|Fan Voice: Back the 'Birds|
|Written by Todd Marver, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Wednesday, 05 December 2012 23:34|
Having the opportunity to face off against a top five team in the country has not come very often for the ISU men’s basketball program in recent history. In fact, it did not happen for more than 12 years until last Saturday. The Redbirds faced off against No. 5 Louisville in Louisville, Ky., its first matchup against a top five opponent since falling to No. 2 Kansas on Nov. 30, 2000.
I was able to make the trip to Louisville for the game with a friend. We departed bright and early just after 5 a.m. to make the five-hour trek to Kentucky for the 1 p.m. Eastern Time tip.
We arrived well before game time and were in awe of the Cardinals’ home facility, the $238 million KFC Yum! Center that is just over two years old. With a seating capacity of 22,000, the facility can hold nearly 2.5 times the amount of people that Redbird Arena can hold at 10,200 people.
Despite falling just short in the upset bid, losing 69-66, there are certainly a lot of positives to be taken out of the game for the Redbirds. ISU jumped out to a sizeable early advantage at 14-2 and 17-4. The ’Birds led Louisville the entire first half, going into the halftime break with a 33-25 advantage.
But the Cardinals came out of the locker room on a 12-2 run to take a 37-35 lead. From there, it was a back-and-forth battle with ISU narrowly falling short at the end. Any loss stings, especially when the Redbirds were this close to upsetting a top five team, but they certainly had nothing to hang their heads about after this one since they barely lost to such a great team.
The chance to play on the road in a hostile environment against one of the top teams in the country is an invaluable experience for the Redbirds. It is much better to suffer this narrow loss against such a great team in that environment than to have not played them at all and not gone through the experience. The latter has been the case in recent years where the schedule has not consisted of top teams such as Louisville.
At first-year head coach Dan Muller’s initial press conference when he was hired last May, he promised to beef up the schedule and has followed through. I would much rather have the Redbirds play against top opponents in hostile environments where they can really be challenged and learn a lot about themselves, as opposed to playing a bunch of lesser teams which seemed to be the way the non-conference schedule lined up in the past.
This game really excited a ton of people, as several hundred ISU fans made the trip down to Louisville. The quoted number was 450 people from ISU, but it really seemed to be even more than that, especially considering not all Redbird fans bought their tickets directly through ISU, but also through outlets such as StubHub and Ticketmaster or through Louisville.
I am really excited to see the changes that the Muller era has brought, not only schedule-wise, but in other areas as well. Muller and the rest of his coaching staff have really made a strong commitment to engaging with the students, which is something that was not present in past years. For example, the coaching staff was at the Watterson Dining Center during lunchtime on Tuesday before the team’s contest against Wyoming and actively engaging with students in an attempt to get them out to the team’s games.
Muller also has posted on his Twitter page before each home game when school was in session to encourage students to come on out. If this stronger connection between the team and students, as well as a stronger schedule including going toe-to-toe with Louisville is not enough to excite people, then that is crazy to me. So back Dan Muller and back the ’Birds by coming out to the next men’s basketball home game against Western Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday at Redbird Arena.