Delaware State was predicted to finish second in the MEAC (one first-place vote).
KING OF THE HILL
Illinois State sophomore guard Johnny Hill averaged just 7.4 minutes with two points and one rebound per game last season. However, this season, Hill is proving to be a critical piece to the Redbird basketball puzzle. Hill has averaged 23.5 minutes over the first two games, and he scored a career-high 13 points in a career-best 28 minutes of play at Drexel Nov. 15. Hill's previous high was 11 versus Lipscomb Nov. 19, 2011. Not only did Hill score five key field goals against the Dragons, but he also made a pressure-packed free throw late in overtime to secure the Redbird road win.
BEAT THE BEST TO BE THE BEST
The Redbirds earned a road victory against one of the highest preseason-rated mid-major programs in the nation Nov. 15, as ISU held off Drexel in overtime. The Dragons won the 2011-12 Colonial Athletic Association title and are favored to win it again this season. Drexel also received five votes in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll, and two points in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Dragons will make the return trip to Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena on Nov. 12, 2013.
DOUG THE JET
Doug Collins, the most decorated ISU men's basketball player in program history, cheered on the Redbirds from behind their bench at the Nov. 15 game at Drexel in Philadelphia. He has served as the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers since 2010. During his Redbird playing days, he was a consensus All-American in 1973 and the winner of the NCAA Top Five Athletes of 1973. He averaged 29.1 points in three seasons.
Redbird senior forward Jackie Carmichael and senior guard Tyler Brown are a tall order for the opposing defense. Both players have scored 20-plus points in the first two games of the season against UC Santa Barbara and Drexel, with Carmichael scoring 27 and 21 respectively, and Brown contributing 22 and 20.
THE REDBIRD QUINTET
In a balanced scoring effort, five Redbirds tallied double figures during the win over Drexel (Nov. 15). Jackie Carmichael (21), Tyler Brown (20), Johnny Hill (13) and Jon Ekey (10) became the first quintet to accomplish that feat since Dec. 2011. The Dragons also had five players with 10 or more points.
THIS IS SPORTSCENTER
Two Tyler Brown dunks from ISU's win over Drexel made ESPN's Top Plays list Nov. 15-16. No. 5 was an alley-oop dunk from Bryant Allen, and No. 4 was an alley-oop dunk from Kaza Keane.
Like Delaware State, Illinois State features an experienced team, including four seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and just two freshmen - with only one true-freshman (Kaza Keane). ISU welcomes back four out of five starters from last year's team and returns 84.5 percent of offense (2,062/2,439), 92.4 percent of rebounding (1,135/1,229), 100 percent of shot blocking (118/118) and 69.1 percent of assists (317/459).
IT'S MULLER TIME
The last time the Illinois State men's basketball team participated in the NCAA Tournament, Dan Muller was the leader on the floor. He hopes to repeat that accomplishment, this time from the sideline, as ISU's head coach. Muller was named the 19th men's basketball coach in school history May 8, 2012. Muller's basketball resume includes over a decade of basketball coaching experience, including the last 12 years as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt under former Illinois State head coach Kevin Stallings. As a player, Muller guided the Redbirds to two regular season and Valley Tournament championships and four postseason appearances, including trips to the NCAA Tournament in his final two seasons (1997 and 1998).
'BIRDS FLYING HIGH IN PRESEASON POLL
Illinois State earned its highest Missouri Valley Conference preseason ranking since the 2001-02 season, as the Redbirds are picked to finish second in the league according to the 2012 Valley Preseason Poll. ISU senior forward Jackie Carmichael is also an MVC Preseason All-Conference selection. Creighton is the preseason-favorite, with 38 first-place votes, while ISU earned two first-place votes to rank No. 2.
The Redbirds rolled to a 100-72 season-opening win against UC Santa Barbara Nov. 12, marking the largest offensive output in an ISU opener since the 1997-98 season, where as a player, Dan Muller helped ISU to a 101-66 season-opening victory against Oakland at Redbird Arena. ISU's 51 second-half points marked the first 50-point half for the Redbirds since scoring 60 versus Missouri State in 2009. Additionally, ISU's 41 field goals signified the first 40-plus field goal game since the Redbirds tallied 44 against Southern Illinois in 1998. In the 115-year history of the program, Illinois State has compiled a 77-38 (.669) all-time record in season-opening games.
THESE BIRDS CAN FLY!
If the Nov. 12 season opener was any indication of what's to come, the 2012-13 Redbirds will maintain a high-energy, fast-paced tempo, which can lead to explosive scoring runs. During the first half against UC Santa Barbara, the game was tied, 6-6, before the Redbirds went on a 21-0 run over five-plus minutes to take a 27-6 advantage. ISU guard Tyler Brown contributed 12 points alone during the scoring stretch.
CARMICHAEL CONTROLS COURT
Forward Jackie Carmichael did not disappoint in ISU's season-opening win over UC Santa Barbara. The senior netted a career-high 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to record his 22nd career-double-double. Carmichael has now scored double figures in seven-straight games dating back to last season, and 47 total times throughout his career. He also tallied a career-best 13 field goals on 13-for-20 shooting.
BIG EXPECTATIONS FOR THE BIG MAN
Redbird forward Jackie Carmichael has received preseason publicity from numerous national publications. Not only is Carmichael a preseason All-Missouri Valley Conference selection, but he has also been named the eighth best rebounder in the country according to the ESPN.com Top 10 Rebounders list, the 30th best big man in the country according to the CBSSports.com Top 50 Big Men list, and the 79th best player in the country according to the CBSSports.com Top 100 Player list. Carmichael was the top rebounder in the Valley last year, with 9.7 boards averaged per game. He also led ISU with 13.9 points averaged per game.