Northern Iowa was tabbed to finish first in the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Poll, as compiled by league coaches, media and sports information directors.
In his three years at the helm, Tim Jankovich has turned Illinois State from a probable play-in team into a part of the championship conversation. Jankovich and his staff have returned ISU basketball to its glory with a three-year record of 70-28 (.714), including a 35-18 (.660) mark in Valley regular-season games. In the three years prior to this staff's arrival, ISU was 41-48 (.461) overall and 18-36 (.333) in league play.
ONE WIN AWAY
With a victory Saturday night at Northern Iowa, Illinois State would tie the school record for the winningnest three-year period in school history. The Redbirds would have 71 wins since the start of the 2007-08 season, tying the combined victory total of the 1995-96 (22), 1996-97 (24) and 1997-98 (25) seasons.
IN-SEASON MEDIA CONFERENCES
ISU Athletics Media Relations will host eight in-season media conferences during the 2009-10 season. Each conference will feature head coach Tim Jankovich and a member of the ISU basketball team. The media conferences start at 1 p.m., and the remaining scheduled date is March 2.
Teleconferences with The Valley head coaches will be conducted each Tuesday throughout the season. The first teleconference is slated for Dec. 15, followed by every Tuesday from Jan. 5 to March 2. The conferences begin at 10 a.m. CT. To participate in the conference calls, call 913.981.4900. Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich will participate at 10:30 a.m.
TWENTY, TWENTY, TWENTY, THEY'VE DONE IT AGAIN
With the BracketBusters win over Morehead State, Illinois State posted its third-straight 20-win season, which hadn't happened in Normal, Ill., since the 1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns. It also became the 16th 20-win season for the Redbirds since the program became an NCAA Division I program prior to the 1970-71 season. The Redbirds are the only Valley school to post 20 regular-season wins in each of the last three seasons.
HAVEN'T SEEN THIS SINCE THE 13¢ STAMP
Illinois State's Dinma Odiakosa is averaging 8.8 rebounds per game this season, which is the highest single-season rebounding average by a Redbird in 33 years! Jeff Wilkins averaged 11.1 rebounds per game during the 1976-77 season, back when a first-class postage stamp was 13 cents. Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States, while Rocky received the Academy Award for Best Picture. In addition, Wilkins accomplished this feat eight years before Odiakosa was even born.
Although the weather outside has remained to be frightful, the play of the Redbirds has been delightful. Illinois State has posted a 6-1 record (.857) so far this month. Teams have a tendency to fade in February, but not the 2009-10 Redbirds. Instead, ISU is looking for its best record in the second month of the year since the 1997-98 season, when the Redbirds went 7-1 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
CARMICHAEL WITH THE RECORD BLOCK
Early this season it appeared Jackie Carmichael was going to challenge the Illinois State freshman record for blocked shots in a season. Well, like most shots Wednesday night against Indiana State, Carmichael swatted the old mark. With a career-best six blocks against the Sycamores, Carmichael set the standard for first-year Redbirds with 38 blocks. He topped the old mark of 36 set by Mike VandeGarde during his freshman campaign in 1990-91.
Dinma Odiakosa has been nothing short of dazzling as of late. Not only is he coming off of a 30-point scoring effort, but he has scored in double-figures in 11-straight games. During that span, he is averaging a team-best 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, while being named Valley Player of the Week twice.
Osiris Eldridge (15.9 ppg.) and Dinma Odiakosa (8.8 rpg.) lead the Valley in scoring and rebounding, respectively, and are looking to become the first teammates to sweep those statistical categories since 1992 (Ashraf Amaya of Southern Illinois did both that year). That statistical double has only happened eight times in the past 50 seasons (six of those eight were done by the same person, not teammates).
THAT 70's SHOW
ISU's success this season is pretty much based on 70 points. When the Redbirds score 70 or more points this season, Illinois State is 16-1. When ISU opponent's score less than 70 points, the Redbirds are 17-3.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
In the 39 completed years of being an NCAA Division I program, the Redbirds have had 32 winning seasons. With 21 wins this season, the Redbirds are guaranteed another winning season this year.
THE COMEBACK KIDS
After trailing by five points at halftime against Missouri State, the Redbirds rallied for a 76-72 Valley win. The victory marked the seventh time this season when ISU won after trailing at half. The Redbirds are 7-7 this season when behind at the intermission. When leading at the half, ISU is 14-0.
When facing ranked teams since becoming an NCAA Division I program prior to the 1970-71 season, Illinois State has been getting pushed rather than doing the pulling. The Redbirds are 7-42 all-time facing ranked teams and have lost 19 straight. The last win over a ranked team was an 89-88 win over then-No. 14 Iowa, on Dec. 29, 1987, in Oklahoma City, Okla. The last time ISU beat a ranked team on its own floor was against then-No. 17 Tulsa, 73-72, on Feb. 6, 1985.
In the inaugural Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge Series only one road team walked away with the win. ISU claimed a 73-63 win at Utah and became the only road team to win the newly-created challenge between the two conferences, as the Valley posted a 5-4 win in the series. Overall this season, Illinois State is 6-6 on the road and has won two-straight road contests.
MOVING ON UP
Osiris Eldridge continues to pass the greatest scorers in ISU history. The Chicago native needs only 13 more points to become the fifth player in Illinois State history to score 1,800-points in his career. He currently ranks No. 6 with 1,787 career tallies and needs 12 more to surpass Bill Sarver (1,798) for fifth place.
VALUING THE ROCK
Illinois State's Alex Rubin sees the value in an offensive possession. As a result, he leads the team in assist-to-turnover ratio on the season. Rubin boasts a 4.06 assist-to-turnover ratio with 65 assists and only 16 turnovers. In the last 11 games, Rubin's awareness has even peaked where he has 29 assists and only six miscues for an 4.83 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Against Indiana State Wednesday night, Illinois State's Dinma Odiakosa and Tony Lewis notched double-doubles in the same game for the second time this season. The effort was Odiakosa's 11th double-double of the season, while Lewis earned his second. The Redbirds, as a team, have posted 16 double-double performances this season, with Jackie Carmichael (2) and Kellen Thornton (1) providing the others.
Heading into the season, senior Dinma Odiakosa had never scored 20 or more points in a collegiate game. So far this season, he has scored 20 or more points in four games, and has notched his first 30-point scoring effort. Odiakosa fired in 30 points against Missouri State and became the first non-guard Redbird to score 30 points in a game since Rico Hill's 31-point scoring game against Missouri State, March 3, 1997, in the championship game of the State Farm Valley Tournament.
HE GIVETH, AND HE TAKETH AWAY
Senior Lloyd Phillips leads ISU in assists and steals this season. He has dished out 124 assists, or 4.3 per game, which ranks third in the Valley. He also leads the Valley in steals with 56, or 1.9 per game. With his 56 steals, Phillips currently ranked tied for No. 4 on ISU's all-time single-season steal total. Phillips has 11 games this season with three or more steals. In those 11 games, the Redbirds are 11-0.
THE 700 CLUB
With a career-best 15 rebounds at Bradley Feb. 9, Dinma Odiakosa pushed his career rebounding total over the 700 plateau and now has 740 career boards. As a result, Odiakosa became only the ninth Redbird in school history to total 700 or more rebounds in a career.
Dinma Odiakosa has been on a different wavelength this season. The senior is shooting 62.9 percent from the field (146-for-232), which leads the Valley and the nation. Odiakosa's season percentage would rank fifth all-time, if the season ended today.
329-STRAIGHT GAMES WITH A TREY
Illinois State enters the Northern Iowa game with at least one made three in 329-straight games. The last time ISU didn't sink a trey was an 82-43 loss at Creighton Dec. 12, 1999.
OSIRIS, THE GOD OF THE THREES
In mythology, Osiris is an Egyptian god, typically called the god of the afterlife, underworld or dead. In Redbird lore, Osiris Eldridge is now the god of the three-point shot. With three treys against Central Michigan, Eldridge became the school-record holder and has 270 career three-point field goals, surpassing the old mark by Gregg Alexander of 224. Eldridge ranks No. 6 all-time in the Valley and is seven made threes behind former Missouri State guard Blake Ahearn (276).
A RETURN TO POSTSEASON
Illinois State, which became an NCAA Division I program prior to the 1970-71 season, enjoyed postseason play for the 16th time last season. The Redbirds have qualified for the NCAA Tournament six times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1997 and 1998) and the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) 10 times (1977, 1978, 1980, 1987, 1988, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2008 and 2009).
TWO SIGN FOR 2010 CLASS
Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich announced the signing of two incoming players during the early signing period. ISU added Kenyon Smith (guard, 6-0, 190) from Lincoln College and Jordan Threloff (center, 6-10, 240) from DeKalb High School. Smith originally signed with ISU out of Simeon High School, but was declared academically ineligible by the NCAA. If he receives his associate's degree this school year, Smith will have three years of eligibility remaining at ISU, while Threloff will enter as a true freshman.