NIU a shoo-in for NCAA bid

By Carl Ackerman

One more win, that’s all it’s going to take.

Just one more win and the NIU men’s basketball team will achieve something never before accomplished—an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies can achieve this feat by winning the championship round of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Green Bay, Wis.

However, one major obstacle stands in the way of the Huskies—their arch-rival Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The Phoenix have knocked off NIU twice this season by scores of 63-57 and 61-53.

It would be a nightmare if the Huskies fell prey to the Phoenix a third time.

However, even if NIU is stopped by the pesky UW-GB foes, the Huskies should still go to the NCAA Tournament, no questions asked. If NIU gets snubbed, something is definitely wrong with the system.

The 25-4 Huskies are ranked No. 34 in the nation in the latest AP Poll. Among the 64 teams that get a ticket to the “big dance,” NIU looks like a shoo-in.

DePaul, a team known for its prestige and talent, was leveled by the Huskies 70-61 at Chick Evans Field House Jan. 15. That same DePaul team (now ranked No. 25) has pulled off upsets over Top-20 St. Johns and previously Top-20 Georgetown.

The Huskies nearly knocked off Nebraska, another Top-20 team, on the road. NIU led through most of the Feb. 18 match, but ran into heavy foul trouble and suffered an 82-73 setback.

That was the last time the Huskies lost a game.

NIU claims the nation’s No. 2 ranked defense. This stat alone should guide NIU into the NCAA Tourney. The Huskies’ “D” has held 14 opponents under 60 points this season. On Jan. 26, NIU held Akron to a stunning league record 30 points.

Much of this season’s success is due to Donnell Thomas and Donald Whiteside, and Andrew Wells, and well, just about everybody on the Huskies’ squad.

Both Thomas and Whiteside were unanimous First-Team All-Mid-Continent Conference picks. Also, freshman Mike Lipnisky was named Mid-Con All-Newcomer for his impressive performances. To top it off NIU head coach Jim Molinari was awarded the Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year. Even more reason for NIU to gain an NCAA bid even if it does lose the Mid-Con battle.

So far just about everything looks positive for the Huskies to solidify an NCAA bid. The best advice would be to just put everyone’s worries to rest, and clobber those cheeseheads in front of ESPN’s national audience.