Illinois State's Phil Fayne (10) puts a move on Southern Illinois' Thik Bol (40) during a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinal game in St. Louis last season. Fayne, the lone returning ISU starter from a 28-7 squad, and the Redbirds will be tested on the road as the nonconference schedule was released Wednesday.


NORMAL — The road into Missouri Valley Conference play won't be an easy one for Illinois State as the Redbirds released their nonconference basketball schedule Wednesday.

ISU will face three schools that competed in last season's NCAA Tournament away from home, beginning with the Nov. 11 season opener at Florida Gulf Coast.

The Redbirds begin the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 16 against South Carolina, which made The Final Four for the first time. ISU faces another NCAA tourney squad, Nevada, on Nov. 29 in Reno as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge.

Other road games that figure to be difficult to win are at Brigham Young on Dec. 6 in Provo, Utah, and at Mississippi on Dec. 16. Brigham Young and Ole Miss were in last season's National Invitation Tournament along with the Redbirds.

ISU will face either another NIT team, Boise State, or Texas-El Paso on Nov. 17 in Puerto Rico. The other side of the bracket features Iowa State, Tulsa, Appalachain State and Western Michigan. 

"With so many new faces, this schedule is really going to challenge us," said ISU coach Dan Muller, who returns one starter from a 28-7 squad that shared the Missouri Valley regular-season title. "We will learn a lot from these tough road games, the tournament in Puerto Rico and the quality home games."

ISU's home schedule isn't as daunting as the road slate.

The Redbird Arena opener will be Nov. 22 against Division II Quincy. Other home games will be against Charleston Southern (Nov. 25), Tulsa (Dec. 2), Murray State (Dec. 9) and UIC (Dec. 19).

ISU lost at Tulsa and Murray State last season. The Redbirds later beat Tulsa in the Diamond Head Classic. 

The Redbirds have never played Florida Gulf Coast or BYU. ISU went to Ole Miss and won in the 2012 NIT, but the Rebels are now playing in a different building, The Pavilion, in Oxford.

Ole Miss, Florida Gulf Coast and BYU will return games to Redbird Arena in the 2018-19 season along with an opponent in the Mountain West/MVC Challenge.

The lone exhibition game for ISU will be against Division II Lewis on Nov. 5 at Redbird Arena.  

The Missouri Valley Conference schedule is expected to be released later this month.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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