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.
Muller, frustrated with the criticism that his team did not schedule hard enough as a mid-major, added: “We ask dozens of schools to play us every year and they won’t. Don’t talk to me about scheduling.”
College coaches are the highest paid state employees in 40 states … and by a pretty substantial margin. So what exactly do the states receive in return for laying out all of that taxpayer dough? It’s debatable. Former UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun was as unapologetic over receiving millions from Connecticut while the state was in crisis as he was about leaving the UConn basketball program in tatters and the dismal graduation rate (under 30 percent) of his players.
In terms of handsome payouts, Second Round Loser Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski leads the pack at over 9.5 million a year.
John Calipari, who USA Today dubbed “the worldwide leader in Final Four asterisks,” has the dubious distinction of having two vacated titles under his belt. The first one was after he took UMass to the Final Four in 1996 and then again with Memphis in 2008. The NCAA expunged both teams Final Four appearances and 42 wins from the record books. If you thought this type of record would prevent him from moving on to another NCAA Division I team, jokes on you. The Kentucky Wildcats couldn’t wait to throw millions at Calipari to tie his style of success to their institute of higher learning. And these savvy coaches have built into their contracts that even if they fail or break the rules, the money will keep rolling in.
La Salle guard Tyrone Garland (21) gets past Mississippi forward Reginald Buckner (23) to make the game-winning shot in a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. La Salle won the game 76-74. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)