Perfection, thy name is ... Illinois State?

Last season, the Illinois State men's basketball team was snubbed from the NCAA Tournament after finishing in second place to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference regular season standings and in the Valley tourney in St. Louis.

This season, a few Redbirds seem to have found a way to get around a selection committee snub.


The all-knowing John Mullin of the Chicago Tribune has the scoop:

"I would be lying if I said we weren't thinking about an undefeated season," said [Champ] Oguchi, a redshirt senior guard-forward leading ISU with averages of 16.2 points and 6.8 rebounds after sitting out last season because he transferred from Oregon. "Every team wants to go undefeated. We're starting to think undefeated, but you never know what's going to happen. Teams are going to play their best games against us. We are now the hunted."

Back in October, ISU (Red) was predicted to finish third behind Creighton and Southern Illinois. And by virtue of their 11-0 start against a pretty weak out-of-conference schedule (ranked 323 of 341 D-I schools), the Bloomington Ballers are already thinking about getting on Mercury Morris' block.

Led by superstar junior guard Osiris Eldridge, who is averaging 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, who's to say the Birds are bonkers? Besides, having the Valley's pre-season player of the year isn't going to hurt.

But what will hurt is counting out the rest of the MVC.

  • Creighton is deep and is coached by Dana Altman, the conference's longest standing coach (as long as you don't count that weekend trip to Arkansas).
  • Defending Valley champ Drake is a quiet 9-3, but recently put a whoopin' on Iowa.
  • Evansville is 8-2 and in search of the glass slipper Drake wore last season.
  • Missouri State (7-4), Northern Iowa (6-5), Bradley (6-5) and Wichita State (6-5) are all above .500 and could put up a fight against any Valley team.
  • Indiana State is 2-9 and is looking into its record books to see if Larry Bird has any eligibility left.
Oh yeah, and don't count out SIU. I know the Salukis' 5-6 record isn't good (trust me, I've seen a few of the losses live and in living color) but if you want to count out the Egyptian Hunting Dawgs, you can do it at your own risk.

Casting away head coach Chris Lowery's talented mixture of youth (Ryan Hare, Nick Evans and Kevin Dillard included) and senior star guard Bryan Mullins would be foolish, to say the least.

So, a word to the wise for Illinois State: before you start popping champagne like you won a championship game, you probably should take care of business in the Valley before you start talking about your peaks.