Illinois State men's basketball coach Dan Muller met with the media Monday to discuss the upcoming season. (Photo By Paul Morello/WJBC)
By Paul Morello
NORMAL - Illinois State men's basketball coach Dan Muller knows Redbird players can't avoid the hype surrounding the upcoming season.
But, the new ISU coach wants to make sure it doesn't go to his players' heads.
"We've talked a lot about our standards, and what we want to do every day. We want to focus on the daily grind and our guys have been doing a good job of that," Muller said Monday. "But we can handle the expectations. It's 2012. I hope they're not reading the internet message boards, but they probably are. I think we can do a good job handling it."
After a 2011-12 season that saw Illinois State nearly upset Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game and then fall to eventual champion Stanford in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, the Redbirds feel they still have some momentum this year.
"We definitely remember what we did last season," Redbird senior forward Jackie Carmichael said. "But we know that doesn't leave us entitled to anything this season. We have to come out every single game and play, and we can't focus on the past."
Another deep postseason run certainly seems possible, considering Carmichael is one of four returning starters. The others include Tyler Brown, who was second on the team in scoring last year with 13.7 points per game, Jon Ekey and John Wilkins.
Only one starter from last year's squad will not be back, as Nic Moore chose to follow Tim Jankovich to Southern Methodist University.
Moore's departure paves the way for a key newcomer. Freshman point guard Kaza Keane expects to compete with Anthony Cousin and Johnny Hill for the starting job.
"I'm going to come in and do whatever it takes to win," Keane said. "If that means me coming off the bench, or waving a towel, that's what I'm going to do. But I feel like I can come in and play. I've been playing international basketball and I've been competitive my whole life."
The Redbirds open the season with an exhibition contest against Quincy Nov. 5, before the regular season gets underway Nov. 12 at Redbird Arena against UC Santa Barbara. All Illinois State games will be broadcast on WJBC.
Paul Morello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.