The SIU men's basketball team closes out its Iowa swing Tuesday night at Drake.
Tipoff at the Knapp Center is set for 7 p.m. in Des Moines. The Salukis beat Northern Iowa 58-51 Saturday night in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for their first back-to-back wins there since 1995.
Here are three things to watch:
No. 1 — Will he or won't he?
Multiple sources told The Southern Illinoisan last week senior guard Armon Fletcher's suspension would end after six games, but there has been no word from SIU or Salukis coach Barry Hinson. Fletcher has practiced, traveled and warmed up before every game since getting suspended for breaking team rules prior to the Southeast Missouri State game.
Fletcher tweeted for the first time in a while Monday "HE CAME BACK LIKE A SURVIVOR." SIU can certainly use the preseason first team all-conference guard against the top-scoring team in the Missouri Valley Conference. Drake is much different without point guard Nick Norton, who tore his ACL last week against Evansville, but still averages 80.7 points per game.
No. 2 — SIU defending the 3
Forward Nick McGlynn, a perimeter threat who is mobile enough to challenge Kavion Pippen off the dribble, always presents some problems for SIU. Fletcher may help the Salukis there, but SIU is more concerned with Drake's perimeter game. The Bulldogs are shooting 35.3 percent from the 3-point line this season, with more than a third of their field goal attempts from behind the arc.
SIU comes off one of its best defensive performances of the season, allowing Northern Iowa to shoot 31.5 percent from the field. Opponents are shooting 36 percent from the field in Valley play against the Salukis so far (40 of 111) and 33.9 percent behind the arc (20 of 59).
No. 3 — Salukis weathering the storms
SIU has won five of its last six away from SIU Arena, and its four road wins lead the MVC, but there will be stretches at the Knapp Center where things go awry. The most veteran team in the league must be able to stay calm under the pressure and get back to half-court execution.
SIU's 58 points at Northern Iowa was its lowest point total in a victory this season, but it proved the Salukis can win a tightrope contest. They'd love to get it into the 70s or 80s tonight and put the pressure on Drake, which is still figuring things out without Norton. Freshmen Garrett Sturtz and sophomore Noah Thomas are now the Bulldogs' primary ballhandlers.