As you know by now, Sacramento State will host the Big Sky tournament as long as they win one of their final two games. I touched on it briefly in the piece, but the Hornets don't have an easy road, and it's not a foregone conclusion that they do win one of the final two. But looking deeper, what are the chances they lose both?
They go on the road to take on Southern Utah, and then on the road to take on Northern Arizona. Guessing at the lines (I don't gamble so I don't follow these things closely, so take this with a grain of salt), I would estimate they'll be favored against SUU by about 3 or 4 points, and an underdog to NAU by 4 to 5 points.
They played each of these teams at home this year, and beat SUU 90-75 (in a game that was never really in doubt), and NAU 78-73 (where NAU led at the 13 minute mark of the second half).
KenPom's generator gives them a 60% chance of beating SUU, and a 34% chance of beating NAU. So, if we say they have a 40% chance of losing to SUU, and a 66% chance of losing to NAU, that would give them a 26.4% chance of losing both games. Not huge, but certainly not an insignificant chance.
Of the two games, obviously, they would like to take care of business on Thursday. Both they and SUU will have plenty to play for, which will make it a fun game. I think the TBirds are a relatively good matchup for the Hornets. Sac State has been very susceptible to teams that can score inside (opponents shoot 54.8% on twos against Sac State in Big Sky play, worst mark in the conference), but SUU that's not necessarily the TBirds games. They should be able to limit SUU's looks from the outside.
Northern Arizona is not really set up to exploit the Hornets down low (they shoot a Big Sky worst 44.3% on twos in conference play), as their offense is based more on penetration from Kris Yanku and spacing from their shooters. However, they could have some luck slowing the Hornets down a bit, as defenders such as Jordyn Martin and Len Springs can slow any penetration from Mikh McKinney and Cody Demps. There's a good chance that the meeting could be a preview of the Big Sky semifinals, and it makes for a fascinating matchup.
The most likely scenario to me is that the Hornets beat Southern Utah before losing to NAU in the season finale. They know what's at stake, and they showed last Saturday against Portland State that they will do what they can to take the title. However, it's far from a foregone conclusion that they will win of their last two games, and the pressure will really be amped up if Southern Utah can get an upset on Thursday night.
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