Commentary: NIU can make the tourney in the MAC

By Chris Dertz

Before the season, NIU guard Xavier Silas said he wanted to put a banner up in the Convocation Center.

If you read about it, you probably laughed. Here’s the thing; it’s not a far-fetched idea.

Nobody will argue that NIU’s men’s basketball team is not a good basketball team. There’s no arguing to the contrary. They’ve won seven games.

It’s February, and the Huskies have won seven games. I’m sorry, but that’s a joke if a program wants to be taken seriously. But if conference tournament season teaches us anything, it’s that any team has the opportunity to make it to the Big Dance.

There is nothing stopping NIU from getting into the NCAA Tournament. All the Huskies have to do is get hot at the right time, and win a string of games in the MAC Tournament.

And while most fans, coaches and players will tell you that’s easier said than done, I’m here to tell you it’s not.

It’s the MAC. The Most Awful Conference, if you will. Do you know what you need to win a game against any team in the MAC? You need one or two players to take over a game.

Have you ever heard of Xavier Silas? The guy should be a shoe-in for MAC Player of the Year, and he’s the best player the Huskie basketball program has seen since I created myself with a perfect 99 rating on EA Sports’ “NCAA Basketball 11.”

That’s a team that went to the Final Four, by the way.

Imagine what one 40-minute appearance would do for the program’s visibility, not only nationally, but most importantly on campus. Ohio proved last year, with one of the biggest upsets in tournament history, that one good game after a conference championship can launch your program into even pseudo-relevancy.

Ohio is 11-12 overall this season. The Bobcats are 4-5 in the MAC. That is by no means a good team, but when NIU played them in Athens, Ohio over the weekend, the Bobcats drew 6,879 people to see a sub-.500 team.

I don’t think anybody’s ever dreamt that many people into the Convo. You want people to go to basketball games? Get hot at the right time and get yourself on national television.

Win the MAC Tournament, and you’ll start to see things happen, NIU basketball. Your competition isn’t anything special. It’s not even anything standing next to something that smells like special.

MAC coaches talk about how tight the league is. They don’t tell you that it’s tight because all the teams are bad.

An NIU ticket to the Big Dance is a close as rising above mediocrity for a few games.