Wichita State was tabbed to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll, as compiled by league coaches, media and sports information directors.
AN ALL-AROUND GAME
With three more rebounds, Osiris Eldridge will eclipse a trio of milestones with 1,000 career points, 500 career rebounds and 100 career steals. In doing so, Eldridge would become the sixth Redbird all-time to accomplish the feat, joining Tony Holifield, Rick Lamb, Dan Muller, Mike VandeGarde and LeRoy Watkins.
With the 67-45 victory at Drake, Illinois State secured its 10th Missouri Valley Conference win of the season for the second-straight year. Since joining the Valley in 1981-82, the Redbirds have had 10 or more league wins 14 times.
IN-SEASON MEDIA CONFERENCES
ISU Athletics Media Relations will host seven in-season media conferences during the 2008-09 season. Each conference will feature head coach Tim Jankovich and a member of the ISU basketball team. The media conferences will start at 1 p.m., and be held in the Redbird Arena Media Room, which is just off the southwest loading dock. The remaining scheduled dates are: Feb. 23 and March 3.
Teleconferences with The Valley head coaches will be conducted each Tuesday throughout the season. The first teleconference is slated for Dec. 16, followed by every Tuesday from Jan. 6 to March 3. The conferences begin at 10 a.m. CT. To participate in the conference calls, call 913.981.5517. Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich will participate at 10:30 a.m.
In the history of the conference, 17 teams have started a season 13-0 or better, including ISU's 14-0 start this season, and 14 of those teams went on to win the Valley championship. ISU has three league games left and a two-game deficit to overcome to not become the third to do so. Prior to this season, only Bradley in 1951 and Indiana State in 1978 did not win the championship after starting the season with 13-plus wins.
With a win tonight, Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich would capture the 150th victory of his head coaching career. Jankovich has won 46 games in his two seasons with the Redbirds, after claiming 53 victories in four seasons at North Texas and 50 wins at Hutchinson Junior College.
HOME SWEET HOME
Illinois State is in its 21st season of basketball action on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. In the Tim Jankovich-era, the Redbirds have posted a 28-3 (.903) mark at home. Overall, ISU owns a 212-79 all-time record on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena, and boasts a 72.9-percent winning percentage.
The Redbird offense has definitely been cooking this season during ISU home games. In games played on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena, Illinois State is averaging a 12.4-point margin of victory, while scoring 72.8 points per game. The Redbirds are shooting 45 percent from the field and 40.1 percent on three-pointers.
The last five games have been critical for Illinois State in its run for the conference title, that's why it's not really surprising that senior Emmanuel Holloway has stepped up his game. Holloway has been the top performing Redbird guard in the last five games, while shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 38.9 percent on three-point field goals. He is also 12-for-13 from the line during the last five games and leads the team with 17 assists, including six in each of the last two games.
Junior Osiris Eldridge's 1200th-career point will be a memorable one, as it served as Wednesday's game-winner at Evansville. Eldridge drove the lane and laid the ball off the backboard with one second remaining. Surprisingly, that served as Eldridge's first-ever career game-winning field goal at any basketball level. With 1,200 career points, exactly, Eldridge became the 24th player in Illinois State history to score 1,200 points.
A 30-YEAR ITCH
Through 26 games, Illinois State has three players averaging close to six rebounds per game - Dinma Odiakosa (7.3), Osiris Eldridge (6.1) and Champ Oguchi (5.8). The last time the Redbirds had three players average six boards or more in a season was during the 1977-78 season. That year, Billy Lewis (8.6), Joe Galvin (7.9) and Del Yarbrough (7.3) each averaged six or more rebounds for the season.
ANYTHING BUT BUSTERS
For the fourth time in the seven-year history of the event, Illinois State has been selected to participate in the ESPNU BracketBusters Series. The Redbirds will travel to Niagara Friday, and face the Purple Eagles on ESPN2. ISU is 3-0 in BracketBuster games, which are officially a part of the series when selected for the television package. The Redbirds also boast an 11-1 record in games established by the BracketBusters concept, which includes the return games. The 11 victories are the most by any team that has participated in the made-for-TV event.
CINCO DE MAKO
Illinois State has made five or more three-point field goals in 25 of the 26 games this season, including the first 22 games of the season. The streak was broken at Southern Illinois Feb. 4, when the Redbirds made only three treys at Carbondale, Ill.
NEEDING EXTRA TIME
Illinois State's 75-73 overtime loss against Indiana State marked the fourth overtime game for the Redbirds this season. Illinois State has not played four overtime games in the same season since the 1984-85 campaign, when the Redbirds played six overtime games, including four-straight.
Don't let the 21-5 record or this week's schedule fool you, the Illinois State Redbirds aren't looking to join the NBA. However, the Redbirds will have three games in the span of 120 hours. In that swing are also two road games for ISU, for a total of 934 miles.
By recording 20 victories on the season with a 70-68 win at Evansville, Illinois State posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. It also marked the 15th season in the NCAA Division I-era (1970-present), in which ISU won 20 games in a single season.
A CLOSER LOOK
Sure, Illinois State is 7-5 in its last 12 games after beginning the season 14-0, but is 21-5 really all that bad? Especially when the largest margin of defeat was six points, four of the losses have occurred on the road and two in overtime. In the combined losses, the Redbirds were defeated by a total of 21 points.
MAKING THE MOST OF IT
Champ Oguchi transferred to Illinois State with only one year of eligibility remaining. The senior from Houston has been making the most of his final year. Oguchi has scored 381 points this season in 26 games, which is his career-best for points in a season. Oguchi's best scoring season at Oregon was the 2005-06 season, when he scored 306 points in 32 games played.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
With at least five games remaining in the season, Illinois State has secured itself another winning season in men's basketball. In the 38 years of being an NCAA Division I program, the Redbirds have had 31 winning seasons.
LORDY, LORDY LOOKS WHO'S GOT 40
With the win over Drake earlier in the season, Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich captured his 40th victory with the Redbirds. As a result, Jankovich became the fastest ISU men's basketball coach to win 40 games for the Redbirds. Jankovich won his 40th game in 52 contests, while former head coach Gene Smithson won his 40th game at ISU in his 53rd try. Jankovich now boasts a 46-15 record at ISU.
At Evansville, Illinois State grabbed 12 offensive rebounds. It marked the 17th game this season where the Redbirds have pulled down double-digit offensive rebounds and the fourth-straight. On the season, ISU is averaging 11.2 offensive rebounds per game. Junior Dinma Odiakosa leads the team with 76 offensive boards.
For the first time since joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 1982, Illinois State posted back-to-back 20-plus-point wins over league foes. ISU downed Evansville, 80-50, before topping Creighton, 86-64. The Redbirds posted another 20-point win at Drake, Feb. 15, with a 67-45 victory, which gave the Redbirds their third 20-point win over a Valley opponent in the same season, for the first time since 1997-98.
292-STRAIGHT GAMES WITH A TREY
After sinking nine treys at Drake, Illinois State enters tonight's game against Wichita State with at least one made three in 292-straight games. The last time ISU didn't sink a trey was an 82-43 loss at Creighton Dec. 12, 1999.
LET THE RECORD SHOW
Illinois State began the season with a 14-0 record, the best start in school history. The previous mark was set in 1977-78, when the Redbirds won their first 12 games to open the campaign. Prior to ISU's first loss, the Redbirds were one of only four teams in all of NCAA Division I basketball to be unbeaten.
CREATING THE SECOND CHANCE
Junior Dinma Odiakosa is all about giving his teammates a second chance, and as a result, is leading the team with 78 offensive rebounds. Odiakosa has accumulated 169 offensive rebounds in his three seasons at Illinois State and his offensive boards have accounted for 40.3 percent of his total rebounds. This year, Odiakosa leads the Redbirds in total rebounding with 7.3 boards per game.
After being named the Valley's Preseason Player of the Year, junior Osiris Eldridge appears to have an inside track to join a select group. Eldridge won the conference's freshman of the year award in 2007. If he ends his Illinois State career with the Larry Bird MVC Player of the Year Award, which he finished runner-up for last season, Eldridge would become only the second player in league history to win both the freshman of the year and player of the year award, joining Southern Illinois' Ashraf Amaya.
STEPPING UP FOR CHARITY
Illinois State set a school standard at Southern Illinois. The five Redbird starters combined to shoot 19-for-19 from the free throw line, accounting for the entire team's attempts. As a result, ISU shot 1.000 percent from the line and broke the old mark of 16-for-16 at Utah State March 16, 1995, in a first-round National Invitation Tournament game.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Despite starting a four-guard lineup in 25-of-26 games, Illinois State has won the rebounding battle in 20 games this season and tied in one. On the year, the Redbirds own a +5.3 rebounding margin.
PROTECTING THE BALL
One of the keys to the two road victories at Evansville and Drake last week was how Illinois State took care of the ball. The Redbirds only committed 19 turnovers in the two games combined, which was a vast improvement since ISU committed a combined 38 turnovers in the previous two games, including double-digit turnover totals in the first half of each of those two games.
Illinois State has collected double-digit made threes nine times this season, which is four more than the entire season last year.
JOINING THE CLUB
With his 18 points at Central Michigan, Osiris Eldridge became the 39th member of ISU's 1,000-point club. Eldridge, who is the first addition to the 1,000-point club since 2005, currently has 1,200 career points.
STATUE OF ASPIRATIONS
During halftime of Illinois State's game against Southern Illinois (Jan. 24), the Redbird Athletics Department unveiled plans to have a statue erected to honor the nation's first African-American NCAA Division I head basketball coach, Will Robinson, and his most famous player, Doug Collins, a three-time All-American at Illinois State. The piece, which will be installed at the north entrance of Redbird Arena sometime in the summer 2009, is being sculpted by Lou Cella, a 1985 graduate of ISU. Robinson was named the Redbirds' head coach Feb. 27, 1970, and posted a 78-51 seasons in five seasons. He passed away at the age of 96, April 28, 2008.
Head coach Tim Jankovich's first season at Illinois State was a memorable one, not only for him, but for the program. With a 25-10 record, Jankovich guided the Redbirds to a school-record-tying 25 wins and he posted the most single-season wins for a first-year coach in program history. Currently he holds a 75.4 percent winning percentage (46-15) at Illinois State, which ranks fourth on the all-time coaching ledger in ISU's 111-year history.
WHAT'S A UTE?
Illinois State will find out first hand next season, when the Redbirds travel to Utah for the first-ever meeting between the two schools, Dec. 19, 2009, as part of the inaugural Missouri Valley-Mountain West Challenge Series. The game between ISU and Utah will be one of nine matchups between the two leagues.
FOUR SIGN FOR 2009 CLASS
Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich announced the signing of four incoming freshmen during the early signing period. The Redbirds added Justin Clark (guard, 6-4, 176) and Jon Ekey (forward, 6-7, 190), teammates from Chrisman High School in Independence, Mo. ISU also added a pair of Chicago natives with Terrance Johnson (guard, 6-0, 170) from North Lawndale College Prep and Zeke Upshaw (guard, 6-6, 195) of University High School.