Feb 3, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, IL - The Salukis are 1-10, have lost six-straight games and could be headed for a historically bad season not seen since the 0-16 days of Joe Gottfried in 1981. Even in the darkest hour, though, you can find a few rays of light. That's today's task -- acknowledge the shortcomings, look for the bright spots, and find ways to enjoy Saluki Basketball.
1. Regardless of how the season turns out, Desmar Jackson is a better player for having played for Barry Hinson and this coaching staff. Three times this season he has been held out of the starting lineup for minor offenses, such as being on time. Most coaches would look the other way, but like I tell my seven-year-old son, you're better off being punished for your offenses than being raised to believe you can do as you please.
2. In terms of basketball talent, Jackson is one of the five best players in the conference. With a better supporting cast, he has Player of the Year ability. He had six assists in the loss to Drake and had to be particularly frustrated yesterday when so many of his passes did not lead to baskets as they should have. I have a hard time complaining about anything Jackson is doing on the floor right now, but one critique is that he seems to be settling for 3-point shots a little too often. On the other hand, with as much bumping and shoving as he absorbs on his way to the basket, I don't blame him.
3. Yes, I know Dantiel Daniels had a bad stat line of zero points and one rebound in 15 minutes off the bench yesterday. There's more to the story, though. By my count, he only touched the ball five times on offense. Two of those times, he drew fouls by Jackie Carmichael. He also missed two shots. The ball isn't getting to Daniels enough. He's still second in the MVC in field goal percentage (.620). He still commands double-teams from most opponents (although Illinois State let Carmichael guard him one-on-one).
5. Josh Swan is quietly developing into a solid player. In fact, Swan (.511) and Daniels (.515) are the only Saluki players shooting better than 50 percent from the field in conference games. The range of his offensive game is about 10 feet, but he makes acrobatic shots in much the same way as Jeff Early. The long-term question about Swan is what position fits him best? Is he a 6-foot-2 hybrid forward only? Or can he extend the range on his jump shot and play guard? Regardless, he appears to be an important part of the future.
6. Anthony Beane has tailed off somewhat lately on offense and is shooting .378 from the field and .292 from 3-point in conference games. Nevertheless, he's one of the top 2-3 freshmen in the MVC and could be a four-year starter for Southern. He's shown the desire to work on his game, and I'd be surprised if he didn't develop into an All-Conference player by the time he's an upperclassman.
7. Yes, Jeff Early is an emotional player and sometimes that leads to mistakes on the court, but he is entertaining to watch. In fact, we've submitted a highlight reel to nominate him for a postseason slam-dunk contest. Early played superbly during the non-conference season and was a major reason SIU went 7-4 in those games. Of the three seniors, he will be the most difficult to replace on next year's team.
8. Ok, not everything is happiness and sunshine. Let's talk defense for a minute. The Salukis allow MVC opponents to shoot .502 from the field and .434 from 3-point. Both marks are far and away the worst in the league. It's understandable when a guy like Carmichael, who towers over everyone in a maroon uniform, scores from point-blank range. It's more difficult to understand why teams have such a field day from the perimeter, though.
9. I tried to watch Southern's perimeter defense more closely at ISU yesterday, looking for clues. Some of the shots that were made by Tyler Brown from 3-point, hey, you simply tip your cap and say `nice shot.' Other ones were clear defensive breakdowns. There's a lot of inconsistency in effort on defense. Guys defended from a good, low stance on some possessions and raised up on others. Too often, they didn't close out on shooters. Perhaps the biggest thing I noticed was how little pressure was applied to the passer. These things are all correctable, and perhaps some of it can be attributed to fatigue and the fact the game was getting out of hand.
10. I know it can be disheartening to watch your team lose night-in and night-out. Personally, I find enjoyment watching Jackson do things on the court that few players can. I enjoy watching the development of a budding star like Beane. I love seeing the energy that Early and Swan play with. When Daniels is getting touches and playing with confidence, he is fun to watch. In other words, there are still reasons to come out and enjoy this year's team.