Chicago
Jaylin Jackson-Posey and Stephen F. Austin are red hot heading into the final week of the regular season. Courtesy SFA Athletics.

Chicago State Shocker Throws a Bit of a Wrench in Seeding Scenarios

Chicago State is having its best season the 2014-15 season. During that season, the Cougars won eight games and finished 4-10 in WAC play. Yes, during the 2014-15 season, Chicago State swept Grand Canyon and had a win over Utah Valley, as well. But, the 2021-22 version of the Cougars has done something that hasn’t been done in quite some time. Chicago State has seven wins and all seven of those wins have come against Division I opponents. And for the first time in 17 tries, Chicago State knocked off New Mexico State. Yes, Brandon Betson hit a left-handed layup high off the backboard with two seconds remaining to give Chicago State arguably its biggest win in program history on Saturday at the Jones Convocation Center.

And with that historic win by the Cougars, it throws a little wrench in the seeding scenarios for WAC Vegas which begins in eight days at the Michelob Ultra Arena at Mandalay Bay. So let’s take a look at things as they stand after another busy and wild Saturday of WAC Hoops.

For New Mexico State…

The Aggies has a chance to clinch at least a share of the regular season title with a win over Chicago State on Saturday. Unfortunately, the Aggies were short-handed and didn’t play well and the Cougars played the role of spoiler on Saturday. However, the Aggies still control their own destiny. Two wins to end the regular season and the Aggies are outright regular season champions. New Mexico State hosts red hot Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday and then Utah Valley on Saturday.

However, the Aggies can also win the regular season crown with a win over Stephen F. Austin and a Seattle loss to Chicago State on Saturday.

So, it’s simple. Win both at home and head into Las Vegas as the outright regular season champs. If New Mexico State goes 1-1 and Seattle beats Chicago State, they would share the regular season crown but the Aggies would go into WAC Vegas as the No. 1 seed due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Prediction – 1-seed

For Seattle…

Seattle U is having a historic season. And I am sure that on Saturday prior to its games at Dixie State, the Redhawks were cheering on Chicago State and jumped for joy when Brandon Betson hit the game-winner. It gave Seattle U a glimmer of hope for the regular season title. But they will need some help from SFA and/or Utah Valley.

Right now, all Seattle has to do is beat Chicago State on Saturday in its regular season finale to lock up the 2-seed. As it stands, on Wednesday night, Seattle U will be huge fans of Stephen F. Austin. A win in Las Cruces by the Lumberjacks moves Seattle and SFA into a tie for the regular season crown with the Aggies. And if Seattle, SFA and New Mexico State finish in a tie, then it becomes tricky for the top seed because SFA only played Seattle once while NMSU played Seattle twice.

Along with this issue, NMSU and Seattle only played Sam Houston once while SFA played the Bearkats twice. All three teams played GCU, Abilene Christian, and Utah Valley different amount of times. So, that would mean the tiebreaker could fall to Tarleton, who Seattle, NMSU and SFA played once.

If NMSU, Seattle, and SFA finish in a 3-way tie for the regular season crown, NMSU would get the 1-seed. Seattle would get the 2-seed and SFA the 3-seed. This is because both NMSU and Seattle beat Tarleton while SFA lost to Tarleton. And then NMSU swept Seattle this season to break that tie.

If NMSU loses twice and Seattle and SFA win out, the Redhawks and Lumberjacks share the regular season title. Seattle would get the 1-seed because of the the head-to-head win over SFA who would be the 2-seed.

CORRECTION – In a matter of a 3-way tie for first among NMSU, Seattle and SFA, head-to-head records matter, according to the WAC. So, NMSU would be the 1-seed at 3-1. Seattle would be the 2-seed at 1-3 and SFA the 3-seed at 0-3. 

Prediction – 2-seed

For Stephen F. Austin…

Read the section above for a quick breakdown. But the Lumberjacks have a ton to play for in the final week of WAC play. Two wins and the Redhawks will have a claim on at least a share of the regular season title. If SFA wins at New Mexico State and at UTRGV and gets some help from Utah Valley and Chicago State, the Jacks could be outright regular season champions.

If SFA loses at New Mexico State on Wednesday, the Jacks would need a win at UTRGV and help from Chicago State and Utah Valley on Saturday in the regular season finales to clinch at least a share of the regular season crown.

If NMSU, Seattle, and SFA finish in a 3-way tie for the regular season crown, the Jacks would be the 3-seed because SFA lost to Tarleton.

Now, here is where it gets tricky. If SFA finishes the regular season 1-1 and GCU and Sam win out, that would place the Jacks, Lopes and Bearkats in a 3-tie for 3rd. In this situation, GCU would get the 3-seed because of its win over Seattle. And then SFA owns the tiebreaker over Sam Houston because of its win over Utah Valley. So, the Jacks would be the 4-seed.

The way for SFA to be the outright regular season champs is to win both games this week. If they do that, the Jacks would then need help from Utah Valley and Chicago State.

As you can see, it is a big week for SFA.

CORRECTIONA couple of things have been brought to my attention as we sort this out. If SFA, GCU and Sam Houston finish with identical 13-5 records, it would come down to head-to-head results among the three teams. This means SFA at 2-1 would be the 3-seed. Sam Houston at 2-2 would be the 4-seed. And GCU at 1-2 would be the 5-seed. 

Prediction – 3-seed

For GCU and Sam Houston…

GCU needs to win out with home games against Utah Valley and Dixie State to finish the regular season. A pair of wins and either a Seattle or SFA loss could vault GCU to the 3-seed. If GCU wins out and SFA, NMSU and Seattle share the regular season crown, GCU would be the 4-seed because it holds the tiebreaker over Sam Houston with its win over Seattle.

For Sam Houston, the Bearkats need to win their regular season finale on Thursday at home vs. Tarleton. And then, the Bearkats need some help. Okay, the Bearkats need a lot of help this week. Sam Houston needs SFA to lose twice. And Sam Houston needs either Utah Valley or Dixie State to beat GCU.

Either one of those two scenarios and a Bearkat win are the only thing that will give the Bearkats a top-4 seed.

Something else to think about…if NMSU loses twice, Seattle loses to Chicago State, SFA loses to UTRGV, GCU wins out and Sam Houston wins its final regular season game, there could be a 5-way share of the regular season title. All five teams would be 13-5. And if this happens, seeding for WAC Vegas would come down to the NET rankings. This is due to the fact that the teams did not play the remaining teams in the WAC the same amount of times.

Prediction for GCU – 5-seed

Prediction for Sam Houston – 4-seed

For Utah Valley and Abilene Christian…

As of Sunday night, Utah Valley holds a 1-game lead for the 6-seed. This is big because that means the Wolverines would have to win one less game at WAC Vegas. However, the bad news for Utah Valley is they finish up with arguably the toughest road trip in the WAC. Utah Valley takes on Grand Canyon on Thursday night before finishing up at New Mexico State on Saturday night.

Abilene Christian, on the other hand, finishes with Dixie State and Tarleton at home at the Teague Center. If Utah Valley goes 1-1 on a tough road trip, and ACU slips at home in one of its final two, the Wolverines would be the 6-seed. If ACU wins both and Utah Valley loses one of its final two, ACU would be the 6-seed due to its head-to-head tiebreaker over the Wolverines. Both teams play Thursday night and Saturday night to finish out WAC play.

Prediction for Utah Valley – 7-seed

Prediction for ACU – 6-seed

For 8-10….

Right now, CBU is in the driver seat for the 8-seed. But, Chicago State, with its win over New Mexico State on Saturday, has made things somewhat interesting. CBU is two games up with two to play, one of which is against Chicago State on Wednesday in Riverside. If the Cougars beat the Lancers and then beat Seattle on Saturday and CBU loses at Lamar on Saturday, Chicago State would be the 8-seed and CBU the 9-seed.

If CBU beats Chicago State, the Lancers will lock up the 8-seed.

Chicago State will be big fans of Lamar on Wednesday. The Cougars hold a 1-game lead over UTRGV for the 9-seed right now. And UTRGV plays at Lamar on Wednesday night. See, if Chicago State and UTRGV end up in a tie, the Vaqueros will be the 9-seed and Chicago State the 10-seed.

Chicago State is in the tournament, no matter what. The Cougars locked up their trip to Las Vegas with the historic win over New Mexico State on Saturday. It is just a matter of what seed they will be on when the WAC tournament begins on March 8.

Here is something to keep an eye on…Lamar is still alive for a trip to WAC Vegas. Yes, after looking at things, the Cardinals have a chance. It will be difficult and they need some help. But it could happen. If Lamar beats UTRGV and then beats CBU to end the regular season, and SFA beats UTRGV, Lamar would go to Las Vegas because of the win over CBU. Yes, that is crazy to think about. A team that hasn’t won a WAC game all season still has a chance to make the conference tournament in the final week of conference play.

Prediction for CBU – 8-seed

Prediction for Chicago State – 9-seed

Prediction for UTRGV – 10-seed

I think that Lamar gets it done against UTRGV on Wednesday. But, I am not so sure they get it done against California Baptist. So thus, the reason for the prediction. It is going to be a wild finish to the regular season and it is exciting that it comes down to the final day of the regular season, as well.

Let’s Be Real….

These tiebreakers are a mess. Hopefully, playing the games this week and finishing out the regular season will sort things out. The big underlying issue is that within a conference this big and playing just 18 conference games, many teams won’t play other teams the same amount of times. And in the situation we are facing this week, that has happened for the majority of the conference. For instance, New Mexico State will have played SFA, GCU, Seattle and UVU twice. But the Aggies would have played Abilene Christian and Sam Houston just once. Look at Seattle…they played NMSU and Utah Valley twice. But they played GCU, Sam Houston and SFA just once. This creates some issues when it comes to seeding for WAC Vegas.

This is something that is going to have to be discussed prior to next season when it gets even crazier. The WAC will have 15 teams in 2022-23. So, playing 18 games would mean most teams only play everyone once. Maybe something to consider would be splitting the WAC into two divisions. A Texas division and a Non-Texas Division. There would be 8 teams in the Texas division and 7 in the Non-Texas division. Make it a 20-game league. Play everyone in your division twice and then have the divisions play each other once. Something to that situation. It is a thought. But, ultimately, I don’t make the decisions. That is left up to the Presidents, athletic directors and administrators within the WAC.

2021-22 has been wild and WACky. So, why would that change in the final week of the regular season?

 

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