Another chapter of Illinois State’s historic season was written Wednesday evening, when the Redbirds completed their first-ever perfect season at Redbird Arena on Senior Night to go with coach Dan Muller’s 100th career win.
Muller doesn’t want too much credit for ISU’s memorable season because he can admit he has a great group of players to coach.
“There’s not a group I’d rather get any milestone with than that group in there,” Muller said. “This group is pretty special.”
Without a doubt, it has been a special season. But deep down, Muller deserves some kudos.
ISU’s roller coaster season hasn’t been a tour of domination. The Redbirds struggled early on losing a couple early non-conference games in which they held late leads. ISU has also battled injuries with center David Ndiaye not seeing action until the end of December, and most recently with star forward MiKyle McIntosh who is recovering from a torn meniscus.
Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year candidate and NCAA steals leader Paris Lee dominated midseason but has been shaky as of late. The preseason MVC First-Teamer has committed 10 turnovers in ISU’s last two games.
The Redbirds were rocked on national television a few weeks ago when Wichita State handedly defeated a depleted Redbird group without McIntosh.
Since then, ISU has won three games by a margin of four or less points.
Yet, the Redbirds are still 24-5, 16-1 MVC, 15-0 at home and tied for first place in the Valley with Wichita State.
But as the saying goes, it won’t mean a thing without the ring.
Or in ISU’s case — a MVC Tournament Championship March 5 in St. Louis and a long overdue NCAA Tournament appearance.
Since taking over the helm, Muller has battled the growing pains that come from taking over a program and establishing a new system.
He also endured his fair share of criticism. Some have questioned his in-game x’s and o’s and others have questioned his handling of off-court issues. But what can’t be challenged, most especially this season, is Muller’s will to win.
The big picture isn’t a secret to Muller. ISU doesn’t boast the strongest tournament resume and the Redbirds don’t want to leave their postseason fate in the committee’s hands. But no matter how the next two weeks play out for ISU, Muller is proud of what his group has accomplished.
Muller said, “We have plans for a lot more this year...but this group, no matter what happens down the stretch, has done some historic things. I think probably the biggest native of college basketball...the only thing that people remember or think that matters in a lot of situations is the end of the season.”
“The journey is what matters.”