As Dan Muller watched Selection Sunday, he knew his Illinois State Redbirds weren’t going to receive an NCAA Tournament bid. He knew that even before each region had been unveiled.
“I was less than optimistic when I saw Wichita State get a 10-seed, which is an absolute joke,” Muller said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “At that point, I was pretty sure.”
Muller was right. Illinois State (27-6) went 17-1 in league play, shared an MVC regular-season championship with Wichita State and won 20 of its final 22 games entering Selection Sunday.
None of that mattered. Illinois State was snubbed.
Why is perception of the MVC so bad?
“I think if you look at all conferences right now that aren’t in the Power 5, (perception is down),” Muller said. “SMU, their seeding (6), Cincinnati’s seeding (6), even a VCU with a top 25 RPI, their seeding (10) – I think the only thing right now from what I can tell that the committee valued in the end was quality wins, as they say. Well, guess who gets the most chances for quality wins? So if you’re 2-6 or whatever – I’m not calling any specific team out because it’s just as important for their program as it is for ours. I’m just saying there’s only one metric, in my opinion, that they used at the end for seeding and letting people in. There’s no one who’s going to tell me differently than that.”
Only one team, Wichita State, has beaten Illinois State since Dec. 25. In addition, the Redbirds tested themselves in the non-conference – as much as possible, anyway.
“Scheduling is difficult, but we try to get home-and-homes with quality opponents,” Muller said. “(We had) a home-and-home with St. Joe’s. New Mexico is part of our Mountain West Challenge, and I simply told our commissioner this: Please give me the best team in the league. That’s all I can do. We got New Mexico. I think they were picked second going into the season. But we played St. Joe’s, we played Tulsa, we played New Mexico, we play in the Diamond Head Classic, we played at TCU, which we got bought to do – and I don’t have to get bought. Our budget doesn’t need it, but I wanted a better game, a better quality game, so we’re trying. And again, I get it. I’m not trying to bash anybody. But just don’t come out afterwards and say, ‘Well, they just needed better non-conference wins.’ Just don’t say that. Say, ‘Hey, look, we’re not going to let any team in without enough quality wins, so if you can’t get them, sorry, we’re either going to give you the worst seed possible, or we’re not going to let you in.’ Because that’s the way it’s heading right now.”
Muller vented some of his frustration on social media Monday, tweeting that he would accept a home-and-home with any Power 5 school in America. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy saw it and reached out to Muller.
Illinois State and Ole Miss could soon have a home-and-home series.
“I’m not a huge Twitter guy. I don’t even like Twitter, to be honest, but now I like it a little more because it might have got us a game,” Muller said, laughing. “I just wanted to send that out. Some humor, but also telling the truth. I knew it would get a little bit of play. It got a lot more than I thought, but I will play any Power 5 team in a home-and-home that calls me as long as the schedule (fits). I’m not saying they should play me. I’m not saying shame on these other coaches for not wanting to do it. I’m just saying if you will do it, hey, give me a call, and if you won’t do it, then don’t let the committee tell us that’s the reason we can’t get in.”
Illinois State, which earned a 1-seed in the NIT, hosts UC Irvine (21-14) on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET.