The weekend in which I take over Bloomington-Normal

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Missouri St at Illinois St
It's Friday and that can only mean one thing ... another exciting weekend of college basketball.

And in my world as the Daily Egyptian SIU beat writer, that means a trip to the non-Bobby Knight Bloomington and a shot at the Illinois State Redbirds.

This is the test SIU and its fans have been waiting for.

Since the dawn of 2009 began with the departure of two reserves and a loss to Drake, the Salukis have played solid basketball the way observers have become accustomed to seeing. Solid defense with enough offense.

Freshman guard Kevin Dillard is a five-star stud. He leads the team in scoring and is second in assists. He is averaging 17 points per game in Missouri Valley Conference play and has scored in double digits in each of his games against MVC foes.

And I'll be honest with you, my beloved readers. As much as I love and admire the play of senior guard Bryan Mullins, there is no one on the team I want to take the big shot more than KD.

Opposite of who I think is the front-runner for Valley freshman and newcomer of the year is the conference's preseason player of the year.

Osiris Eldridge.

"The Big O" has done everything in his power to keep ISU (red) near the top of the standings. He can score, defend and rebound ... and at a legit 6-foot-3 (I've met him and talked to him in person, so I'll vouch) he might be the Valley's best pro prospect after another year of seasoning. He's only a junior.

As I said a moment ago, I was able to speak with Eldridge in the beginning of the year at the MVC's Media Day in St. Louis and have no ill will towards the competition. Well-dressed and well-spoken, Eldridge was able to break down how he embraced having the bulls-eye on his back and how much he enjoyed carrying a team.

We also spoke about his now infamous "fro-hawk" and how the Dawg Pound was among the most creative hecklers. As for those who were bad or just insulting, he said he torched 'em.

So a word to the wise: if you're not going to bring it, just keep it in your mouth.

I'll be pulling double-duty for the paper this weekend as I will also report on the Saluki women, who are still in search of their first conference win. Yeah. Sad.

Well, at least my weekend ends with a night in Chicago, which is about a two-hour drive from the Redbirds' nest. Maybe I can talk Tom Ricketts into finding me a job with the Cubs' as a media relations specialist or beat writer for the team's web site after I graduate.

Or maybe just the acquisition of Jake Peavy will do.