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NORMAL — Illinois State basketball coach Dan Muller wants to see the Redbirds in the NCAA Tournament by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title this weekend.

If that doesn't happen, Muller hopes the National Invitation Tournament offers ISU a bid.

But Muller made clear Wednesday the Redbirds (16-14) won't be accepting a spot in the College Basketball Invitational or Tournament.

"We would love to play in the NIT if we don't win three (in St. Louis)," said Muller. "We will turn down every other tournament. We're not in a place right now with our program that will be beneficial for us."

Third-seeded ISU faces No. 6 Indiana State (13-17) in a MVC Tournament quarterfinal game at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Scottrade Center. The Redbirds left for St. Louis after Wednesday afternoon's practice on campus.

ISU, which hasn't been in the NCAA tourney since 1998, has played in the NIT in six of the last 10 years, including two of the last three. The Redbirds lost in the NIT's second round last year to Central Florida.

The only time ISU went to any tournament other than the NCAA or NIT was in 2014, which was Muller's second year as coach. The Redbirds played in the CBI and won two home games before losing in the semifinals at Siena.

Tinsley jacked up: ISU junior guard William Tinsley has been a lifelong Redbird fan growing up in Colfax and waited his entire life to experience Arch Madness in St. Louis.

Tinsley believes last Saturday's regular-season finale before a sellout and rowdy crowd at Loyola's Gentile Arena will help keep his pulse rate from racing Friday night.

"That atmosphere will be what it's like at Arch Madness," said Tinsley. "I wanted to get lost in the game first than worry about the crowd. I'm going to be locked in. That's where the proper mindset comes in, when you're locked in the game and compete at a high level."

Tinsley poured in a season-high 21 points thanks to 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range during a 68-61 loss to Loyola. 

No Redbirds on All-Bench, Most Improved: ISU didn't have any players selected to the MVC All-Bench and Most Improved teams, selected by the league's beat writers, which was announced Wednesday.

Southern Illinois senior Tyler Smithpeters, who was voted MVC Sixth Man of the Year on Tuesday, was named the captain of the All-Bench Team. Smithpeters was joined by Markus Golder of Valparaiso, Wyatt Lohaus of Northern Iowa, Reggie Scurry of Missouri State, Lucas Williamson of Loyola and Graham Woodward of Drake.

Indiana State sophomore Jordan Barnes was selected captain of the Most Improved unit. Clayton Custer of Loyola, who won the Larry Bird Trophy as the league's most valuable player, joined Barnes along with Aaron Cook and Sean Lloyd of Southern Illinois, Nick McGlynn of Drake and Dru Smith of Evansville.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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