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Illinois State's Daouda Ndiaye (4) is closely guarded by Evansville's Ryan Taylor  during a game last season at Redbird Arena. Ndiaye, a junior center, and ISU open the Missouri Valley Conference season Dec. 23 at Evansville.

DAVID PROEBER, THE PANTAGRAPH

NORMAL — A 1-0 start in the Missouri Valley Conference would be a nice Christmas present for Illinois State's men's basketball team.

The Redbirds will start Valley action before Christmas for the first time since 2006 as the league schedule was released Tuesday. ISU travels to face Evansville on Dec. 23. The Purple Aces have listed game time at 1 p.m.

It also will mark the Redbirds’ first league opener on the road in four years. 

ISU's first league home game comes Dec. 31 against Indiana State. ISU has won 15 straight conference games at Redbird Arena.

Last season, the Redbirds earned a share of the Valley regular-season title for the first time in 19 years. ISU and Wichita State each went 17-1. That was the Redbirds' best ever mark since joining the league in the 1981-82 season.

Wichita State, which won or shared the league title the last four years, has left the Valley for the American Athletic Conference.

The Redbirds' first game against Valley newcomer Valparaiso occurs Jan. 27 at Redbird Arena. ISU goes on the road to face Valparaiso on Feb. 11.

The Interstate 74 rivalry against Bradley begins Jan. 17 at Redbird Arena. ISU ventures to Peoria on Feb. 14.

The Redbirds' home finale is Feb. 21 against Drake. ISU ends league action on Feb. 24 at Loyola.

The MVC Tournament is set for March 1-4 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

ISU's nonconference schedule was released earlier. The Redbirds open the season Nov. 11 at Florida Gulf Coast. ISU's home opener is Nov. 22 against Quincy. 

Most game times will be announced later.  

Women face Bradley in MVC opener: The ISU women's basketball team meets Bradley to open the Valley season on Dec. 31 at Redbird Arena. It will be the league debut for ISU coach Kristen Gillespie.

The Redbirds’ first road game is Jan. 5 at Valley newcomer Valparaiso.

ISU's final home game will be Feb. 18 against Evansville. The Redbirds’ complete the regular season March 3 at Bradley. The MVC Women’s Tournament takes place March 8-11 at the iWireless Center in Moline.

See Scoreboard for ISU men's and women's complete schedules.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson

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Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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