An underrated mid-major matchup will take place tonight in Southern Illinois, with the Salukis hosting the Indiana State Sycamores. I’ll be going over the game and then get into why the Sycamores have some value tonight as the road underdog.
The Southern Illinois Salukis are one of the better defensive teams in the country, allowing an average of just 61.6 points per game; however, the Salukis enter tonight off a loss to Saint Louis, a game in which they allowed a season-high 85 points. The Salukis only brought in 16 total rebounds in that game, further proving how big of a weakness rebounding has been for this team.
Offensively this Southern Illinois team has been far more effective in scoring in the post or on midrange shots than they are from three. The Salukis are shooting 59.2% on two-point attempts, which is 10th in the country, but they are shooting 32.2% from three, which is 228th. Marcus Domask is the focal point of the offense leading the Salukis in points, assists, and rebounds per game.
The Salukis opponent tonight, Indiana State, has relied primarily on offense for their success. The Sycamores are 8-1 this season, and a big reason for that is their scoring ability. Indiana State averages 81.5 points per game and has an effective field goal percentage of 57%, which is 12th in the country.
Courvoisier McCauley has led this Sycamores offense early on this season, averaging 17.4 points per game and dropping 30 points on two separate occasions. Behind McCauley, this Indiana State team has been able to score right out of the gate, averaging the third most points per game in the first half at this point in the season.
The Sycamores also struggle with rebounding, much like the Salukis, but the main strength of this Indiana State defense is limiting opponent’s ball movement. This team is currently ranked third in the country in opponent assists per game and seventh in opponent assist-to-turnover ratio.
Some books still show the Sycamores as +5 point underdogs, and they are my best bet for this one. I like this number for Indiana State, as I think they have the offensive ability to keep this game extremely close. The Salukis’ defense showed they aren’t perfect in their last game, and when their defense has struggled this season, they’ve had a hard time making up for it on the offensive end.
Southern Illinois does not possess one glaring advantage over the Sycamores, with both of them struggling to rebound and force turnovers, so I think this will be a very close game. In Indiana States’ only conference game this season against Drake, they were able to walk away with a two-point win showing the top of the MVC conference is very close and competitive.
The Sycamores love to push the pace and play at a high tempo, much like the Saint Louis team that just beat the Salukis. Indiana State runs at the 15th highest tempo in the country, according to KenPom, so if they can force Southern Illinois to play at their pace, I think that makes them an excellent underdog play.