three of the top teams (Drake and Loyola are first and second in the standings, respectively, and Bradley could be up there again) on the road.
No. 2 — McGill, Benson off to good pro starts: Two former Salukis are playing well overseas.
Former guard Eric McGill, who is competing in Bulgaria with Tundja Yambol, is averaging 14.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game for the 2-6 squad. He has started seven of eight games, and is shooting 51.9% from the field so far. Tundja Yambol has lost three straight games. It next plays Jan. 8 at Euroins Chemo More.
Barret Benson, a graduate transfer from Northwestern who played his final season at SIU last season, has played two games for Dinamo in Georgia, which is located near Russia, Armenia and Turkey. Benson is averaging 12.5 points and nine rebounds a game. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound center is 11 of 22 from the field but 3 of 11 at the free-throw line.
No. 3 — Pippen still waiting: Another former Saluki center, Kavion Pippen, is still waiting for his second season with the Austin Spurs in the NBA G League to get rolling. The Spurs are one of only 11 teams in the league that have elected to play at an Orlando bubble that is scheduled to start in February.
Pippen, one of the most skilled big men SIU has had in recent years, played in 27 games last season off the bench. He averaged 7.2 points and four rebounds per game. He shot 60.3% from the field and blocked 21 shots in just under 13 minutes a game.
No. 4 — Sycamores reeling: Indiana State, a veteran team that has Tyreke Key, Cooper Neece and two of the best sophomores in the league in Jake LaRavia and Tre Williams, is off to an 0-4 league start entering this weekend's series against SIU. The Sycamores lost a close game to Missouri State, 70-66, on Sunday, and fell by 10 to the Bears on Saturday. ISU's other two losses came against undefeated Drake.
The Sycamores handled the Salukis last season, winning by 12 in Terre Haute, Indiana, and by nine at the Banterra Center.
No. 5 — Weekend schedule: The first full MVC weekend of the season begins Saturday afternoon, with the Salukis and Sycamores playing at the renovated Hulman Center beginning at noon. That game is scheduled to air on ESPN3. Missouri State (6-1, 3-1) plays at Valparaiso (3-5) at 1 p.m., in the Crusaders' Valley premiere this season, and Illinois State (3-5, 0-2) takes on Evansville (5-5, 3-1) at 1 p.m. in Indiana.
Rest up for Sunday. Here's the five-game schedule:
SIU at Indiana State, noon (ESPN3)
Missouri State at Valparaiso, 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
Illinois State at Evansville, 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Bradley at Northern Iowa, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
Loyola at Drake, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
• Missouri State sophomore forward Isiaih Mosley, who has reeled off four straight 20-point efforts, was the MVC player of the week on Monday. He matched or set a new career-high twice last week, in helping the Bears to a 3-1 MVC start. Mosley (22.1 ppg.) is the Valley's leading scorer going into this weekend, No. 6 in the league in free-throw shooting (87.8%) and No. 7 in 3-point shooting (46.2%).
• Evansville sophomore guard Samari Curtis, the catalyst in the Purple Aces' win at SIU Dec. 28, was the Valley newcomer of the week. Curtis helped the Aces sweep MVC preseason favorite Northern Iowa at the Ford Center last weekend.
• With forward Gaige Prim, Missouri State ranks fifth nationally in 2-point field goal percentage (62.1%) headed into the week. The Bears have made 133 of 214 from the field inside the 3-point arc, and 34.8% behind it (63 of 181). Overall, MSU is fourth in the league in shooting entering the weekend (49.6%). SIU is fifth (47.3%) in field goal percentage.
• It seems like it was weeks ago, but SIU's seven-game winning streak to start the season gave the Salukis a 7-0 run for the second straight season. It was the first time SIU won seven games in a row in back-to-back seasons since 2005-06 and 2006-07, two of the best campaigns in school history.
• Tough 'D': Three Valley teams were in the top 15 in the country entering this week. Bradley was 12th, allowing an average of 59.3 points per game, Loyola was 13th (59.6 ppga.) and Drake was 14th (59.9 ppga.) Tennessee was leading the country entering this week, allowing an average of 55 points per game.
On Twitter: @THefferman