A friendly reminder: It only takes four wins (without a first-round bye) in the Missouri Valley Conference Arch Madness Tournament to make the Big Dance.
Now if Illinois State University’s 2019-20 peaks at the right time and plays its best basketball in St. Louis … it's still a long shot. But consider the Redbirds able to scrape together four wins against a considerably balanced MVC field.
For true Redbird basketball fans, it’s starting to feel like this men’s squad would be doing a disservice to the teams of years’ past by finally ending the NCAA Tournament drought.
Past ISU teams featuring program legends in Osiris Eldridge, Jackie Carmichael or more recently Paris Lee, have all come up short in the tournament final. But fans, to this day, would absolutely believe those teams deserve an NCAA tourney berth more than this year’s group.
So, would a trip to the NCAA Tournament this season bring a sense of discontentment to fans? Absolutely not.
However, the amount of excitement surrounding this year’s team is little to none. When Paris Lee ranked near the top of the nation in three-point shooting, leading his 2016-17 Redbird team to a 17-1 record in Valley play, excitement may have peaked.
Redbird hoops is a far cry from where it was just two years ago. It would take an extremely strong finish to the conference schedule for ISU to generate some hype around its men's team again. The Redbirds’ 0-9 road record this season isn’t helping their case much either.
Even if a miracle were to happen, fans would have to feel for some of the great teams that have come through the program since the 1998 NCAA Tournament appearance.