If you are wondering what a Saluki is, wonder no longer. I keep on calling it an Egyptian Dog because is "commonly known as the royal dog of Egypt". It is a hideous dog, I have no idea why you would have a mascot of that ugly of an animal. Of course, we have a mythical mascot so we can't really talk. No matter what it is, I would much rather have a unique nickname like a Saluki or Jayhawk rather than one of eighty billion schools that have 'Wildcat' as their nickname.
They are led by two senior starters, guard Jamaal Tatum on the offensive end and guard Tony Young on the defensive side. Young will likely get the assignment of Mario Chalmers, being that Young is only 6'0" and can't handle the taller and more physical Brandon Rush. Chalmers has been huge to our success recently and Young could likely shut Super down. Junior foward Randal Falker is their low post presence, but honestly he is no match for a combination Julian, Sasha, Darnell and Darnell. His frontcourt mate, foward Matt Shaw, is hurt and may not be able to play against us tomorrow. If he isn't able to play, his backup sophomore F Tony Boyle will see some significant playing time for the third straight game. While averaging only 2.6 points a game during the season, he scored 14 points against Holy Cross in the first round to lead them to victory.
The biggest question going into this game is not the commonly asked question among the throng of media, whether we can score against SIU's great defense. We all know that the Salukis have a great defense and I'm not discounting that, but what people don't realize is just how good Kansas' defense is. The Jayhawks have the third highest adjusted defensive efficiency, actually ahead of Southern Illinois' 12th. The difference between the overachieving squad under Chris Lowery is their offense against that underrated defense. Lowery is a HUGE coaching prospect, someone who will be mentioned for every opening this offseason starting with the Michigan one. Still, he just doesn't have enough players that can score points to keep up with our bounty of McDonald's All Americans. Don't get me wrong, they have plenty of talent and are more than capable of knocking us off tomorrow night, but if we show up and play offense like we have been recently we will come out victorious.
Five Keys to the Game
This is the Sweet 16 we're talking about, more than 3 keys are neccessary to disect the matchups and more.
1) Get the Ball to Julian
With how good their defense is as a whole, it is clearly weakest inside and specifically with uber-athletes such as Julian. They can handle the bangers inside, but Deron Washington had a great game for Virginia Tech against them and Julian is even more athletic. Julian has a chance to really break out and lead the Jayhawks to victory, we at least need to give him the chance to do that.
2) Get Falker in Foul Trouble
Especially if Shaw doesn't play (it is really unknown whether he will play or not), they are really thin on the interior. Falker is their best player down there, as well as their best post defender so if we can get him in early foul trouble and get him out of the game Julian will have even more room to operate down there.
3) Make Open Three Pointers
Our guards are falling in love with the drive-and-dish and if that is going to be our main offense we need to knock down open shots. I'm looking at you Russell Robinson, while you are making quite a bit you still need to make more. This game could very well turn out to be decided by who shoots better from the 3 point line, where we have the advantage with 39.6% (23rd) compared to 37.4% by SIU (61st).
4) Speed the Game Up
If this game gets into the high 70s and low 80s, we should win. If SIU keeps it in the 50s or 60s, they have the pace advantage. Much like we did against Niagara, we need to run faster than we have all season and take advantage of our superior offensive players. Our offense, with the exception of North Carolina, could be the fastest offense in the country, just because we usually don't play that way doesn't mean we can't. Julian, Sasha, Darrell and Darnell all need to get rebounds and get some breaks going, that is the most surefire way we can win the game.
5) Win and Advance!
That's what the Tournament is all about. This game will probably be ugly, but as long as we win the game I'll be plenty excited Thursday night.
Rock Chalk Talk Prediction: They try and force us to play at their pace, but there is no way they can keep up with the 94 foot game we will try to play. It will stay close throughout, but we are just too talented and we will find a way to win an ugly one. Kansas 75 Southern Illinois 68 ROCK CHALK BABY!