Illinois State forward Jackie CarmichaelThe only team to lose more important personnel than Illinois State is Northern Iowa, and it’s a close call. The Redbirds must carry on without Osiris Eldridge, Dinma Odiakosa and Lloyd Phillips, all starters. Strangely, junior forward Kellen Thornton left the team early in the semester and transferred to Tennessee State. Thornton didn’t play a lot as a sophomore, but he appeared to be in line for regular playing time in 2010-11. Three straight trips to the NIT is a good accomplishment, but also disappointing for the Redbirds. Twice they lost in the MVC Tournament title game and a No. 40 RPI wasn’t good enough for an at-large spot in 2008. If the Redbirds make the NIT this season, it’s reason for celebration.
Thanks to Jim Benson of The Pantagraph for his help with the questions.
1. Without Eldridge around, who will ISU look to for end-of-the-game shots?
Senior guard Austin Hill probably gets the first chance to close. He is big enough to work over many guards, is an adequate outside shooter and good from the line (75 percent). Sophomore forward Jackie Carmichael would be a better option if he improves his free throws (64.6 percent).
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2. Is Carmichael ready to become one of the top big men in the Valley and replace Dinma Odiakosa’s production?
Carmichael is on his way to passing Odiakosa as a scorer. Defensively, he will probably need more experience to match the MVC’s Defensive MVP. Carmichael averaged 6.8 points as a freshman and will be counted on for much more in 2010-11. Odiakosa was never more than Illinois State’s second or third option. Carmichael is more versatile offensively, and the Redbirds need big production from him. If he continues to progress, he will be one of the Valley’s top big men.
3. Can Justin Clark find the shooting range after struggling during most of his freshman season?
Clark’s poor shooting mystified coaches. He came to Illlinois State with a reputation as an excellent shooter and coaches expected him to help immediately. Instead, he made 8 of 43 three-pointers and averaged under 10 minutes a game. The Redbirds are short on shooters and could use Clark to regain his confidence.