NORMAL — Illinois State missed an opportunity to upset Loyola in the regular-season finale. How much that close call helps the Redbirds heading into the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament remains to be seen.
ISU earned the No. 3 seed and faces sixth-seeded Indiana State at 8:30 p.m. Friday in a quarterfinal game at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
The Redbirds (16-14), who tied Drake for third place in the league at 10-8, trailed by two in the final minute before Loyola pulled away for a 68-61 victory in Chicago on Saturday.
“Confidence comes from how you prepare this week,” said ISU coach Dan Muller. “This team, in general, has not lacked confidence and sometimes we're overconfident when we don't deserve it. Confidence will be determined by how we practice and what mindset we have in St. Louis. Hopefully we choose wisely.”
The Redbirds, who will practice Tuesday and Wednesday on campus before leaving for St. Louis, shouldn't be overconfident if they remember their two games against Indiana State (13-17).
ISU held off the Sycamores, 84-81, in overtime on New Year's Eve at Redbird Arena. The rematch wasn't close as Indiana State built up a 40-point lead in an 84-54 drubbing of the Redbirds on Jan. 20 in Terre Haute.
There were two ties in the standings at the conclusion of Saturday's games that needed to be broken for seeding purposes after the tied teams split head-to-head meetings.
ISU and Drake knew their outcome Saturday before the Redbirds finished No. 84 and Drake was No. 162 in the adjusted RPI from The RPI Report/Collegiate Basketball News on Sunday morning.
Missouri State, Evansville and Northern Iowa all tied for seventh at 7-11. When the RPI Report came out, Missouri State claimed the No. 7 seed at No. 133 and faces 10th-seeded Valparaiso in Thursday's second-play in game at 8:30 p.m.
Evansville is the No. 8 seed thanks to a 137 RPI and faces No. 9 UNI (141 RPI) to start the tourney at 6 p.m. Thursday. The winner advances to meet top-seed Loyola at noon to open Friday's quarterfinals, followed by Drake against No. 5 Bradley at 2:30 p.m.
Second-seeded SIU faces the Missouri State-Valpo winner at 6 p.m. Friday.
Should the Redbirds beat Indiana State, ISU would advance to Saturday's 5 p.m. semifinal against SIU, Missouri State or Valpo. The championship game is at 1 p.m. Sunday.
ISU figures to be at full health Friday. Muller believes junior forward Phil Fayne was still suffering from the effects of a midweek bout with the flu against Loyola when he finished with nine points and five rebounds, well below his season averages of 15.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.
“Hopefully we get Phil back going,” said Muller. “He's lost a lot of weight. When Phil loses weight it really hurts his game. We need him to get some weight back and get some rhythm. We just need all our guys playing well next week.”
The MVC award winners and all-league teams will be announced Tuesday. ISU's Milik Yarbrough is expected to be the Newcomer of the Year and also a first-team all-league selection, with Fayne and Keyshawn Evans possible for second- or third-team honors. The MVC Coach of the Year will be announced at a Thursday banquet in St. Louis.