It wasn't long ago the only college basketball teams you could watch almost every game were blueblood schools such as Kentucky, Duke and Kansas. Then the Big Ten Network came around, followed by the Pac-12 Network and SEC Network.

However, the power-five conferences aren't alone anymore in showcasing their product to the entire nation.

When Illinois State tips off at 9 p.m. Friday in the season opener at San Diego State, Redbird fans in Central Illinois and the state will be able to see all but four of their games. ISU alums across the country should see about half the schedule, too.

The Missouri Valley Conference's new agreement with ESPN3 allows fans to keep track of their teams like never before. At least 13 ISU games will be streamed on ESPN3 this season. All it takes is a computer, laptop or tablet and you're ready to roll.

With other games scheduled for traditional platforms such as ESPN2, CBS Sports Network, Comcast Chicago, Fox Sports Midwest and the American Sports Network, ISU fans will be in the dark only for road games at Saint Joseph's (Dec. 19), Drake (Jan. 3), Southern Illinois (Jan. 12) and Missouri State (Jan. 30). 

"All players' parents get to watch all their games and that leads into recruiting where you tell parents who are far away they'll be able to watch their kids play," said ISU coach Dan Muller. "Also our fans out of town can watch us play and the branding of having kind of our own channel to do all sports is big."

Only two Redbird players are from Illinois, so the opportunity for out-of-state family and friends to watch almost the entire season can't be overstated.

"That's big, especially with me sitting out a year (after transferring). I know they're eager to watch," said Redbird junior forward Nick Banyard, who is from Flower Mound, Texas. "It's big in general, for the whole team, because it's not easy getting out here especially with the snow."

ISU football fans have been treated to the same type of coverage all season with five games exclusively on ESPN3 and nine overall, in addition to Comcast Chicago, the Big Ten Network and WMBD (Channel 31).

"The negative is fans can stay home and watch all the games," said Muller. "You worry about that a little bit and hope your game environment and excitement is so good we'll fill the arena, which is the goal."   

College FB: LSU at Alabama (CBS, 7 p.m. Saturday): This is the first game in the College Football Playoff elimination derby that will make Saturdays in November a blast to watch.

NASCAR: AAA Texas 500 (NBC, 1 p.m. Sunday): Jeff Gordon's quest to win the championship in his final year getting overshadowed by Matt Kenseth being sent to the penalty box after wrecking Joey Logano.

NFL: Broncos at Colts (CBS, 3:25 p.m. Sunday): Ironic, isn't it, that Peyton Manning could set the all-time passing yards record in Indy while Andrew Luck is having problems throwing the ball downfield?

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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