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Northeastern-Southern Illinois preview

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Chris Lowery wants to restore order.

Bill Coen is just hoping to find some.

If ever there was a game showcasing the cyclical nature of basketball, this is it.

Southern Illinois, tired of being an afterthought in the Cinderella-rich Missouri Valley the past couple of years, is trying to climb back to its perch as mid-major darling. The Salukis were once an NCAA tournament staple and a hot pick for an early-round upset. But lately other teams in the conference have stolen SIU’s thunder as the Salukis struggled to a 13-win season two seasons ago and a disappointing 15-15 finish last year.

This could be the season Lowery gets Southern Illinois back to its usual spot. He has two reliable seniors in Carlton Fay and Justin Bocot, plus a quartet of junior college transfers who are new to Southern Illinois, but as juniors hardly new to basketball.

Pardon Coen while he envies that wealth of experience.

He has Chaisson Allen and a whole bunch of newcomers. Allen, a terrific player and scorer, averaged 12 points last season. The rest of Northeastern’s returning players averaged 10.7. Combined.

Allen will temporarily have to be a one-man band while the Huskies find their footing, a tall order against a Southern Illinois team playing at home.

The 9 a.m. local tip probably isn’t ideal for anyone under the age of 40 (if my ancient memory serves, college students don’t tend to be early-risers), but I’m hoping the novelty of the game time will draw the students out in droves and make for an early-morning jolt of mid-major hoops.