SIU back on campus after being stranded on a bus because of a winter storm

Thanks to Mother Nature, a bus trip back home to Carbondale after a game at Illinois State becomes an adventure for the Southern Illinois Salukis.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Valley Conference has always been regarded one of the best ‘bus' leagues in all of college basketball. That's cute and all, until Mother Nature decides to throw one of those buses into a ditch.

Which is exactly what happened Sunday night to the members of the Southern Illinois men's basketball team. The Salukis (4-11, 0-2 MVC) only just returned to campus today after being stranded for more than five hours on Interstate 57 due to a winter storm.

SIU was attempting to return home from a 66-48 loss at Illinois State. In ideal conditions, it should take about three hours and 50 minutes to get from ISU's campus in Normal, Ill., to Carbondale. But Sunday was far from ideal, as The Southern newspaper of Carbondale explains:

"The squad was stranded for more than five hours on Interstate 57 near Tuscola in a winter storm after pulling over late Sunday night. The bus drifted over a bit to the left in the storm, according to Saluki assistant coach Anthony Beane Sr., and when the driver corrected, it got stuck a few feet off the highway. Two major accidents on I-57 delayed a tow truck getting to the bus.

"The team had planned to spend the night at a Tuscola-area hotel, but almost all of them were booked Sunday night, according to SIU athletic director Mario Moccia. That left the team three options: stay on the bus for the night, stay at a rest stop after getting towed, or, stay at a local church, which is where the team ended up."

At least some players tried to find some humor in the situation. Forward Bronson Verhines tweeted, tongue-in-cheek (we hope):

SIU coach Barry Hinson -- whose epic postgame rant following a December 17 loss to Murray State drew national headlines --  and assistants Terrance McGee and Tom Hankins were actually not on the bus, having left Normal via rental cars. The Southern reported that Hinson and Hankins were in the same car and had planned to stay in the Mattoon area overnight. The Salukis' radio team and sports information director stayed in Bloomington-Normal rather than chance it on the roads.

"We just had a conference call today with our 10 schools to discuss any potential issues, and update everyone on our existing policy," Mike Kern, the MVC's associate commissioner for communications, told FOXSportsMidwest.com. "Our next men's games are Wednesday, our next women's games are Friday.  We don't expect any issues with teams (or officials) reaching sites on time for those games."

The Valley has dealt with weather issues before: In February 2009, two games -- Evansville at Drake and Missouri State at Southern Illinois -- were postponed because of Mother Nature.

"And we established guidelines and policies following (those) incidents," Kern continued. "We also have an emergency dial-in telephone number for communication of our members in case of inclement weather, or potential postponements."

Because here's the worst part: The Salukis are slated to head back upstate in a few days. SIU is scheduled to visit Valley newbie Loyola on Wednesday night in Chicago, where the forecast calls for more snow and temperatures between 13 and 18 degrees.

Which means the Salukis might want to bring along a good book. Or six.

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.