Karrington Davis could play against North Carolina Central, how SIU is trying to take advantage of a light week in recruiting, and Saluki coach Bryan Mullins weighs in on the football team's postseason snub, all in today's Saluki Basketball 5@5.
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No. 1 - Will we see Karrington Davis Tuesday night?: He hasn't played in a Division I game yet, but that may be arriving Tuesday night for Nebraska transfer Karrington Davis. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound redshirt freshman guard that redshirted last year after tearing his Achilles tendon warmed up before SIU took on Murray State last week and has practiced every day since, Mullins said Monday.
When asked if Davis would play Tuesday against North Carolina Central (2-4), Mullins smiled and said "Tuesday night, we'll see."
Davis could be a welcome addition to a backcourt looking for a late-in-the-shot clock leader. Aaron Cook is one of the few Salukis who can create his own shot and beat his man to the basket. Now he's out 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his right (shooting) hand. Davis is a pretty good shooter who has won everywhere he's been. He won a state championship at Chaminade (Missouri) High School in 2016 with Jayson Tatum and played on the Montverde (Florida) Academy squad that went 35-0 in 2017-18 and won the Geico High School Nationals.
"Karrington has looked good, too. He's getting better and better," Mullins said. "For him, it's getting as many reps as he can in practice. With him missing all of last year, and just having the timing down and getting more comfortable in practice. He's one of our hardest workers, and he's going to keep working hard in practice."
SIU (2-4) has dropped four straight games since beating Division III Illinois Wesleyan and UTSA in its first game of the Sunshine Slam in Florida.
No. 2 - Opening Day: Today is the first day of boys basketball in Illinois, something that presents SIU's coaches an opportunity this week. With only one game this week (the Salukis play at Saint Louis Sunday after hosting N.C. Central) and almost every other team in the Missouri Valley Conferencen in a multi-team event (MTE), SIU could get out on the road and see more teams than most in the next two weeks. The Salukis' MTE in Florida the opening weekend of the season could pay dividends there, as they have two more scholarships available for the 2020-21 season.
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"We were able to send some guys out last weekend," Mullins said. "Today is the start of high school basketball in Illinois, so we can get out to some games this week and continue over the next couple weeks with the Christmas tournaments and Michigan and Wisconsin start playing their tournaments, as well."
No. 3 - Focus forward: Mullins was asked his thoughts on how SIU's football team getting left out of the FCS playoff field affected the athletic department at Monday's presser. Here was his response:
"Nick (Hill)'s done an unbelievable job with the program, and I've said it before, just the way that he runs his program, from all facets, academics, community service, practice, games. He's set a high standard. It's disappointing because of how well they were playing. For us, I told our guys 'Our season is still ahead of us and we gotta control what we can control. We can control how we play Tuesday night, and that's what we've gotta be focused on.'"
No. 4 - MEAC mastery: SIU has never played North Carolina Central, but is a combined 3-1 against current members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Eagles have made the last three NCAA Tournaments, winning the MEAC Tournament every time to qualify.
The Salukis have beaten Florida A&M, Howard and North Carolina A&T all in the last five years. Their only loss to a current team in the MEAC came in 1988 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to South Carolina State (90-88). SIU beat Toledo 63-51 and Villanova 102-81 before losing to South Carolina State at the San Juan Shootout. SIU went on to win 20 games that season under Rich Herrin and played in the NIT.
No. 5 - So close: Five teams from the Valley were in action Monday, and as of 5 p.m. today, the three that already finished lost.
Illinois State lost to Grand Canyon to cap an 0-3 run at the Paradise Jam, Drake lost its first game at the Gulf Coast Showcase to Miami (Ohio), and Loyola fell to South Florida in the Cayman Islands. Valparaiso closes its run at the Paradise Jam against Cincinnati, and Bradley takes on Northwestern in Fort Myers, Florida, tonight at 7:30 p.m. (FS1) to try to break the shutout.
Since Evansville beat previous No. 1 Kentucky, the league has missed a lot of opportunities for some high-major and Power Five conference victories. Northern Iowa (6-0) gets another chance when it takes on West Virginia Tuesday night in Cancun, Mexico, in the Cancun Challenge.