Provo • Wednesday night’s nonconference college basketball game, the first-ever meeting between the West Coast Conference’s BYU and the Missouri Valley Conference’s Illinois State, will be brought to you by Twitter.
No, the 7 p.m. game at the Marriott Center won’t be streamed by the popular social media website. It will be televised by BYUtv.
Twitter got involved long ago, BYU coach Dave Rose said Tuesday night after the streaking Cougars, 6-2 and winners of three straight, wrapped up practice at the Marriott Center.
Back in March, after the Redbirds were left out of the NCAA Tournament despite going 17-1 in their league and winning a school-record 28 games, coach Dan Muller took to Twitter asking for a home-and-home series with any Power 6 Conference team that wanted a “quality road win” against a “top-33 RPI” team.
Rose, who isn’t on Twitter, was made aware of the tweet and told his assistant in charge of scheduling, Tim LaComb, to “call them and say, ‘we will play ya.’”
Illinois State agreed, and the teams will play in Provo on Wednesday and at 10,200-seat Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill., next year.
“Our preseason schedule hasn’t had the flash and all the big [names],” Rose said. “But the teams themselves have been really good, and we have another good one in here on Wednesday. Illinois State was the first team out [of the NCAAs] last year.”
The Cougars weren’t alone in noticing Muller’s plea. Mississippi athletic director Ross Bjork responded publicly to Muller’s tweet last March, and the Rebels and Redbirds will meet Dec. 16 at Ole Miss.
The scenario illustrates how difficult it is to get quality nonconference opponents to Provo. Last March, Rose said BYU had called “upwards of 100 schools in power conferences every year” for the last 10 years asking for home-and-home deals, “and we are having a hard time now just getting guaranteed games for a one-shot deal at their place.”
Alabama, which beat BYU 71-59 in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 24, and Utah, which travels to Provo on Dec. 16, are the only teams from Power Five conferences on the Cougars’ schedule this year.
Illinois State (4-4) has dropped to No. 115 in the Ken Pomeroy ratings (BYU is at No. 70 after downing Utah State 75-66 last Saturday in Logan) and isn’t quite the RPI-boosting club it was last year. But the Redbirds are still talented and capable of an upset, Rose said.
He called the matchup “worrisome” for the Cougars because of the Redbirds’ proficiency in transition and also because it falls in the middle of three big in-state matchups. The Cougars play Weber State at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday and then host rival Utah on Dec. 16.
BYU and Illinois State are not as deep as they were when the game was scheduled. BYU has been without leading scorer and rebounder Eric Mika, now playing professionally in Italy, and star guard Nick Emery, who withdrew from school a day before the opener.
Rose said Tuesday that big men Braiden Shaw (ankle) and Ryan Andrus (knee), who have yet to play this season, won’t play this week. However, he quickly discounted the notion that either player will redshirt.
Two Illinois State starters — Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh — transferred to Boston College and Oregon, respectively, using their graduate transfer options. Top reserve DJ Clayton transferred to Louisiana-Monroe. Junior college transfer Zach Copeland, a big-time scorer, is academically ineligible and point guard Elijah Clarance had foot surgery and has played in just one game.
Seniors will be in short supply; BYU has no seniors on its roster and ISU has just one, Texas Southern transfer Jerron Martin.
The trio of Keyshawn Evans (20.4 ppg.), Phil Fayne (16.6) and St. Louis transfer Milik Yarbrough (12.9) provides the bulk of ISU’s scoring.
Illinois State at BYU<br>At theMarriott Center, Provo<br>Tipoff: Wednesday, 7 p.m. MST<br>TV:BYUtv<br>Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143<br>Records:BYU 6-2, Illinois State 4-4<br>Series history: First meeting<br>Last meeting: N/A<br>About the Redbirds: Coach Dan Muller is in his sixth season at his alma mater and has a 108-69 career record. … They are scoring 73.1 points per game and allowing 73.8points per game. … Their big three of G Keyshawn Evans (20.4), F Phil Fayne (16.6) and F Milik Yarbrough (12.9) has scored 66 percent of their points. … They lost 98-68 to Nevada in their last trip out west.<br>About the Cougars: They are coming off a 75-66 win over Utah State in Logan and are 3-0 in true road games to start the season for the first time since 2014-15 and fourth time in coach Dave Rose’s13-year tenure. … Weber State transfer McKay Cannon has scored 25 points in his first two games since being declared eligible by the NCAA. …Sophomore G TJ Haws has made a 3-pointer in 21-straight games.