Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Battle for Fifth

Heading into Saturday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball games, Air Force is tied for fifth place in the league with Utah and TCU (all three teams are 6-7 in conference play).

Moving into fourth place is unlikely for Air Force as San Diego State resides there with an 8-6 record and a game in hand. The Falcons face the Aztecs in both teams’ regular season finale, but San Diego State plays host to Colorado State (winless in league play) on Saturday. The Aztecs should wrap up at least fourth place with a victory over the Rams.

A slide all the way into eighth is impossible. Even if Air Force loses its final three games and Wyoming (in eighth at 4-10) wins both of its last two games, including a tilt at BYU, the teams would be tied and the Falcons hold the tiebreaker.

So it seems like Air Force will finish between fifth and seventh. Can the Falcons take fifth?

I figure it will take them winning two of three down the stretch and Wyoming upsetting Utah. Here’s how:

The remaining schedules for the teams vying for the fifth spot are as follows:

-Utah: at Wyoming, vs. Colorado State, at UNLV
-Air Force: at BYU, vs. TCU, vs. San Diego State
-TCU: at UNLV, at Air Force, vs. BYU

If we assume that each team will lose games to BYU and UNLV, the top two teams in the league, then here’s how the race looks:
-Utah (6-8) with games at Wyoming and against Colorado State
-Air Force (6-8) with games against TCU and San Diego State
-TCU (6-9) with a game at Air Force

If we further assume Utah will beat Colorado State, then the race comes down to three games:
-Utah at Wyoming (this Saturday)
-TCU at Air Force (next Wednesday)
-San Diego State at Air Force (a week from Saturday)

So if Wyoming upsets Utah, the Utes will finish 7-9. And if Air Force holds serve at home, it will finish 8-8.

Here’s the not-so-funny part for Air Force fans. The Nos. 2-4 seeds (which will face the Nos. 5-7 seeds in the first round of the conference tournament) still are up for grabs. So finishing sixth or seventh could arguably get the Falcons a better first-round match-up.

Confused yet? Me too. I’m starting to think “taking it one game at a time” is not so bad a cliché. We can worry about this a week from now.


Anonymous said...

Jake great run down of likely outcomes. But what if we tie SDSU at 9-7? What are the tie breaker rules? I hope we can still worry about that after Saturday.

Stats Dr said...


Excellent rundown...I like Jerry Cross's (Ath Dept Media Rep)premonition in his AF vs BYU game notes "Eerily Similar Situation" comparing last year's matchup with BYU to this year's matchup with the roles reversed.


jake.schaller said...

If AF happens to tie SDS at 9-7, you first look at head-to-head matchups. For both teams to finish 9-7, AF will have to beat SDS at home next week, so the teams will have split. From there you go to how the teams did against the top finishers in the conference.
So let's say BYU finishes in first place. AF (to finish 9-7) will have split with BYU. SDS also split with BYU. So you move onto the second-place team. Let's assume that's UNLV. AF split with UNLV while SDS lost twice to the Runnin' Rebels. Therefore, AF would win the tiebreaker.

Anonymous said...

I guess the SDSU Tiebreaker is now moot.

What did you think of Phillip Brown?

jake.schaller said...

I think Phillip has tremendous potential. In the short time he played against BYU, he made a difference defensively and made some athletic plays (like keeping a loose ball inbounds).

Would have liked to have seen him get at least a couple minutes vs. TCU.