2015-16 Results: The Salukis had a breakthrough in 2015-16, recording the program's first winning season since 2008. Southern Illinois did have a weak non-conference schedule, but they still finished 22-10 and 11-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Players to Watch: Senior Anthony Beane graduated and center Bola Olaniyan transferred but the Salukis do have some experience back. Junior Sean O'Brien is a former Mundelein star who was productive last season, averaging 12.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Senior guards Tyler Smithpeters, Leo Vincent and Mike Rodriguez all played 32 games last season and are capable players who could all start.
Key Storylines: Withstanding the loss of two key players and rebuilding a bit will be key for Southern Illinois. With the Valley not having as much star power as in year's past, it's an interesting time for the league and Southern Illinois has to try to take advantage. With Rodriguez dealing with a knee injury, the senior becoming healthy is also important in the early part of the season. But finding someone to be the go-to guy after the loss of Beane is probably the most important thing for Southern Illinois to figure out.
Newcomers to Track: Point guard Aaron Cook has a chance for immediate minutes despite the Salukis having an experienced perimeter. Cook is an offensive playmaker who can also defend. Junior college forward Thik Bol led the NJCAA in blocked shots as a freshman and was fourth last season. The 6-foot-8 forward should help with rim protection and defense as well.
Season Outlook: With potentially four senior starters, Southern Illinois is an intriguing team in the Valley that could make a move if someone steps up to become a team leader. Replacing Beane's scoring is going to be tough, but the Salukis are experienced and balanced enough to be a tough out. Defending will also be a key for Southern Illinois and some of the new pieces could help in that department.