Dan Muller's Redbirds finish 18-15 in his first season as Illinois State men's basketball coach. (Photo by B Corbin/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
NORMAL - Illinois State basketball coach Dan Muller said his players had their hearts set on making the National Invitational Tournament, and when they didn't get a bid, they were fine with sitting out the College Basketball Invitational or the College Insider.com Tournament.
"The worst thing you can do going into a postseason tournament like that or any tournament and play poorly and really finish on a sour note. Not that we would play poorly, but if your heart's not into one of those tournaments, then you have you mind set and hopeful for something else, it can be a bad experience," Muller said.
The Redbirds, 18-15 on the season, were considered a long-shot to make the NIT after a sixth-place regular season finish in the Missouri Valley Conference and after bowing out in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament to Wichita State on March 9.
Muller said he weighed the views of his players and Athletics Director Gary Friedman - and said everyone aggred with the choice.
"In the end, it's my decision, but I talked to Gary about it," Muller said. "Those are good tournaments, but we just decided this wasn't the right year for us to join them and everyone was on the same page with that. "
The NIT only took one Missouri Valley Conference team - Indiana State. Bradley, Evansville and Northern Iowa accepted bids to the CIT. Conference champion Creighton and Wichita State were both selected to the NCAA Tournament.
Muller said he understands some fans might be disappointed the Redbirds didn't consider a postseason bid, but said it's hard to tell how many fans would have been receptive to the CIT or CBI tournaments.
"We looked at it and historically attendance is very low across the country for these games. So how much interest those tournaments would bring with all of your fans, you don't know," Muller said.
ISU made the NIT last March and lost in the second round to eventual champion Stanford in overtime.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.