February 23, 2009
With the big conferences still 10 days to two weeks away from beginning their tournaments, let’s take a look at some of jockeying taking place in conferences whose tournaments are just a week away. The Ohio Valley, Big South and Horizon League tournaments all begin on March 3rd, while the Atlantic Sun tournament begins action on the 4th . All four have compelling battles for seeding as they come down the stretch.
In the Ohio Valley there are battles going on from top to bottom. On February 28 Jacksonville State finishes the regular season with a game against Tennessee Tech. The loser of that game will fail to qualify for the OVC tournament. At the top of the conference there is a 4-team dog fight with Tennessee-Martin and Morehead State both at 12-4 and Murray State and Austin Peay both one game back at 11-5. All four teams have two games remaining. Morehead plays at Murray St and at Tennessee-Martin giving them the toughest task in hanging onto a top spot, while Austin Peay faces Eastern Illinois (8-8) and the already eliminated Southeast Missouri State (0-16).
In the Big South the battle is getting into the tournament, with the top eight making the field, there is a three-way scramble for the 8th and final spot. Charleston Southern (3-12) has a game in hand on both High Point (4-12) and Coastal Carolina (5-11). One of those games for Charleston Southern is a date with the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina on Feb. 26. The High Point Panthers draw the short straw as their final two games are against VMI (11-5) and Radford (14-2), the top two teams in the conference.
In the Horizon League, the top two teams get first-round byes. With two games remaining on the Horizon schedule there are three teams fighting for those two byes. Butler (13-3) who has a season-ending date with Cleveland State (11-5) on Feb. 28. The third wheel in this Horizon tricycle is Wisconsin-Green Bay (12-4). With all three teams thus far splitting with the other, the final days of Horizon action should be full of intensity with so much at stake.
Finally in the Atlantic Sun, with two games remaining there are three teams in the hunt for the #1 seed. Jacksonville (14-4) who finishes up the regular season at Belmont (13-5) in what could be a winner-take-all game for the top seed. Lurking in the shadows is third-place East Tennessee State (12-6), who will gladly ascend to the throne should one of the top two teams falter.
So as February winds up, talking heads will mention “the bubble”, “resumes” and “must wins” for conferences lucky enough to get multiple bids. Let’s remember this is also the time of year when most other teams are fighting for their post-season lives.