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ISU likely to play in postseason tourney

ISU likely to play in postseason tourney

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Illinois State's focus is finishing 10-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference with Saturday's regular-season finale at Southern Illinois and taking momentum into next week's MVC Basketball Tournament.

But, the Redbirds' season probably won't end in St. Louis.

ISU (16-13) clinched at least a .500 record after Wednesday's thrashing of Indiana State. That means the Redbirds are eligible to play in a postseason tourney, so the Tournament or College Basketball Invitational could be calling when those announcements come on March 16.

The Redbirds declined a bid last season after finishing a disappointing 18-15 and failing to get an NIT berth. With four seniors on the squad, and four others who eventually transferred, gaining valuable postseason experience wasn't really necessary.

This season is much different. The Redbirds have no seniors and any momentum gained from a postseason tourney could be valuable heading into the 2014-15 season.

"I don't know 100 percent yet," said ISU coach Dan Muller on Friday morning when asked if the Redbirds would accept a postseason bid if offered. "It's something we're talking about with our administration right now. There's certainly a very good chance we would (accept a bid), I would say that.

"There are certainly benefits and each year and each team is different ... I honestly haven't thought about it a lot, but it's about that time to start thinking about it more."

Of the two lesser tourneys after the NCAA and NIT, the CBI is considered a little more prestigious. Teams from major conferences are eligible, while the CIT strictly goes for mid-majors.

The University of Illinois already has come out and said it would take a CBI bid if the Illini don't make either the NCAA or NIT. Illinois coach John Groce wants his young team to gain as much experience as they can.

However, the Illini can't play at home because the State Farm Center will be undergoing renovations as soon as the regular season ends.

Wouldn't an Illinois at Illinois State game in the CBI be interesting? The CBI and CIT usually don't draw much of crowds, but bringing the Illini to Redbird Arena for the first time would probably pack the place.

Of course, the CBI or CIT isn't on the Redbirds' minds right now. They would like to shock the world (not to mention the Shockers) and gain ISU's first NCAA trip since 1998. Don't think it's impossible.

The last team to roll through the regular season undefeated was Saint Joseph's in 2004. The Hawks promptly lost in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament. All it takes is one team (maybe Evansville) getting hot from 3-point range.

Yet if the Redbirds lose in St. Louis, there likely will be more basketball to be played starting March 18 or 19.


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