Illinois State coach Dan Muller had himself prepared for Selection Sunday heartbreak. He says he's used to managing his emotions when it comes to something he cannot control.
His players were a different story.
After an agonizing week of waiting in which the Redbirds (27-6, 17-1) watched championship week closely — knowing different outcomes could push them on the right or wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble — the inescapable heartbreak set in after their name was not one of the 68 teams called for 2017's Big Dance. On most national bracketology boards, they were the first team out. And a No. 1 seed in the NIT is their consolation postseason fate. Other bubble teams like Syracuse, Illinois and Georgia all suffered a similar fate.
"My team is crushed," Muller said of his team's devastation. Illinois State players had a quick shootaround, then watched the selection show as a team, closed off to the public. Cameras were there just in case an at-large bid happened. "I feel terrible for them, especially my seniors. We feel we should be in but we aren't. It's tough to take but we'll have to gather ourselves and get ready for the NIT.