Preview: Season Opener Arrives Wednesday For Red Devils

Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand.
Photo courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand.

EUREKA, Ill. -- After a pair of exhibition games on the road against NCAA Division I opponents, the Eureka College men's basketball team will begin its regular season Wednesday in a 7 p.m. non-conference start against USCAA Robert Morris-Springfield at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.

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Eureka will begin its 40th season as a member of NCAA Division III and the 11th season of the Chip Wilde coaching era on Wednesday. The Red Devils return three starters, all juniors, from last season's 13-win team that broke the program's single-season record for team scoring with 90.5 points per game.
Shea Feehan, who became just the fourth player in program history to score 600 points in a season in 2016-17, will enter his third collegiate season ranked 21st on Eureka's modern-era scoring list with 928 career points. Feehan was an All-SLIAC First Team choice, an All-Region pick by and set new single-season Division-III era school records last season with a 26.7 scoring average, 173 free throws made and a .930 free throw percentage.
Hank Thomas gives the Red Devils another efficient perimeter scorer.  Thomas was the SLIAC's most accurate 3-point shooter as a sophomore, connecting on 44 percent (62-for-141) of his attempts from beyond the arc. He also distributed 73 assists and boasted a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Junior forward and two-year starter Alex Wiegand will anchor Eureka's interior efforts. He is a career 53 percent shooter, averaging 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest. 
In all, Eureka returns 18 letterwinners from last season. Senior guards Ryan McElmurry and Brady Sanders also return to bolster Eureka's guard rotation. Sophomore Jordan Dehm also returns for EC. McElmurry, Sanders and Dehm each averaged at least 13.5 minutes per game last season and Dehm started eight of the final 11 contests.
Eureka played a pair of exhibition games against NCAA Division I opponents last weekend, dropping a 122-65 decision at North Texas last Friday and a 96-69 final score to Loyola (Ill.) on Sunday.
Feehan and THomas both reached double-digit scoring totals in each game. Feehan averaged 20.5 points and Thomas checked in with 11.5 points on the two-game road swing. The Red Devils knocked down 21 3-pointers as a team over the weekend and committed only 12 turnovers in the Sunday matchup with the Ramblers in Chicago.
Wednesday represents Eureka's 40th season opener since joining NCAA Division III prior to the 1978-79 season. The Red Devils are 17-22 in their previous 39 openers of that era.
Chip Wilde will lead the Red Devils into the season for the 11th time on Wednesday. Wilde is 5-5 in opening-night games and will be beginning the season at the Reagan Athletic Complex for just the third time. Wilde has never lost a season opener at the Reagan, besting North Park 81-76 on Nov. 15, 2011 and downing Rockford 80-68 on Nov. 15, 2014.
Eureka was picked to finish fourth in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2017-18, according to a preseason poll conducted by league head coaches last month. Defending SLIAC Tournament champion Westminster was voted by the coaches as preseason favorite.
Westminster received half of the 10 first-place votes. MacMurray, less than a year removed from a ninth-place finish, moved up the ladder to be picked second and received four first-place votes. Greenville, which won the regular-season SLIAC crown a year ago, was voted third with The Red Devils followed in fourth, narrowly missing the third spot. Spalding garnered the final first-place vote to be slotted fifth in the poll. Webster, Principia, Iowa Wesleyan, Blackburn and Fontbonne filled out the bottom half of the ballot.
Robert Morris-Springfield competes as one of 24 members of United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division I. The Eagles have already played four times in 2017-18, owning a 2-2 record. RMU hit the century mark in its season-opening 104-85 victory at Central Christian (Mo.) on Nov. 7. The Eagles also own a 76-72 win over Kansas Christian and suffered defeats to Rhema Bible (Okla), 88-66, and Southwestern Adventist (Texas), 73-65.
Individual and team statistics for the Eagles are not available, but the team has averaged 77.8 points per game through its first four outings. The 2017-18 roster features players seven different states.
RMU's season-opening win on Nov. 7 snapped the program's 33-game losing streak that dated back to Feb. 28, 2015. According to, Robert Morris was winless in both 2016-17 (0-18) and 2015-16 (0-15). The 33-game skid featured only one game against an NCAA Division III institution and NCAA Division II losses to Maryville (Mo.), Lindenwood (Mo.), Quincy, Illinois Springfield and Missouri-St. Louis.
Wednesday's game represents the fifth all-time meeting between Eureka and Robert Morris-Springfield. The Eagles own the series lead, 3-1, and have split a pair of contests at the Reagan Athletic Complex. 
RMU won the first three matchups between two schools, including a 73-58 triumph in the first all-time meeting in Springfield on Dec. 16, 2004. The Red Devils won the most recent meeting, a 96-90 victory over RMU on Dec. 14, 2011. Eleventh-year head coach Chip Wilde is 1-1 against the Eagles.
The owner of more than two decades of coaching experience at the collegiate level, Chip Wilde will enter his 11th season as head coach at Eureka in 2017-18. The upcoming campaign marks Wilde's 20th season as a collegiate basketball head coach.
Wilde has proved to be one of the most successful head coaches in the storied history of Eureka men's basketball, establishing the Red Devils as a steady presence in the SLIAC both on the court and in the classroom. Wilde entered the 2017-18 campaign with 117 wins, fourth-most in the 99-year history of the program.
Robert Morris graduate Matt McElory is in his third season as head coach of the Eagles. He had served as an assistant on the RMU bench for five seasons prior to his appointment as head coach and played for the Eagles from 2001 through 2005.
Eureka will provide a live video broadcast and live statistics of Wednesday's game at In-game updates will also be available via Twitter at @EurekaGameDay.