Southern opens with Florida Gulf Coast (9 a.m.) and Auburn (4:30 p.m.) on Friday.
Southern is looking to avenge a five-set loss to the Blue Raiders at home in 2013.
Southern will play two top-20 teams (No. 11 Illinois, No. 20 North Carolina) and Long Beach State, who is receiving votes in 38th place.
Salukis welcome Nicholls State, UALR, Tennessee-Martin Friday and Saturday
Salukis to take on host Billikens, South Alabama, and Valparaiso
Todd Nelson enters his fourth season as an assistant coach with Saluki volleyball. His duties with the program are all encompassing, including coordinating recruiting, opponent scouting and on-court training.
Nelson brings 17 years of collegiate coaching experience to Carbondale, including 13 at the Division I level. Most recently, Nelson served six seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Denver.
At Denver, Nelson served as the recruiting coordinator and assisted with all aspects of the program. He helped the Pioneers to an overall record of 109-82 with a 70-35 mark in Sun Belt Conference play. DU won two Sun Belt West Division titles with Nelson on the staff and made the Sun Belt Tournament all six seasons.
Prior to his time at Denver, Nelson spent four years as an assistant coach at Marquette where he oversaw recruiting efforts, scouted opponents and served as the associate director of summer camps.
Nelson helped the Golden Eagles to a 62-52 record during the best stretch in program history. Marquette reached the conference tournament every year and finished second at the 2004 Conference USA Championships. Nelson helped mentor seven all-conference honorees as well as two AVCA All-Region selections at Marquette.
Nelson began his foray into Division I coaching as an assistant at Missouri Valley Conference member Indiana State from 1999-2002. At ISU, he oversaw the Sycamores' recruiting efforts and helped coach 12 All-MVC honorees. ISU made three MVC Tournament appearances during his tenure in Terre Haute, Ind.
Prior to ISU, Nelson began his collegiate coaching career at his alma mater, Minnesota-Duluth. He spent four seasons helping the Bulldogs to four Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championships.
UMD posted an overall record of 88-26 with Nelson on the staff, including a 45-2 mark in conference play. Nelson helped recruit four NSIC Players of the Year, seven All-Conference honorees, seven All-North Central Region players and one Second-Team All American at UMD.
Nelson got his start in coaching at the high school level, where he served as the head varsity coach at The Marshall School as well serving as the director of Superior Coast Volleyball in Duluth.
In addition to his coaching credentials, Nelson has also been instrumental in the developmental camp scene in the Midwest. He participated in summer camps at Purdue University from 2000-04 as well as serving three years as the director of the All-American Camps in St. Louis.
A native of New Richmond, Wis., Nelson received his bachelor's degree in elementary education and communications from UMD in 1998. He was a player and coach for the UMD men's club team from 1992-98.