At 25-0 and with their two biggest Missouri Valley road tests them, the Shockers have their eyes set on a perfect regular season that many are actually beginning to expect at this point. Wichita State will turn around after the games away from Kansas and face Southern Illinois at home Tuesday. Wichita backers have had plenty to smile about with 15 covers in the last 19 games, including the last two. This game doesn’t figure to be competitive with Vegas hanging a 17-point number Wichita’s way.
Gregg Marshall breathed a sigh of relief Saturday night. Not only did his team escape Cedar Falls with a win that would have been hard-fought for any team in the country, the Shockers avoided injury scares to every member of their “Big 3.” Ron Baker tweaked an ankle in the opening minute of the game, Cleanthony Early jammed his shoulder a minute after and Fred Van Vleet twisted his knee later in the second half. Early and Van Vleet both left the game temporarily before re-entering to the relief of WSU fans. “Relief” was the theme of Wichita State’s last week and it’s why I don’t necessarily see it coming out ready to kill another opponent in front of the home crowd.
The reality of Wichita State’s situation in the Missouri Valley Conference this year is that it doesn’t always need all hands on deck to beat down on the lesser competition. Usually as tough as any non-major conference out there, the MVC is down a little bit this year and Wichita State is up. The Shockers are going back home but it wouldn’t surprise me if they entered Tuesday’s game with a little bit less of an edge after surviving two tough road games and avoiding a couple injuries in the process. Everyone will play for Wichita State but Gregg Marshall would undoubtedly like to assign a little bit less workload to Baker, Early and Van Vleet.
Southern Illinois is actually playing as well as any other team in the MVC at the moment. Riding a four-game winning streak, the Salukis began their streak with a 19-point dismantling of Indiana State at home and beat Missouri State by 18 points on Saturday. Those are the second and third-place teams in the conference. At over 19 points per game, senior guard Desmar Jackson has been putting the ball in the basket for a Southern Illinois team that has struggled to score with the rest of the conference over the last couple seasons. The Shockers are typically very tough when they can key in on one guy for the opposition but Jackson’s shot-making ability gives SIU’s covering chances more than some real legitimacy going into Tuesday evening.
No real upset potential here but this is a great spot to back Southern Illinois with such a large number. Wichita State continues to burn those that fade but between SIU’s momentum and the strong chance of at least some complacency in this one it appears to be a rare time to back the opponent. Close your eyes, plug your nose and take the points.
Free Pick: Southern Illinois +17