Wright State returns three starters from a team that finished 21-10 overall last season. Juniors Vaughn Duggins (first team) and Todd Brown (second team) were each named to the Horizon League's Preseason Team.
EYES ON THE HORIZON
Tim Jankovich is 2-0 against the Horizon League as the head coach at Illinois State. The Redbirds downed UIC (73-47) and Wright State (54-46) last season, but both games were played on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena. This will be the first game against a Horizon League opponent for Jankovich on the road. The Redbirds are 63-30 all-time against the current league members of the Horizon. Surprisingly, the only league member the Redbirds have never faced on the basketball court is Youngstown State, which is a conference member with Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
IN-SEASON MEDIA CONFERENCES
Illinois State 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 Redbird 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 scheduled dates are: Dec. 18, Jan. 5, Jan. 23, Jan. 29, 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 6. 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.
Since the 1981-82 season Illinois State's first campaign in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Redbirds have won 16 of their past 27 season-openers. In the 111-year history of the program, Illinois State has compiled a 73-37 all-time record in season-opening games. In the NCAA Division I-era (1970-present), the Redbirds are 23-1 in season-openers.
Head coach Tim Jankovich is looking for his second-straight victory in a season-opener with the Redbirds. ISU defeated Missouri-St. Louis last season in Normal, 70-37, and the Redbirds have won four of their last five season-openers. However, this is ISU's first true road season-opener since the 1999-2000 season, when the 'Birds won at Oakland (Mich.), 72-67. Twice since then, ISU has opened the season on a neutral floor in tournaments (Penn State at Milwaukee, Wis., in 2004, and SMU in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2006).
BUSTIN' ALL OVER
Illinois State has fared well in the games established by the ESPNU BracketBusters Series, but the Redbirds have done even better in the return games. Since the event began in the 2002-03 season, the Redbirds are 5-1 in games determined by the BracketBuster format. In the return games, as created by the previous season matchup, the Redbirds are a perfect 5-0.
The Redbirds had their share of luck away from Redbird Arena in Tim Jankovich's first season. ISU posted a 7-5 road mark and was 2-3 in games played on neutral floors. The winning road record was the first for the Redbirds since the 2000-01 season.
In his first season at Illinois State, head coach Tim Jankovich and the Redbirds were 12-5 in non-conference games and 2-1 in non-league, road games.
Illinois State's starting lineup could leave its opponents saying "Oh my!" - at least figuratively. The Redbirds court three players whose last name begin with the letter 'O' - Dinma Odiakosa, Champ Oguchi and Sead Odzic. As if that wasn't enough, don't forget about Osiris Eldridge.
COURTING THE 1,000-POINT CLUB
If he stays at last season's scoring pace (15.8 points per game), Illinois State junior Osiris Eldridge should become the 39th member of the Redbirds' 1,000-point club against Morehead State (Dec. 14). Eldridge enters the season with 849 career points and needs only 151 tallies to join the club. He would be the first addition since 2005, when Gregg Alexander, Vince Greene and Trey Guidry became members.
THE POWER OF PROGRESS
Sorry Illinois State opponents, but junior forward Dinma Odiakosa keeps getting better and better. Using the percentage of increase between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Odiakosa could have a big 2008-09 season. With a 531 percent increase in scoring and a 262 percent increase in rebounding between his first two seasons, Odiakosa is on track to average 36.7 points and 14.4 boards per game.
ELDRIDGE VALLEY PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
On Oct. 28, 2008, junior Osiris Eldridge became the third Redbird to be named the Missouri Valley Conference's Preseason Player of the Year. Eldridge joined Illinois State's Tarise Bryson (2001-02) and Rico Hill (1997-98). Bryson suffered a career-ending injury in the first game of the season against Weber State, while Hill went on to claim the league's postseason player of the year honor, as well.
SORRY, A 60-POINT LIMIT
Illinois State held its opponents to under 60 points 19 times last season, including eight of the last nine games. The point limit worked well for the Redbirds, as ISU posted an 18-1 mark in those contests. When the ISU defense was really stingy, the Redbirds were 11-0 in games where their opponents scored less than 50 points in a game.
Senior Brandon Sampay had off-season hip surgery and had just started to integrate back into the Redbird practices. That's why it was a bit surprising to see his performance in the exhibition win over Illinois-Springfield. Sampay showed no signs of rust and posted 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting in 18 minutes of play.
DINMA DOUBLES OVER
Junior Dinma Odiakosa notched his first career double-double during the 2007-08 season. If the exhibition win over Illinois-Springfield is any indication, Odiakosa will be adding to that total this season. Odiakosa posted 11 points and 10 boards in the Redbirds' 81-57 win over the Prairie Stars.
NOV. 15, NOT SO GOLDEN
This is the third time Illinois State has played a game on Nov. 15 in the 111-year history of Redbird basketball. The two previous times resulted in devastating losses by teams with "golden" in their nicknames - a one-point defeat to a fledging Oakland (Mich.) squad, and a 28-point drubbing at Marquette. Luckily for the Redbirds, Wright State is not known as the Golden Raiders, at least not yet, so hopefully, this difference will lead to a different result Nov. 15.
Luckily for the Redbirds, there is no hole in this "ozone." The molecular formula for the ozone is O3, and the Redbirds had three of their " O's" step up in the exhibition win over Illinois-Springfield. Osiris Eldridge (19), Champ Oguchi (18) and Dinma Odiakosa (11) were three of the four players who scored double-figures. Senior Brandon Sampay also added 12 points.
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.
PLAY LIKE A CHAMP
Every player loves game day, but for Illinois State, one in particular is going to be extremely pleased to be back on the floor. Senior guard Champ Oguchi will take the floor for his final collegiate season. Oguchi played his first three years at Oregon, before transferring to ISU prior to last season. As a result, per NCAA residence rules, Oguchi had to sit out last season.
266 GAMES WITH A TREY
ISU enters the 2008-09 season with at least one made three in 266-straight games. The last time ISU didn't sink a trey was an 82-43 loss at Creighton Dec. 12, 1999.
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.
BACK ON TRACK
With the 25-10 overall record in 2007-08, the Redbirds ended a string of two-straight losing seasons. Non-winning seasons are not common around Illinois State basketball. In the 37 years of being a Division I program, the Redbirds have had just seven losing seasons.
BEING THANKFUL FOR THE WINS
Over the first 110 years of Redbird basketball, Illinois State owns a 55-33 (.625) record in the month of November. The Redbirds posted a 4-2 mark in the 11th month last season, and ISU will play seven games this season in the month of November.