The SIU men’s basketball team will spend three days in late December in Utah this year.

The Salukis pulled out of the eight-team Charleston (S.C.) Classic earlier this year, and will now play in the World Vision Classic from Dec. 20-22, according to associate head coach Tom Hankins. Utah State of the Western Athletic Conference is the host of the four-team round-robin event, which also includes Nicholls State and UC-Davis. SIU will play three games in three days at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270) in Logan, Utah.

Logan is about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.

“It’s a great crowd. Their home record over the last six years, I’m sure, is above 80 percent at home, so it’s a really good home-court,” Hankins said. “It’s a mid-major program that is one of the top ones in the country, and not a whole lot of people know about it.”

Utah State went 21-16 last season, finishing fourth in the WAC. The Aggies have won at least 20 games 13 straight seasons. They averaged 8,406 fans a game at the Spectrum last season and went 17-5 there.

Nicholls State finished 10-20 overall and 6-10 last season in the Southland Conference. UC-Davis went 5-26 overall and 3-13 in the Big West Conference.

“When you play a conference tournament, you’re playing three games in three days, so, we’re preparing for that, playing back-to-back,” Hankins said. “You could compare Utah State to a lot of Valley schools. They’re going to finish in the top three in their league every year. They play like Creighton and Northern Iowa. The level of play is a lot like playing a higher-level Valley team.”

SIU finished a school record-worst 8-23 last season but could return four starters.

The Salukis have postponed their scheduled trip to Chicago State until next season, Hankins said, and still has two games to fill. SIU will host Fresno State as part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge and host an ESPN BracketBuster opponent at a date and time to be determined. The Salukis will go to Saint Louis, Western Kentucky, SIU Edwardsville and Green Bay.


On Twitter: @Todd_Hefferman

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