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SIU in Cuba 1

SIU coach Barry Hinson cheers on a Cuban youth during one of the Salukis' basketball clinics during their trip to Cuba earlier this month. 

CARBONDALE — Mid-major men's basketball coaches around the country ranked SIU higher than people around its own conference Wednesday, as the Salukis came in 10th in the preseason CollegeInsider.com mid-major top 25 poll.

SIU returns five starters, plus preseason all-conference forward Thik Bol, from a 20-13 squad that finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. Bol missed the entire 2017-18 season with a torn meniscus. With a mainly six-man rotation, the Salukis went 11-7 in the Valley. They were picked third in the MVC preseason poll by league media, coaches and sports information directors.

Only Loyola, which was third in the Collegeinsider.com poll, was picked higher than the Salukis. Illinois State, which was picked second in the MVC preseason poll, was 14th. Bradley, Indiana State and Northern Iowa all received votes from the panel of 31 mid-major coaches around the country.

Indiana State's Greg Lansing is the Valley's representative on the voting panel. 

Gonzaga, the preseason favorite in the West Coast Conference that was ranked third in The Associated Press preseason top 25, received 30 of 31 first-place votes to take No. 1 in the mid-major top 25. Buffalo, which returns three starters off a historic 27-9 squad, received the other first-place vote and was second. 

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SIU plays Buffalo twice, including Monday, Nov. 12, in its home opener. The Bulls won their first outright Mid-American Conference East Division title last season and captured their first NCAA tournament win, upsetting Arizona before losing to Kentucky. Buffalo was picked to win the MAC East again this season. 

Gonzaga, Buffalo and Loyola, the preseason favorite in the MVC, was followed by BYU and South Dakota State in the mid-major top 25. Murray State, which comes to SIU Arena Dec. 12, was 18th. 

Saint Louis, which was picked to win the Atlantic-10 Conference, was not in the poll because it does not include the A-10. The mid-major poll is made up of teams from the America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Independents, Ivy, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern, MVC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern, Summit, Sun Belt, West Coast and Western Athletic.

The CollegeInsider.com mid-major top 25 is now in its 20th season of existence.

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todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087

On Twitter: @THefferman

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