Preview | #5 VT (22-11) vs. #4 so. illinois (28-6) | Sun., 3/18 | 2:40 PM | Columbus, OH

[Note: will be having In Game Commentary during today’s game. Join us and share your comments.]

Update: Matt Shaw, so ill’s third leading scorer, has a sprained left ankle and may be unable to play on Sunday.  Boyle will start in his place.

The Hokies can capture the Illinois State Championship and a trip to the Sweet 16 on Sunday when they take on the salukis (it’s a dog) of southern illinois (that’s ‘so ill’ for short). After defeating illinois 54-52 on Friday night, the Hokies are primed to make their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1967 (VT made the Elite Eight that year). These two teams met in Lake Buena Vista, FL (Disney World) back on November 26th in the 5th-place game of the Old Spice Classic. The salukis won that game 69-64. This game will be played in Columbus, OH at the Nationwide Arena.

The salukis have been to the NCAA Tournament six years in a row. They made the Sweet Sixteen in 2002 with former Hokie Rolan Roberts on the team. So this team is very experienced on this stage, but with the Hokies having a NCAA Tournament game under their belts, this shouldn’t be a factor.

The salukis are similar to illinois in that they are a defensive minded team and play at a slow pace. They have a suffocating defense that led the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in Scoring Defense by holding teams to just 56.3 points per game. That’s also third best in the nation. Teams shot over 41% against them, which isn’t in the top 50 in the NCAA. That tells you that southern illinois doesn’t give up a lot of shots and possessions are at a premium. Like the illini, the salukis will not hit the offensive boards with their guards and instead drop back on defense, making it difficult to get out and run on them.

Again, as I said about the illinois game, Tech will have to find ways to get easy baskets. They weren’t able to do this until they implemented the full court press. I wouldn’t be shocked to see VT use the three-quarters court trapping press some in this game to try and force the tempo and to get Tech’s transition game going. The Hokies will struggle to find open looks in the half court set against this defense. Points off steals, outlet passes off rebounds, and hitting threes are a must for the Hokies to get points. Also, Tech needs to do a better job of hitting shots from 10 feet in, something they were awful at in the illinois game. Even when VT had open looks, they were missing until the final eight minutes.

The risk of pressing southern illinois is they have a very talented senior guard in #3 Jamaal Tatum, the MVC Player of the Year. He averages 15 points per game and loves to attack the rim so Tech must force him to give up the ball if they press. In the half court, the salukis offense runs through Tatum. He is a good three-point shooter at 41%. Tatum also can slash and penetrate to score inside.

#10 Bryan Mullins is a true point guard. He is not a big scoring threat (just 6.3 per game) but averages 3.6 assists per game and has a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, which is good for a point guard. He is just a sophomore though so Gordon (7 steals in the illinois game) and Dowdell might be able to pick his pocket and get Tech out on the break. The salukis as a whole are not a great passing team and don’t have many assists per game.

The good news is southern illinois is not particularly big inside, something that has given Tech fits. Their two main big men are just 6’7″. #14 Randal Falker is their best post player. He averages 12.4 points (#2 on the team), 7.5 boards and 2 blocks per game (both lead the team). He can score in the low post but the Hokies don’t have to defend him on the perimeter. Falker loves to clean up Tatum misses on the glass so the Hokies will have to box him out. On defense, he is their eraser inside and is one of the best shot blockers VT has seen all season. He had both saluki blocks in the first meeting.

#32 Matt Shaw is their other post player and he can score from inside and outside. He puts up over three threes a game and averages 11.4 points. The Hokie guarding him will have to respect him outside.

#15 Tony Young is the final starter for the salukis and is just 6′. He gets about half his 10 points per game on threes.

southern illinois only goes about three deep on their bench because of their slow pace. They get very few points off their bench. Their bench players are just warm bodies to rest their starters.

As a whole, the salukis shoot 36% from behind the arc so Tech will have to defend the perimeter well. They shoot just 45% from the field and 70% from the line, both of which are average. The key is to force them to take bad threes. If they are hitting their threes, VT is in trouble.

The salukis create a lot of steals on defense, too. Tech’s senior guards will have to do a good job of protecting the ball. southern illinois had 10 steals in the first meeting. Tech had nine.

In that first match-up, Deron led the Hokies with 18 (despite fouling out in just 24 minutes) and Dowdell had 16. Tech shot a respectable 46% from the field and hit 7 of 20 threes. If Tech can hit that many threes in this game, I like VT’s chances. But Tech must do a better job of getting to the line. The salukis had 27 free throws to just 10 for VT. In that game, four of Tech’s starters had three or more fouls. Four starters scored in double figures for so ill led by 17 from Shaw and 16 from Tatum. They had just four bench points.

The Hokies dug themselves a hole in this game, trailing by 10 in the first half and 11 with 15 minutes to play. Tech closed the gap late and the game came down to the wire and was tied with 50 seconds left, but Tatum hit a clutch three and Vassallo missed a three to tie it with 6 seconds to go.

Since this is an aggressive team, foul trouble could be an issue, especially with the usually tight refereeing you see in tourney play.

All in all, this is a better offensive and defensive team than illinois. VT cannot afford to dig another big hole and expect to win. This team has more offensive weapons. However, they don’t have the size inside illinois had. The Hokies must shoot well on threes as they did against illinois and in the first meeting of these teams. Tech needs to do a much better job of creating fast breaks (press) and hitting shots in the paints, something they were awful at against illinois. Attack, attack, attack, and I like the Hokies chances, especially if the Hokies can get out to a fast start (something they have not done in four of the last five games). so ill is not a good come-from-behind team.

Random: Did you notice Gordon, who has hit just 2 of his last 21 threes, hit two three-pointers after a whistle had blown? Seriously, where’s this shot when it counts? And should they just count it as a VT turnover when Sailes goes to the free throw line?

Player Stats:


so ill

Per Game


Per Game

Leading Scorers

#3 Tatum





#14 Falker





#32 Shaw




Leading Rebounder

#14 Falker




Assists Leader

#10 Mullins




Blocks Leader

#14 Falker




Steals Leader

#10 Mullins




3-Point Shooter*

#3 Tatum




* Must average making one three per game played.

Team Stats:


so ill P/G

National Rank


National Rank

Scoring Offense





Scoring Defense





FG %





FG % Defense





FT %





3-Point %





3-Point % Defense





Turnover Margin





Rebounding Margin




















Games Against NCAA Tourney Teams (seed shown):

As you can see in the table below, southern illinois was 4-3 against teams in the NCAA Tournament. This does NOT include the first round games. VT was an impressive 8-4 against Tourney teams: VT vs NCAA field of 65

so ill


11/23 – #12 arkansas

L 53-61

11/26 – #5 Virginia Tech

W 69-64

12/17 – at #7 indiana

L 47-57

1/20 – at #10 creighton

W 58-57

2/10 – #10 creighton

W 72-68

2/17 – at #5 butler

W 68-64

3/4 – #10 creighton (MVC Tourney)

L 61-67

so ill’s Recent Games:

so ill


@indiana state

W 58-50


W 76-69

MVC Tournament



W 71-59


W 53-51


L 61-67

NCAA Tournament


holy cross

W 61-51

This post was written by:

- who has written 1284 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

Contact the author | Visit the author's website | Follow Niemo on Twitter

5 Responses to “Preview | #5 VT (22-11) vs. #4 so. illinois (28-6) | Sun., 3/18 | 2:40 PM | Columbus, OH”

  1. The Wick says:

    Random: yes and yes. I did notice those shots by Gordon … glad someone else picked up on it.

  2. Everyone I was with noticed that he made those as well. Especially in a night where no one was making shots.

  3. Tone Loke says:

    I thought Jamon did it 3 times? I just chalked it up to bad luck – kind of like the Technical fouls. I thought God was punishing hokie fans for having such a good time in college.

    At the beginning of the season I said Deron Washington would make Michael Jordon look like an embarassment to the game of basketball and time would prove me right.

    My friends said I was being a little ambitious, but now they all agree that time will probably prove me right. Did MJ ever accidentally bank in a game winning shot?

  4. Niemo says:

    Accidentally banked it in? You don’t think Deron meant to do that? Come on, he’s a sharpshooter… knocking treys right and left. He knew what he was doing when he banked that in.

  5. Tone Loke says:

    Sorry Niemo….lets put our petty differences aside.

    Rolan Roberts, if you are reading this, its payback time. Its hard to blame you though. I wouldn’t want to play for that Hoo piece of trash either.


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