Monday, November 11, 2013

Lucky 7 ?

With one week to go in the Southland Conference regular season, the time for SFA to create a sense of hope is right now.  The 2013 season has largely been one of ups and downs with very little momentum created during the last few months.  “All is well that ends well”, they say, so let’s hope SFA can convince themselves and convince their fans that they are capable of taking down some teams with better records on paper.  If so, then there is still the chance we can head to Corpus Christi  believing that we can be the “hot” team and make a run.

So, let’s take a look at what remains for SFA and other teams that figure to have low-end seeds in the 2013 Southland Conference Tourney.  My bet is that we are headed for the #7 seed, which, as I’ll argue below, may not be too bad a spot to be in.  Before we get started, I should make clear what I think many SFA fans realize.  We haven’t locked up a spot in the tournament yet.  However, going into Tuesday’s match with Oral Roberts, our magic number is one.  One SFA win or one loss by either Lamar or McNeese does the trick.

Let’s break this down:

McNeese (7-9)
Remaining: HBU (Home), Nicholls (Away)

McNeese owns the tiebreaker with Lamar by virtue of beating the Cardinals 3-1 both times they played.  So, McNeese controls their own destiny.  If they win out and Lamar wins both of their matches, then McNeese would have the tie break over Lamar.  Both McNeese and Lamar winning both games and SFA losing both games would knock SFA out of the tournament and give the Cowgirls the #7 seed.  There is a way that McNeese could win one game and still not get in.  If Lamar wins both of their games, then Lamar would be 9-9, McNeese would be 8-10 with a win and a loss, then they get bumped out by SFA who at worst would also be 8-10, but we own the tiebreak against them.  This is a scenario that wouldn’t be advantageous for SFA given it is one of the few scenarios that gets us the #8 seed.

I’m thinking McNeese splits their last two and finishes 8-10.  However, if McNeese beats HBU on Tuesday, this could be bad news for SFA. It forces us to win in order to get the #7 seed if McNeese goes ahead and beats Nicholls too (which is likely).  Besides SFA winning, the best thing that could happen to us is HBU beating McNeese.

Lamar (7-9)
Remaining: TAMUCC (Away), HBU (Away)

Lamar is in a tough spot because they don’t own the tiebreak against either SFA or McNeese.  They are the only team that HAS to win in order to make the tournament. As of right now, they are on the outside looking in.  They need to pick up at least one win and then hope McNeese loses both games.  That would get them in the tournament as the #8 seed.  Even if SFA lost both games in this scenario, SFA would still get the #7 seed since SFA and Lamar would be 8-10 and McNeese would be 7-11.

Things really don’t look all that good for Lamar.  McNeese has a relatively comfortable match up with Nicholls on the last day of the season.  Lamar will be underdogs at TAMUCC, so there is a decent chance that both McNeese and Lamar are 7-10 going into their last game of the season.  If this is true, then SFA is automatically in no matter whether they beat ORU tomorrow or not and then Lamar would need to beat HBU and have Nicholls upset McNeese.  The Cowgirls recently swept Nicholls at home.

I’m thinking Lamar loses both and finishes 7-11 and doesn’t make the tournament.

SFA (8-8)
Remaining:  ORU (Home), Northwestern State (Home)

The ‘Jacks, believe it or not, are actually in a pretty good spot because of owning tiebreakers.  As mentioned earlier, SFA doesn’t even have to win a game in order to make it into the tournament.  If SFA finishes 8-10 and at both McNeese and Lamar also finish 8-10, then not only does SFA make it in the tournament, they avoid the #8 seed due to the tiebreak.  Of course, if SFA wins at least one game this week, then they are automatically in even if McNeese and Lamar win out.  So, we have a bit of an easy route to make it to the tournament by virtue of being one full game ahead of McNeese and Lamar in the standings AND owning the tie break against both.

I think SFA will finish in the 7-hole no matter what.  This might be a lucky spot.  It gets us out of a first round match up with UCA and gets us on the opposite side of the bracket from them.

HBU (8-7) has three games left: at McNeese and home for Sam Houston and Lamar.  To me that looks like two wins and a loss to finish at 10-8.  If that happens, then even if SFA wins out this week we would STILL fall to the #7 seed since HBU owns the tie break against us.  So, there are just a whole lot of scenarios that point to us falling into that seventh slot.

Now, if HBU only won one game and SFA won both.. we would leap frog them into the #6 slot.  We could also get the #6 seed if HBU lost all three and we won one game this week.

So, if it is most likely that SFA is the #7 seed, then who is our most likely first round opponent next week?

Northwestern State (14-2) plays UCA at home and then comes to Nacogdoches.  They own the tie break with Oral Roberts.

Sam Houston (13-3) is on the road against HBU and TAMUCC.  They own the tie break with the Demons.

Oral Roberts (11-4) plays us tomorrow, but then finishes with two relatively easy games at home against Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans.  They own the tiebreak with SHSU.  So, ORU can’t finish in the #2 slot.  Even if they win out, they’d be 14-4 and Northwestern State at worst would be 14-4 and ORU would lose the slot on the tie break.

So, either the Demons or Bearkats will be the #2 seed. 

That SHSU/TAMUCC game on the last day of the season is very, very interesting.  Suppose UCA beats Northwestern State.  Then SHSU is in control of their fate at the #2 seed on the last day of the season if they beat HBU tomorrow.

If the ‘Jacks can prove that they can play with Top 4 seeds Oral Roberts and Northwestern State this week, then enough momentum could be gained to be in the same position as we were last year.  Remember, we beat the Demons in the first round in last year’s tourney.  I’ll be honest:  I would rather play Sam Houston in the first round than Northwestern State.  I just really don’t think we match up well with the Demons… too many offensive weapons.  If Wells-Gibson had an off day or we could keep her in check, then I don’t think Sam Houston is all that deep.  Don’t get me wrong.. both are great teams.  Remember, Sam Houston SWEPT us.  Still, if there is a team that is a little overrated going into the tourney, I think it is Sam Houston.  I don’t see them making the final, but we’ve all known that I have had to eat crow before.

Here is my pick for how things finish up:

#8 McNeese vs. #1 UCA
#5 Texas A&M Corpus-Christi vs. #4 Oral Roberts

#7 SFA vs. #2 Sam Houston
#6 HBU vs. #3 Northwestern State

The key game besides our own is HBU/McNeese  If McNeese wins tomorrow and SFA loses to ORU, then the chance we get the #8 seed goes up quite a bit. It really puts the heat on us to beat Northwestern State on the last day of the season.  That’s something I think we are capable of, but I like our chances better against ORU than against NWLA.

Honestly, if the bracket falls the way I predict, I am OK with that.  That’s not an easy road, but I think we’d be in the weak side of the bracket and thus would have the best chance at pulling some upsets.

As always, I’ll be covering the SLC Tourney in full force.. blogging all three days I am there.  There will be live chats for all SFA matches and live blogging updates for every game.  Also, as I’ve done the last two years, there will be constant interviews with as many teams and players as I can get access to.  It is an exciting time of the year, there is still a glimmer of hope that SFA will get a little steam built up behind them and then put a scare into Sam Houston or Northwestern State in the first round.

Axe’ Em ‘Jacks!