Illinois State v Louisville

Illinois State, VCU agree to home-and-home series

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The summer months are important ones for college programs, and not only because of the skill development of players in the program and the need to hit the recruiting trail.

There’s also the act of completing the non-conference schedule for the upcoming season, a task that can be tougher for some schools than others. Wednesday evening Illinois State announced that the school has reached an agreement with VCU for a home-and-home series, with the first game being played in Richmond on Friday, November 8, 2013.

The Redbirds will host the Rams during the 2014-15 season, but a date for that matchup has not been determined.

“I am very excited about starting this series with VCU,” Illinois State head coach Dan Muller said in a statement released by the school. “They are well-coached, play extremely hard and have had a lot of success recently.

“Playing at VCU gives us a chance to play in a hostile environment this year, which is a goal for me in scheduling. (VCU head coach) Shaka Smart’s teams are always going to compete and be prepared, and bringing them back the following year should be very exciting for our fan base.”

An interesting fact about this series is that Muller played in last two meetings between the programs, with VCU currently holding a 3-1 edge.

The last time the Redbirds faced VCU, Muller was a sophomore on the court. In fact, he led all scorers with 19 points and seven rebounds to help ISU in a narrow, 74-72, loss at VCU, Dec. 23, 1995. Muller was also in uniform during VCU’s only trip to Redbird Arena. As a freshman, he netted 15 points with nine rebounds to lift Illinois State to its lone win against the Rams, 77-68, Dec. 18, 1994.

Last season Illinois State did a solid job of taking care of the basketball, as they averaged just over 13 turnovers per game. That will be a key for the Redbirds at the Siegel Center in November, as VCU forced an average of 19.7 turnovers per game in 2012-13.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.