Senior forward Mamadou Seck is an optimist in the purest sense of the word, though his team is on the cusp of losing the most games in school history.
“We still have a chance to go to the (NCAA) tournament. I still believe we can do it,” Seck said. “In our conference, there is no mega-team, or any one team that would beat everybody.”
Seck is one of two seniors winding down Saluki career, so if anybody’s going to fight for a postseason berth, it’s Seck. But with the 71-62 loss Saturday to Ball State, SIU tied the school record for losses in a season with 20, so the optimism is oddly timed.
Looking ahead, only two teams stand out in the MVC: Creighton (23-5, 12-4 MVC) and No. 24 Wichita State (24-4, 14-2 MVC). Both teams beat the Salukis twice, and in record fashion: Wichita State defeated SIU by the largest margin in Saluki history Jan. 21, and Creighton set the MVC-record for field goal percentage against the Salukis Feb. 14.
But after those two teams, nobody in the MVC stands out. The next six teams (Missouri State, Illinois State, Drake, Evansville, Northern Iowa and Indiana State) in the MVC standings are separated by just two games.
Seck said he realizes there is work in store for the team if they hope to make it past the play-in game March 1, but he hasn’t given up hope on his postseason aspirations.
“I’m not going to lie to you, if that wasn’t the case, I might say ‘why practice?’” Seck said. “That’s the only reason I’m practicing right now.”
Every relevant stat and storyline says Seck is crazy to think this team has a shot to win the MVC tournament. SIU is giving up three-pointers at a ridiculous rate, the Salukis can’t seem to win on the road and they seem to find more ways to lose close games then win them.
But if Seck’s attitude rubs off on the other guys, and somebody else knocks out Creighton and Wichita State, who knows what could happen? With a little luck, SIU could turn an abysmal season into something memorable.
“I know, it’s crazy to say, but hopefully we can do it,” Seck said.
Joe Ragusa hosts ‘The Saluki Report’ every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on WIDB.net The Revolution with Sam Donets and Kyle Fisher.