ISU Opens at No. 14 VCU Friday on CSN Chicago PLUS
Zach Lofton will look to build off of his 19-point effort against Quincy.
Zach Lofton will look to build off of his 19-point effort against Quincy.

Nov. 6, 2013

 Illinois State at No. 14 VCU | Richmond, Va.
 Date  Friday, November 8
 Location
 Richmond, Va.
 Tipoff
 6 p.m. CT
 Arena
 Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center
 Capacity
 7,697
 TV  Comcast SportsNet Chicago PLUS (See Listings Below)
 Radio  WJBC 1230 AM, FM 93.7 (Eric Stock and Mike Matthews)
 Game Notes  Illinois State Notes | VCU Notes

QUICK HITS ABOUT #REDBIRDHOOPS

  • Illinois State is opening the season against a nationally ranked opponent for just the second time in program history.
  • The only other time ISU started the season against a Top-25 team, the Redbirds narrowly lost to No. 2 Purdue ('87).
  • ISU has knocked off a Top-25 team in each of the last two seasons (Wichita State in 2012 and Creighton last year).
  • The last time the Redbirds faced VCU, head coach Dan Muller was a sophomore on the court. He led all scorers with 19 points to help ISU in a, 74-72, loss at VCU in 1995. He also helped ISU beat VCU as a freshman in 1994.
  • In the 116-year history of the program, Illinois State has compiled a 77-38 all-time record in season-opening games.
  • Kaza Keane and Nick Zeisloft are the only returners with NCAA Division I experience. With just three returning letter winners (including walk-on Matt Stacho), ISU is the only team in the MVC without a returning starter.
  • Keane led Illinois State in assists per game (3.2) and Zeisloft amassed ISU's top three-point shooting percentage (41.8 percent) during the 2012-13 season.
  • The ISU roster consists of 10 newcomers to the team, including eight who are eligible to play this season. Five of the eligible newcomers are junior college transfers and the other three are freshmen with high school experience.
  • Basketball Times ranked the Redbirds' 2013 recruiting class No. 29 in the nation in its June edition.
  • Second-year head coach Dan Muller became the 19th basketball coach in ISU history on May 8, 2012.
    Program Excellence:
  • Illinois State is in its 44th season as a NCAA Division I program, and during that time, the Redbirds have only had eight losing seasons.
  • Throughout Illinois State's program history, the Redbirds have featured 20 All-American selections, two Missouri Valley Conference Larry Bird Valley Players of the Year, Four Valley Tournament Most Outstanding Players, 66 All-Valley Selections, six NCAA Tournament appearances, 12 NIT appearances, three Valley regular-season championships and four Valley Tournament championships.

    ABOUT THE VCU RAMS

  • VCU is located in Richmond, Va., and has an enrollment of 31,752. The Rams compete at the NCAA Division I level and are members of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
  • The Rams return three starters from a team which finished 27-8 last season and earned second place in the A-10 (12-4). VCU returns its leading scorer, Treveon Graham (15.2 ppg), and rebounder and shot-blocker, Juvonte Reddic (8.2 rpg and 0.9 rpg). Both are preseason first-team A-10 selections.
  • VCU leads the all-time series against Illinois State, 3-1, with the Rams winning the last meeting in 1995.
  • For the first time in program history, VCU is nationally ranked to start the season. The Rams are No. 14 in the AP Top 25 and No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
  • VCU was picked to win the Atlantic 10 Conference with 19 (out of 24) first place votes.

    WHERE TO WATCH: ISU AT VCU
    Comcast SportsNet Chicago PLUS: Comcast: 101, DirecTV: 666, Dish: 442, AT&T U-Verse: 1742
    MASN: DirecTV: 640, Dish: 432

    REDBIRDS AND RAMS
    Even though this is just the fifth meeting between Illinois State and VCU, second-year ISU head coach Dan Muller has already faced the Rams twice, as a player. In fact, the last time the Redbirds played VCU, Muller was a sophomore who led all scorers with 19 points and seven rebounds to help ISU in a narrow, 74-72, loss at VCU, Dec. 23, 1995. As a freshman, Muller netted 15 points with nine rebounds to lift Illinois State to its lone win against the Rams, 77-68, Dec. 18, 1994, at Redbird Arena.

    TO BE THE BEST, YOU HAVE TO BEAT THE BEST
    Illinois State is no stranger to playing Top-25 teams. In each of the last two years, the Redbirds have faced a Top-25 team eight times, with ISU winning twice. ISU earned a 65-64 win over No. 15 Wichita State at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament (Mar. 3, 2012), followed by a 75-72 victory at No. 16 Creighton (Feb. 9, 2013). The win at Creighton represented ISU's first true road victory over a Top-25 foe since winning at No. 17 Tulsa, 73-72, in 1985. ISU is 9-47 all-time against Top-25 teams, and the only other time ISU started the season against a Top-25 team, the Redbirds lost at home to No. 2 Purdue, 68-61, in 1987.

    SEASON-OPENING SUCCESS
    Throughout ISU's program history, the Redbirds have played well in their season openers. Since the 1981-82 season, Illinois State's first campaign in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Redbirds have won 20 of their 32 season openers. In the 116-year history of the program, Illinois State has compiled a 77-38 all-time record in season-opening games. In the NCAA Division I-era (1970-present), the Redbirds are 27-16 in season-openers, and ISU has won eight of its last 10 season openers, winning last year against UC Santa Barbara to open the year at Redbird Arena.

    LATE SURGE LEADS TO EXHIBITION WIN
    The first 32 minutes of Illinois State's exhibition game against Quincy last Sunday (Nov. 3) afternoon featured 10 ties and eight lead changes, but the Redbirds used a 27-8 run over the final seven-plus minutes of the game to pull away with a 84-65 win over the Hawks on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. Sophomore newcomer Zach Lofton led all scorers with 19 points for ISU, including a 3-for-5 effort from three-point range, and junior transfer Bobby Hunter chipped in 17 points.

    NEW NAMES AND NUMBERS
    Out of the 14 names on Illinois State's 2013-14 men's basketball roster, only four were also on the roster in 2012-13. Why so many new faces? Following the conclusion of last season, four graduated, four transferred and one was dismissed from the program. Out of the returning four, only two (Kaza Keane and Nick Zeisloft) have extensive NCAA Division I playing experience. With 10 newcomers - eight of whom are eligible to play this year - Redbird fans will be busy learning new names and numbers this season.

    COUNTING ON SOPHOMORE EXPERIENCE
    Despite losing every starter from last year's team, Illinois State returns two key contributors in sophomore Kaza Keane and redshirt sophomore Nick Zeisloft. Keane led the Redbirds in assists per game (3.2) and Zeisloft amassed ISU's top three-point shooting percentage (41.8 percent) as freshmen in 2012-13. Sophomore walk-on guard Matt Stacho is also beginning his second season.

    J.J., IT'S TIME TO PLAY
    Although he joined the Illinois State men's basketball team prior to the 2011-12 season, junior forward John Jones (nicknamed J.J. by his coaches and teammates) has never played in a game, until now. Jones was charged two seasons of eligibility by the NCAA for an amateurism issue prior to his enrollment at Illinois State. During his first year with the team, in 2011-12, Jones practiced with the team, but was not allowed to travel or play in games. During his second year, in 2012-13, Jones practiced and traveled with the team, but did not play. He is now eligible to compete for the Redbirds in 2013-14.

    BIGGEST UNKNOWN IN THE VALLEY
    With just three returning letter winners, the Redbirds are the only team in the Missouri Valley Conference without a returning starter. Illinois State also features 11 newcomers without NCAA Division I experience, which is more than any other team in the league. The ISU roster consists of five freshmen and five junior college transfers, plus John Jones, who is eligible to play his first season of collegiate basketball after two years with the Redbirds. Needless to say, it is difficult for anyone to know what the Redbirds are capable of accomplishing on the court this season.

    HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR INCOMING CLASS
    Illinois State's large recruiting class has garnered national recognition leading up to the season, with Basketball Times ranking the Redbirds' 2013 class No. 29 in its June edition. Additionally, four Redbirds were selected by the Lindy's 2013-14 preview as Top-100 junior college transfers.

    ISU PICKED SEVENTH IN PRESEASON POLL
    The Illinois State men's basketball team received 139 points and was projected to finish seventh in the 2013-14 Missouri Valley Conference standings according to the league's preseason poll, as compiled from votes by MVC head coaches, beat writers, radio play-by-play personalities and institutional communication directors (see complete poll on page 13). Pollsters have accurately predicted the league's regular-season champ only 13 times out of 28 since 1985-86.

    WHEN THE REDBIRDS ARE SELECTED SEVENTH
    This is the fourth time that Illinois State has been picked to finish seventh in the Valley preseason poll, with the other three seventh-place selections occurring in 1999-2000, 2000-01 and 2003-04. After being tabbed seventh prior to the 2000-01 season, the Redbirds went on to amass a 21-9 overall record and a 12-6 MVC mark en route to a second-place league finish and a bid to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

    STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
    Illinois State head coach Dan Muller has made it public about his desire to continue improving the Redbirds' strength of schedule, and that is evident by ISU's 2013-14 season-opening opponent, Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 in 2013, are ranked No. 14/No. 15 in the AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll, respectively. VCU will play ISU on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena in 2014-15 for the home-and-home series return. The Redbirds are also beginning a home-and-home series with DePaul and Northwestern this season, while ISU is in the second year of home-and-home contracts with Drexel and Dayton.


     

     

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