Sunday, February 23, 2014

Big Sky Standings Breakdown

Normally after a week of games, I like to do power rankings to break the team's down, and any notable things that happened during the week. However, at this point in the year, what's most important is where teams sit in the standings, and what position means relative to making or not making the Big Sky tournament. So let's jump in.

As a reminder, here are the tiebreaker rules.

1. Weber State (12-4) - Despite the loss to Idaho State last Monday, they are still in good shape. To lose the top seed, they would have to lose twice, and have UNC win out, and then lose a tiebreaker - It's unlikely. What is more likely is that they fall once more, and win the Big Sky at 15-5, putting the conference tournament in Ogden.

2. Northern Colorado (10-6) - Their loss to Sac State likely cost them any shot at the conference title, but they are still in a good spot for the second seed. They play two at home (which won't be easy, against EWU and PSU), before finishing at North Dakota and Southern Utah. If they go 3-1 and lose to North Dakota, they are still in good shape, because they would own the tiebreaker over UND (since they have a win over Weber, and UND does not). It's unlikely anyone else would finish with 13 wins.

3. Montana (9-7) - They escaped Idaho State, and that most likely means they'll be in the Big Sky tournament. They have two winnable home games this week (SUU and MSU), and then go on the road to Sacramento and Flagstaff. If all goes as planned, they won't need either of those wins, but it sure would be nice to get them and snag a top 3 seed (and avoid a potential Weber State semifinal matchup).

3. North Dakota (9-7) - They look to have a great shot to land a 3 seed with their schedule. They host Portland State, Eastern Washington, and Northern Colorado - having three home games left is huge. Their road game is at SUU, the best possible draw. They have shown they can drop winnable games at home (Montana State), but they should have a good chance at winning out. As mentioned in the UNC section, they would lose a tiebreaker with the Bears if both teams were tied.

3. Sacramento State (9-7) - With their sweep of UNC and UND (juxtaposed with NAU getting swept), they should feel pretty comfortable, even with a tough slate down the stretch. They travel to Weber State (never a good thing) and then a desperate Idaho State, before ending the year hosting the Montana schools. They are also in good shape in any head to head tiebreakers with their win over Weber State. I have a feeling 10 wins could be the magic number, and they will hit that.

6. Eastern Washington (8-7) - If they take care of business against Portland State Monday night, they should feel good about their positioning as well, with 9 wins. If they lose, suddenly things get dicey, as they travel to Greeley and Grand Forks (toughest roadtrip in the conference), and then host Idaho State and Weber State. They won't want to go into that stretch at 8-8.

7. Montana State (8-8) - They have to beat SUU at home on Thursday, because they end the year with three straight road games, compounded by the fact that they are all within six days of each other. The big one could be their meeting on March 6 with Northern Arizona - that one could be a de facto play-in game for the final tournament spot.

7. Northern Arizona (8-8) - They looked safe a couple weeks ago at 8-5, but that seems like a long time ago. They travel to Pocatello and Ogden this week, and it would not be a surprise to see them drop both games. They follow that up by hosting the Montana schools in the final week. They are also hurt by the fact that if they are in a tiebreak with MSU, the Bobcats win over UNC (who NAU dropped two games against) could look large and give a tiebreak edge to the Bobcats.

9. Portland State (7-8) - If they can upset EWU on Monday night, they still have a chance. If they lose, I think they are done, because there are not three more wins to find on their schedule. They travel to UND/UNC this week, and then host Weber State and Idaho State in the final week. Going 2-2 against that stretch would be tough, and 3-1 is not happening. They have to win Monday to keep their hopes alive.

10. Idaho State (7-9) - I understand why only seven teams make the Big Sky tournament, I do. But this year, that stinks, because it could mean that the Bengals are left at home, and they are absolutely good enough to be going. All of their conference losses have been within seven points. They have no depth, but they are a good team, and they could absolutely pull an upset in the Big Sky tournament - if they make it. But they have a tough schedule down the stretch (though it could be worse), and they need to sweep Sac State and NAU at home. If they do, they're still in the race. Anything less than that, and they're probably not making it.

11. Southern Utah (0-16) - Unfortunately, it ain't happening. I have grown less optimistic that they will win a game, but I am still hoping...

If I had to guess how it would play out, I'd say -
1. Weber State (15-5)
2. Northern Colorado (13-7)
3. North Dakota (13-7)
4. Montana (11-9)
5. Sacramento State (11-9)
6. Eastern Washington (10-10)
7. Northern Arizona (10-10)
8. Montana State (9-11)
9. Idaho State (9-11)
10. Portland State (8-12)
11. Southern Utah (0-20)

Who gets those final spots? Any guesses?

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