GEORGIA vs. SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
When/Where: Today, approximately 4:45 p.m. ET (25 minutes following the completion of the Creighton-Illinois game, scheduled for a 2:20 p.m. ET start), United Center, Chicago.
Records: Georgia (22-9 overall, 10-6 Southeastern Conference), Southern Illinois (27-7 overall, 14-4 in Missouri Valley Conference).
Radio/TV: WRCG-AM 1420/CBS
Southern Illinois starters: F Jermaine Dearman, 6-8, Jr. (11.8 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game); C Rolan Roberts, 6-6, Sr. (13.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg); G Marcus Belcher, 6-0, Sr. (6.2 ppg, 3.3 assists per game); G Stetson Hairston, 6-3, Fr. (7.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg); G Kent Williams, 6-2, Jr. (16.2 ppg, 3.2 apg).
Georgia starters: F Jarvis Hayes, 6-6, So. (18.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Chris Daniels, 6-7, So. (11.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg); F Steve Thomas, 6-8, So. (8.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg); G Ezra Williams, 6-4, Jr. (16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg); G Rashad Wright, 6-0, So. (8.8 ppg, 4.8 apg).
Outlook: The Missouri Valley Conference is trying to sweep the two spots in the Sweet 16 awarded to today's winners at the United Center. In today's first game, the MVC's Creighton — which advanced with an upset win over Florida — will play Illinois. Southern Illinois swept Creighton in the regular season but lost to the Blue Jays in the MVC tournament final.
The MVC is building a strong NCAA tournament reputation. Southwest Missouri State advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1999, Indiana State beat Oklahoma last year and former league member Tulsa made the Sweet 16 under Tubby Smith in 1994 and 1995.
This is the first year the Salukis of Southern Illinois have made the NCAA field as an at-large team, but the MVC has had more than one representative in the tournament in seven of the last nine seasons.
Southern Illinois, a No. 11 seed, does not field a big lineup but the Salukis were too quick — especially on defense — for No. 6 seed Texas Tech in their 76-68 win over Coach Bob Knight's team Friday. Dearman and Williams each scored 17 points and Dearman grabbed 11 rebounds. Southern Illinois won despite being outscored 20-9 on second-chance points and 40-36 on points in the paint.
Georgia enjoyed strong balance in its first-round 85-68 win over Murray State. Jarvis Hayes led the way with a career-high 31 points, Jonas Hayes added a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds and Rashad Wright's 16 points, 10 assists and strong defense on Justine Burdine.
A key matchup for Georgia will be Steve Thomas against Rolan Roberts. Though only 6-foot-6, Roberts blocked five shots against Texas Tech after blocking seven in a regular-season win over Indiana. Thomas was not a factor against Murray State as he was returning from flu-like symptoms that forced him to miss Thursday's practice.
Southern Illinois can be expected to devote extra defensive attention to Jarvis Hayes after his big game in the opener, and that puts more pressure on Chris Daniels and Ezra Williams to pick up their scoring.
— Compiled by Charles Odum
Charles can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com