Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Breakdown of Race For the Final Spots

As we have talked about, with one week to go, we essentially know two things - Weber State will host the tournament and be the #1 seed, and Southern Utah will finish last. That is the breadth of our knowledge.

As things currently stand, North Dakota and Montana look like the favorites to be the two and three seeds in some order (though this is far from guaranteed), and at least look to be close to locks to make the tournament, so we won't talk about them here.

Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado seem to be safe at 10-8, but there are scenarios where they could lose their final two and miss the tournament altogether. One win should be enough to get them in... here are their schedules -

- Northern Arizona - Montana State, Montana
- Northern Colorado - at North Dakota, at Southern Utah

To my eye, there is a win there for each team. They should be safe.

If that is how things play out, there will be five teams battling for the final two spots. The one in the worst spot is Idaho State, who is 8-10, while the other four teams are 9-9. ISU would need to win out and get some help... which could happen the way this Big Sky season has gone, but is not likely. Still, let's break down the schedules for the five remaining teams, and that should just us our first indication of who is favored to make it.

- Eastern Washington (9-9) - Idaho State, Weber State
- Idaho State (8-10) - at Eastern Washington, at Portland State
- Montana State (9-9) - at Northern Arizona, at Sacramento State
- Portland State (9-9) - Weber State, Idaho State
- Sacramento State (9-9) - Montana, Montana State

From those... Sac State looks to be in the best position, with two home games (and I'd rather face MSU/UM than ISU/WSU). PSU and EWU obviously have the same schedule, though I'd probably rather play ISU first in the hopes that Weber State won't be trying as hard on the final night of the season. Idaho State travels to Cheney and Portland, and obviously both of those teams will be motivated. They could steal one of those games, but it's hard to see them winning both. Last is Montana State, who plays two tough road games. Like ISU, I could see them stealing one and getting in a tiebreaker, but odds are slim that they could win both.

The first tiebreaker is records against whoever else is in the tiebreaker. If there are two teams, it's easy, because it's just head to head. If there are three, it's each team's record against the other two opponents, and that is compared. Once again, here are the tiebreaker rules. So, for these five teams, here are their records against each other:

What does that tell us? Well, not that much yet, but it gives an idea of who you should be rooting against for your favorite team to make it.

- Eastern Washington - ideally will be in a tiebreak with MSU, and they should be rooting for PSU losses.
- Idaho State - If they win out, they'd beat EWU and PSU, and would own those tiebreakers, so they should want them to win their games against Weber State.
- Montana State - should be rooting against EWU, and for PSU.
- Portland State - should be rooting for EWU, and against MSU.
- Sacramento State - if they beat MSU, they are square with everyone.

The next tiebreaker is going down the list, and comparing records against the #1 team, then #2 team, etc. For this, it's important to see who has beaten Weber State. Of these teams, that gives the edge to Sacramento State and Idaho State, since they currently have wins over the Wildcats. However, both EWU and PSU have opportunities to get a win over Weber as well.

So all in all, as you can tell, there is still much to be decided. If I had to guess, I see Sacramento State winning out to secure their spot with 11 conference wins. Then, I'd go with Eastern Washington winning one, Idaho State winning one (don't know why but I get the feeling they beat PSU), and Portland State and Montana State going winless.

That would be actually avoid all tiebreaker scenarios, as EWU would get the final seed at 10-10, with three other teams finishing at 9-11.

However, as this year has shown us, that almost certainly will not happen! We are in for a fun final week.

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  1. Isu should be cheering for sac state over Montana state. If isu wins out, and sac state beats Montana state then the Bengals are in regardless of what happens in the other games.

  2. Good call, you are right on!

  3. Big sky needs to change this..happens everyyear. Everyone of these teams deserve to be in the tournament, like other conferences. Some teams play good early and some teams peak later. For instance if Sac State doesn't make tourney, doesnt seem very fair, given they have beat the two top teams already, meaning... Any TEAM can win on any given night. Let them play in out in a all team tourney with the team PLAYING the BEST at the end of the year should get the chance to win the conference. Whoever is in charge of this needs to take a big look at this.....

  4. Jon you're the man for making sense of all this and putting it together for us. thank you!

  5. Jon, Predictions of what the bracket will look like and who will get what seed?

  6. Here is my guess as of now -

    1 Weber State
    2 North Dakota
    3 Montana
    4 Northern Colorado
    5 Sacramento State
    6 Northern Arizona
    7 Eastern Washington