(CBS) The frustration from coach Dan Muller and Illinois State was clear.
After the Redbirds missed the NCAA Tournament this March, Muller sounded off with the hopes of finding major conference foes to play his team.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Breezy On Tuesday
Illinois now has a new head coach in Brad Underwood, who long served as an assistant at Western Illinois and coached at Stephen F. Austin for three years before moving to Oklahoma State.
Underwood, appearing on the Spiegel & Parkins Show with athletic director Josh Whitman on Tuesday, was asked directly if he would consider scheduling the Redbirds for the Fighting Illini.READ MORE: Staffer In Gov. Pritzker's Office Tests Positive For COVID-19 After Getting First Dose Of Vaccine
“I don’t know why we would run from anybody,” Underwood replied. “You’ll find out with me real quick, I’m not afraid of much. I dream big. To be the best, you got to beat the best. I don’t know who that is. We’ll play Duke, we’ll play good people. Sure, I’m just about open to everything.”
The Fighting Illini were in line to meet the Redbirds in the NIT, but Illinois State fell 63-62 to UCF on Monday night. That same evening, Illinois beat Boise State in Champaign.
Perhaps a matchup between Illinois and Illinois State could come in an in-state marquee battle with several local schools, mirroring the state of Indiana’s Crossroads Classic. It’s something Whitman, a native of Indiana, would be open to.MORE NEWS: Cubs Bullpen Coach Chris Young Tests Positive For COVID-19, Leading To Worry About Possible Outbreak
“There’s a great opportunity to consider that,” Whitman said. “Talking to Coach (Underwood), if that’s something he’d be open to, we can certainly have discussions about what would make the most sense and get people around the state excited.”