Southern Illinois is 10-14 all-time at home against ranked opponents, including a win over No. 22 Wichita State on February 5, 2013. More importantly, Southern Illinois is an impressive 507-177 all-time within the friendly confines of the SIU Arena, and the Salukis have a legitimate opportunity to pull the upset over No. 18 Northern Iowa. I say that because the Panthers find themselves in a terrible look-ahead situation with a huge home game against Wichita State on deck.
Southern Illinois takes the floor with a very good defense that is allowing 60.8 points per game to teams that would combine to average 65.1 points per game against a mediocre offensive squad. The Salukis are even better at home where they are limiting opponents to a mere 57.9 points per game, while also yielding just 60.4 points per game in conference play.
Overall, Southern Illinois is 4.3 points per game better than average defensively, which is certainly good enough to shut down a pedestrian Northern Iowa attack that 0.1 points per game better than average (65.1 points per game against teams that would combine to average 65.0 points per game).
Northern Iowa’s offense has gone from average to woeful in conference play wherein the Panthers are averaging just 59.7 points per game. Similarly, the Salukis also take the floor with a subpar attack that is 4.5 points per game worse than average (61.0 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 65.5 points per game). However, Southern Illinois is averaging 68.0 points in its last two Missouri Valley Conference games, compared to just 50.5 in the first six.
The offensive improvement has been led by freshmen Deion Lavender (8.5 ppg) and Jordan Caroline (8.3 ppg), who have combined to average 16.8 points over the last four games. I also like the fact that Caroline and Bola Olaniyan rank among the league leaders in offensive rebounding.
In fact, Southern Illinois is +37 in rebounding in its last five games, which is impressive in light of the fact that the Salukis are the shortest team in the Missouri Valley Conference, with an average height of 75.5″, which ranks 319th in the nation. Southern Illinois also ranks 18th nationally in free throws as a percentage of total points (25.1%) and 49th in the country in free throw rate (43.3%) as a ratio to field goals attempted.
Getting points with the home team in this contest is also appealing in that both teams are extremely patient at the offensive end of the floor. Specifically, Southern Illinois’ offensive possessions is 20.1 seconds, which ranks 327th in the nation. The Panthers’ offensive possessions are 20.8 seconds, ranking 349th nationally.
In other words, extending the margin in this game will be extremely difficult, thereby making the seven points very attractive. From a technical standpoint, Southern Illinois is 17-7 ATS versus teams with a winning record, 9-1 ATS when playing with same-season revenge and 4-1 ATS in its last five home games versus teams owning a road winning percentage exceeding .600.
With Northern Iowa standing at 0-3-1 ATS in its last four trips to the SIU Arena and having a season-defining conference game against Wichita State on deck, take the Salukis plus the generous points and invest with confidence.