|ISU anticipates competitive season|
|Written by Emily Warner, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Thursday, 08 November 2012 19:55|
The ISU men’s basketball team lost by five points in overtime of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game last season. Soon after, the team’s head coach, Tim Jankovich, took a coach-in-waiting position at Southern Methodist and was soon followed by starting rookie point guard Nic Moore.
It is a lot to lose in a short amount of time, but the Redbirds have gained a lot since then, including ISU basketball alum Dan Muller, who was announced on May 8 as the new ISU men’s basketball head coach after leaving his position on the coaching staff at Vanderbilt.
ISU has also picked up a more competitive non-conference schedule and two new players, in addition to returning four of five starters from last season in seniors Tyler Brown, Jackie Carmichael, John Wilkins and junior Jon Ekey.
“Having a veteran team helps in every single way possible,” Muller said. “Knowing we can go on the road, knowing we can play tough teams, knowing we’ll have some leadership, knowing we have guys that have played in tough environments certainly gave us some leverage to schedule aggressively.”
The Redbirds will be playing a more challenging non-conference schedule than in years past. ISU will travel on Thursday to take on Drexel, a team that has received national votes, along with playing at No. 2 Louisville on Dec. 1.
“The schedule is a focus for us because we want to prepare our team for the Valley and it’s a tough league. If you don’t pick up road games before you have to go on the road for your first Valley game, you’re not going to be ready for it,” Muller said.
The team is excited to play teams from strong conferences.
“I’m looking forward to a lot of the games,” Ekey said. “We have the Drexel, Dayton and obviously Louisville, that’ll be the biggest game I think everyone is looking forward to, but Drexel and Dayton are both really good teams [with] a lot of guys coming back from last year.”
But the ’Birds’ challenges will not stop once the non-conference part of the schedule is over as the Valley looks to provide strong competition for ISU, housing nationally ranked Creighton, along with Wichita State and Northern Iowa.
“This is a powerful conference,” junior Bryant Allen said. “Every team is good, there’s no weak link in this conference, we just got to stay together and continue to play together.”
The Redbirds were picked in the preseason poll to finish second in the Valley, putting both a target on their back and lighting a fire under them as they plan on playing for that number one spot.
“I think we stand a pretty good chance, don’t want to make any predictions, but I feel we can definitely be one of the best teams in the conference,” Carmichael said. “We definitely feel like we can clinch a conference title and get a conference championship.”
Carmichael has received a lot of hype since the end of last season. The 6’9” senior participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy over the summer and is to be profiled by Sports Illustrated as a “Future Game Changer.” Carmichael returns as the ’Birds’ top returning scorer (13.9 points per game) and top rebounder (9.7 per game).
“Jackie’s the best rebounder I’ve ever coached. That allows him to be a dominant player on the board every game, but he’s really talented offensively,” Muller said. “I certainly believe that he’s truly one of the most talented players in the country.”
Not only is he one of the most talented players in the country, but selfless too. His lone goal this season?
“Just being able to win a Missouri Valley title. That’s the only one.”