Kansas State finished in a four-way tie for fourth place in the Big 12 with a 9-7 record. The Wildcats were seeded No. 4 for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Tournament, but were defeated in the quarterfinals by No. 5-seed Texas, 61-58.
WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BACK
Illinois State head coach Tim Jankovich returns to his alma mater, Kansas State, for the first time as the Redbirds' head coach. Jankovich played for the Wildcats from 1980-82 and was a three-time academic All-American. He returned to K-State as an assistant coach under Jack Hartman from 1984-86.
WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BACK, PART II
Illinois State assistant coach Anthony Beane also played for Kansas State under current Creighton head coach Dana Altman. Beane lettered for the Wildcats from 1991-94 and was named the 1992 Big Eight Newcomer of the Year, while being named a two-time All-Big Eight selection.
WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BACK, WELCOME BACK, PART III
Illinois State's Director of Athletics Dr. Sheahon Zenger is no stranger to Kansas State, either. Zenger served on the K-State football coaching staff from 1989-2000 under head coach Bill Snyder. Zenger later went on to become the associate athletics director for development from 2002-05, before being named the director of athletics at Illinois State. Other ISU ties to Kansas State include assistant athletics director for development Doug Banks, assistant marketing director Mark Newton and athletics media relations graduate assistant Kevin McCarty.
BITING THE HAND THAT FED YOU
Tonight will be the first time Tim Jankovich has faced Kansas State as a head coach, but with assistant coaching stints at Oklahoma State (1992-93) and Kansas (2003-07), he has faced the Wildcats many times. In fact, Jankovich owns a 10-2 record when facing his alma mater.
A RETURN TO POSTSEASON
Illinois State, which became an NCAA Division I program prior to the 1970-71 season, enters postseason play for the 16th time. The Redbirds have qualified for the NCAA Tournament six times (1983, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1997 and 1998) and the NIT 10 times (1977, 1978, 1980, 1987, 1988, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2008 and 2009).
After making the NIT each of the last two years, Illinois State has posted successive postseason berths for the first time in over a decade. The last time the Redbirds had back-to-back postseason bids was during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, when ISU went to the NCAA Tournament each season.
The play of Osiris Eldridge at the 2009 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Tournament was spectacular and his final 21 minutes of action were nothing short of legendary. As a result, Eldridge became only the second player in league history to win the Valley's Most Outstanding Player Award from the tournament's runner-up team. Eldridge joined Rickey Jackson (1990), Rico Hill (1997) and Dan Muller (1998) as Redbirds to have won the league's MOP award.
After being held scoreless in the first half of the Valley championship game against Northern Iowa, Osiris Eldridge started the second half with turnover-forcing defensive pressure, and after slamming home a Redbird fast break, he entered the zone. Eldridge finished with 21 second-half points and put on a shooting display that featured five three-pointers each with increasing degrees of difficulty.
REDBIRDS AGAINST THE BIG 12
Despite a close proximity to a number of the schools in the Big 12 Conference, Illinois State doesn't have a long history against the league members. In school history, the Redbirds are 4-10 against the current members of the Big 12, with the last victory coming Jan. 3, 1994, against Colorado (76-63). ISU has lost its last three Big 12 meetings, including the last one, an 80-61 defeat at Kansas Nov. 30, 2000.
AN OLD VALLEY TILT?
Tonight's game is between a pair of Missouri Valley Conference brethren. Kansas State was a member of the Valley, the second oldest NCAA Division I collegiate conference, from 1913-28, while Illinois State has been a league member since 1981.
ON THE BLOCK
The Redbirds have had five games this season with five blocked shots or more, but it just happens that three of those games occurred in St. Louis at the Valley Tournament. ISU collected a tournament-record 24 blocked shots during the four-day event, led by Osiris Eldridge's seven blocks. During the three-game span, the Redbirds posted 10 blocked shots in the quarterfinals against Evansville. ISU had not had 10 blocks in a single game since Jan. 17, 1979.
No, this isn't the chase for the Sprint Cup. Illinois State's Champ Oguchi needs only five more points to score 500 points in a single season, which has only happened 27 other times in school history.
ODIAKOSA'S BOARDING CALL
Junior Dinma Odiakosa has evolved into one of the top rebounders in college basketball. He has collected 244 rebounds this season, which ranks No. 30 in school history for a single season. Even more amazing is the fact that Odiakosa's rebounding total is the most by a Redbird in over a decade, when Rico Hill totaled 247 boards during the 1996-97 season. With four more rebounds, Odiakosa would have Illinois State's highest single-season rebound total in over 20 seasons.
After logging 37 minutes of action in the Valley Tournament title game against Northern Iowa, Osiris Eldridge has totaled 1,144 minutes this season. As a result, Eldridge has seen the court more this year than any previous Illinois State player in school history. Dan Muller owned the old mark with 1,142 minutes played during the 1995-96 season.
With a victory tonight, Illinois State would claim its 50th combined win over the last two seasons, which would be the school's highest victory total over a two-year period. The current 49 wins ties the school record for best two-year total, set during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons.
NOW THAT's A WINNER
Another milestone Illinois State would reach with a victory tonight is tying the school record for wins in a season. The Redbirds have won 25 games in a single season three other times, including last season. ISU was 25-3 in 1967-68, 25-6 in 1997-98 and 25-10 last season.
With 10 three-pointers against Northern Iowa in the Valley title game, the Redbirds now have 286 treys this year, which is the most made three-pointers in a single season.
OGUCHI NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
For the fourth time in Illinois State history, the Missouri Valley Conference's Newcomer of the Year is a Redbird. After leading the team in scoring through the regular season, Champ Oguchi was named the league's newcomer of the year by the conference's head coaches, media members and sports information directors. Oguchi joins Lorenzo Gordon (2005), Tarise Bryson (1999) and Reggie Wilson (1991) as Redbirds to win the honor. Oguchi was also named second-team all-conference.
A CLOSER LOOK
Sure, Illinois State has nine defeats, but only one loss was by double-digits and it was a non-conference game. Of the nine losses, seven occurred away from Redbird Arena and four were in overtime. In the combined losses, the Redbirds have been defeated by a total of 44 points, and in the eight Valley losses, ISU was beaten by a total of 30 points.
NEEDING EXTRA TIME
Illinois State's 60-57 overtime loss against Northern Iowa in the Valley title game marked the sixth overtime game for the Redbirds this season. Illinois State has not played six overtime games in the same season since the 1984-85 campaign, when the Redbirds played six overtime games, including four-straight. The Redbirds have never played seven overtime games in the same season.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Despite starting a four-guard lineup in 32-of-33 games, Illinois State has won the rebounding battle in 25 games this season and tied in one. On the year, the Redbirds own a +4.8 rebounding margin.
AN ALL-AROUND GAME
With six rebounds against Wichita State Feb. 18, Osiris Eldridge eclipsed a trio of milestones with 1,000 career points, 500 career rebounds and 100 career steals. In doing so, Eldridge became the sixth Redbird all-time to accomplish the feat, joining Tony Holifield, Rick Lamb, Dan Muller, Mike VandeGarde and LeRoy Watkins.
CINCO DE MAKO
Illinois State has made five or more three-point field goals in 31 of the 33 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 in Carbondale, Ill., and ISU only made four triples at Niagara Feb. 20, in the ESPNU BracketBusters game.
O, SHALL HE STEAL
It has been an unofficial commandment of Illinois State basketball since his arrival, and Osiris Eldridge is back at it again this year. Eldridge leads the Redbirds with 51 steals this season and now has 130 in his ISU career, which ranks No. 7 in the Redbird record books. His single season mark of 51 steals ranks No. 9 all-time.
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.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
Illinois State 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.
CREATING THE SECOND CHANCE
Junior Dinma Odiakosa is all about giving his teammates a second chance, and with 98 offensive boards, he is the top offensive rebounder in the Valley. Odiakosa has accumulated 189 offensive rebounds in his three seasons at Illinois State and his offensive boards have accounted for 39.9 percent of his total rebounds. This year, Odiakosa leads the Redbirds in total rebounding with 7.4 boards per game. Since offensive rebounds have become an official stat during the 1990-91 season, the Redbirds have not had a player collect 100 or more offensive rebounds in a single season.
In the Valley title game against Northern Iowa, Illinois State grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. It marked the 22nd game this season where the Redbirds have pulled down double-digit offensive rebounds. On the season, ISU is averaging 11.2 offensive rebounds per game. Junior Dinma Odiakosa leads the team with 98 offensive boards.
299-STRAIGHT GAMES WITH A TREY
After sinking 10 treys against Northern Iowa in the Valley Tournament title game, Illinois State enters tonight's game with at least one made three in 299-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.
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 1,309 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 72.1 percent winning percentage (49-19) 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.