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The Drake Bulldogs faces the Southern Illinois Salukis in Carbondale in a Missouri Valley clash that could help shape the conference race as the MVC is currently a jumbled up mess. Through the first five conference games, seven of the nine teams have two or three losses. Drake is one of two programs with a 3-2 league record while SIU, along with Valparaiso, is sitting at 2-3. Northern Iowa, Bradley, and Loyola-Chicago are tied atop of the conference standings at 3-1.
SIU leads the all-time series 58-35, which includes posting a 33-12 in Carbondale. But Drake has won four of the five most meetings, and that consists of each of two previous games hosted by SIU.
Liam Robbins And Roman Penn Are Leading The BulldogsDrake (13-5) begins a two-game, five-day road trip that encompasses Southern Illinois and Indiana, starting with its contest in Carbondale. After Sunday's game, the Bulldogs will head to Evansville to take on the Purple Aces (Wednesday). Drake is coming off an 88-74 victory over Illinois State on Thursday as the Bulldogs knocked down 53.8% of their shots, marking the seventh straight game that they have made at least 48% of their field goal attempts. Liam Robbins posted his first double-double of the campaign against a D-I opponent, and second of the season overall, as he registered 19 points along with 12 rebounds and three blocks versus Illinois State. The 7-0 sophomore connected on nine of 15 shots from the field. Roman Penn finished with 12 points, five rebounds along with six assists, and Jonah Jackson tallied 13 points with 12 of those coming on four three-pointers. DJ Wilkins chipped in with 13 points while Noah Thomas contributed 10.
The spin: Drake has won five of its past seven outings. The Bulldogs enter the contest against SIU with a 1-4 record in true road outings, which includes losing each of their last two road contests, and a 3-5 overall record in games away from campus. Robbins -- who tops the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks -- has scored in double-figures in 10 straight games with three 20-point performances coming in his past seven outings. Penn, the MVC 's assist leader, continues to play well though turnovers and three-point shooting have been an issue during conference play. The 5-11 sophomore point guard is averaging 12.2 points, 8.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 turnovers while shooting 54.5% from the field and 18.2% from long-distance. Wilkins has scored in double-figures in three of five games though he has been inconsistent shooting from beyond the arc, missing 12 of his last 14 attempts.
Salukis Seeking To Extend Home Winning StreakSouthern Illinois (8-10) returns home after dropping both of its games during its most recent two-game road trip -- at Loyola-Chicago and Bradley. SIU was outscored 131-96 in its two losses as the Salukis made just 35 of their 111 (31.5%) shots from the field. Meanwhile, the Braves and Ramblers combined to connect on 54 of104 (51.9%) of their shots, and 13 of 35 (37.1%) attempts from beyond the arc. SIU was also outrebounded by a combined 71-54 in the two setbacks. Eric McGill and Marcus Domask accounted for 44.7%, as well as 46.2% of the Salukis rebound total in those two contests.
The spin: Southern Illinois has won six straight at home and is 7-1 overall there. SIU has a plus- 11.1 scoring margin in games at the Banterra Center as they have shot well there, making 47.1% of their shots as well as 8.3 triples a game at a 41.1% clip. Defensively, the Salukis is holding opponents to 55.1 points a game on 39.4% shooting as well as 27.9% from long-distance at home. Domask is one of only four freshmen in the nation averaging at least 14 points, five rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. The 6-6 forward, who is 8-for-21 (38.0%) from the field over his last two games, has scored in double-figures and made at least one triple in seven straight contests. McGill has shot the ball well over his previous two outings, connecting on 10 of 16 (62.5%) shots, and has tallied at least nine points in each of the five conference games.
Barret Benson, who is third on the team in scoring and second-leading rebounder, has continued his inconsistent efforts as he has tallied just 10 points over his last three outings. However, 6-10 senior is averaging nearly seven rebounds in his previous six games. Freshman Lance Jones is compiling 7.2 points and 3.5 assists since taking over the starting point guard 12 games ago as a result of Aaron Cook's injury. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Karrington Davis has tallied 45 points on 16 of 29 (55.1%) shooting over his last seven games.
- Salukis are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Salukis are 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Bulldogs are 16-5-1 ATS in their last 22 games vs. a team with a losing straight up record.
- Bulldogs are 33-16-2 ATS in their last 51 games overall.
- The Underdog is 5-0 ATS in the last 5 meetings between Drake and SIU.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I believe that this matchup has the potential to be an outstanding contest, with the caveat of Cook (hand), who is listed as day-to-day, being able to play with no ill effects of his broken hand. But without totally knowing Cook's status, I am going with Drake in this one. The Bulldogs have been outstanding on the offensive end during MVC play. Drake is shooting over 50% from the field over the last five games, which has been mainly due to exceptional ball movement as 64.2% of the Bulldogs' field goals are coming off assists during this stretch. And I believe this ball movement will help loosen up SIU's defense, which is permitting league opponents to make 51.4% of their two-point attempts and allowing 32 paint points.
Meanwhile, Drake is averaging 34.5 points in the paint while making a conference-best 63% of their two-point attempts. Additionally, I like the Bulldogs combo of Robbins and Penn, who are averaging nearly 30 points along with 12 rebounds while shooting 61.9% from the field. Plus, offensively, SIU has been one of the most ineffective teams during conference play as the Salukis is last in the MVC in scoring (56.5) and shooting percentage (39.8%). They are also 10th in turnovers (72).
Moreover, Drake and Southern Illinois have played seven common opponents this season. The Bulldogs are 5-2 in those games with a margin of victory over two points a game. The Salukis are 3-4 versus the same opponents with a margin of loss being by over two points. Drake is 6-3 in games decided by fewer than 10 points his year, and SIU is only 0-2.
Prediction: Drake +1.5
Full-Game Total Pick
While I don't believe this game will be enjoyable for offensive enthusiasts, I think that the 123 points are slightly a little too low as only one of Drake's last nine contests have finished with a total of less than 123. Neither team looks to push the tempo, but SIU mostly plays at a snail's pace as they rank 348th in KenPom's tempo rankings at 62.9 possessions a game. However, both teams are pretty efficient, with Drake posting a 53.5% effective field goal percentage while SIU is recording a 50.1% effective field goal percentage. Moreover, even though the Salukis own the 21st best scoring defense at slightly over 60 points a game, they have been vulnerable on occasion as their opponents have produced a 47.1% effective field goal percentage. Drake's defense has been even leakier as the Bulldogs have allowed opponents to record a 49.1% effective field goal percentage.
Prediction: Over 123