Friday, February 27, 2015

The unexact science of unwarranted SoCon scenarios

With only one day of regular season action remaining, it's time to take a look at some of the scenarios -- of which there are a huge, tangled bevy -- as to where the SoCon teams could find themselves during next weekend's tournament.

Let's start with what we already know. Wofford, Chattanooga, and Mercer have clinched the first, second, and third seeds in the tournament, respectively. The Terriers, with a four-point triumph over Mercer on Thursday evening, have already clinched at least a share of the regular season league title and can win it all with a win over last-place Furman on Saturday at Greenville's Timmons Arena.

The four and five seeds are a tossup between ETSU and Western Carolina. The Bucs could clinch the four spot with a win over Mercer, or if the Catamounts fall to The Citadel -- a situation that would grant the tiebreaker to ETSU due to their earlier victory over second-place Mercer. Western Carolina can only get the four-seed if they defeat the Bulldogs and ETSU loses, which may just happen.

If VMI, which has endured back-to-back double overtime games (win over Western Carolina, loss to Chattanooga), can scrape up a victory against Samford, the Keydets will clinch the six-seed. If VMI suffers a setback in Lexington, though, and The Citadel and UNCG both win, the Spartans will be sixth, with VMI at seventh and The Citadel eighth.

On the other hand, if VMI loses, UNCG loses, and The Citadel wins, the Keydets, which swept the Bulldogs during the regular stretch, will still be in sixth. By way of records, The Citadel (seventh) would be ahead of the Spartans (eighth) now.

It's around this time that we start seeing The Citadel's three-point win over Wofford start paying in dividends. Due to that, the Bulldogs hold the tiebreaker over the Spartans, who split the season series with each other. Obviously, the Spartans would jump The Citadel with a win and Bulldog failure.

That, my friends, was just the easy part. The bottom section of the league is a smattering of close records, complex implications, and a seemingly-endless array of possibilities. Let's get something out of the way first -- this can be a crazy league. Through all of that craziness, we can get something like a four-way tie for the seventh seed.

Of course, that would mean that Wofford would have to fall to the Paladins, which are currently on the bottom rung of the conference ladder. If Furman and Samford prevail, and The Citadel and UNCG fall, we see that tie. Because The Citadel owns the highest win percentage against the other three, giving them the seventh spot.

Furman would take eighth, UNCG ninth, and Samford dead last. Yes, Samford could win over VMI and still drop, according to this anomaly of a tiebreaker. There's little chance, though, that such a thing could occur. Same with this one: if The Citadel wins and clinches the seventh seed, and UNCG, Samford, and Furman find themselves knotted up, the Paladins would be in eighth (due to the projected win over Wofford), Samford ninth, and UNCG in tenth.

Let's say The Citadel loses, and Furman, UNCG, and Samford win. The Spartans would be seventh, the Bulldogs eighth, Furman ninth and Samford tenth. Now, let's say UNCG loses and the Paladins win (The Citadel win, Samford loss), giving the eighth seed to Furman. If The Citadel and Furman are tied for the eighth spot (UNCG win, Samford loss, The Citadel loss, Furman win), the Paladins would get the tiebreaker.

If all four teams (Furman, The Citadel, UNCG, Samford) were to win, UNCG would be eighth and Furman ninth. Purely scenarios that, most likely, won't happen.

Now, let's go with the conventional school of thought and say that the Terriers take down Furman tomorrow evening. That would obviously keep the Paladins in last place. If we got a two-way tie between The Citadel (loss) and Samford (win), the Bulldogs hold the tiebreaker, so it would be The Citadel in eighth and Samford in ninth. On the other hand, UNCG could lose and Samford could win, giving the Bulldogs the eighth seed (tiebreaker due to win over Western Carolina).

This isn't rocket science, folks; rocket science has got to be easier.

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