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ISU hoops season over

Illinois State guard Matt Hein (5) celebrates after the Redbirds defeated Southern Illinois, 76-68, in their Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinal March 3 in St. Louis. That marked ISU's last victory of the season as the Redbirds finished 18-15 after not receiving a bid to the NIT on Sunday.


NORMAL — Illinois State's basketball season officially ended Sunday night.

The Redbirds were not selected for the National Invitation Tournament when pairings were revealed on ESPNU. Thus, ISU finished with an 18-15 record after losing a week ago to Loyola in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game.

ISU coach Dan Muller said two weeks ago the Redbirds would decline invitations to the College Basketball Invitational and Tournament if they weren't selected for the NIT or advanced to the NCAA Tournament by winning the MVC tourney title.

Loyola is the only Valley team in the NCAA field. The Ramblers (28-5), who joined the league five years ago, are making their first NCAA appearance in 33 years. Loyola earned a No. 11 seed and faces sixth-seeded Miami, Fla. (22-9) on Thursday in the South Region at Dallas.

Despite the Valley being ranked as the nation's eighth-best conference, no league teams were selected for the NIT. That also happened in 2016, although Northern Iowa and Wichita State both made the NCAA that year.

Baylor, Notre Dame, St. Mary's (Calif.) and Southern Cal were picked as No. 1 seeds for the NIT after being the first four left out of the NCAA field.

USC will play UNC Asheville on Tuesday night in its first appearance in the NIT since 1999.

Notre Dame takes on Hampton, Baylor plays Wagner and Saint Mary's faces Southeastern Louisiana in the first round.

NIT first- and second-round games, along with the quarterfinals, are held at the higher-seeded team. The March 27 semifinals and March 29 championship game will be held at Madison Square Garden in New York.

One Valley school accepted an invitation to the CIT earlier. Drake (16-16) faces Abilene Christian (16-15) in a first-round game at 1 p.m. Monday at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa. It will be the Bulldogs' first postseason appearance since 2012.

ISU holds the Valley's longest drought in the NCAA after having not gone to the Big Dance since back-to-back appearances in 1997 and 1998. The Redbirds have played in the NIT in six of the last 11 years while also competing in the CBI in 2014.


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