Heading into play on Thursday, CSU is a game behind second place Green Bay and two games behind first place Butler. The Vikings are also a game up on both Milwaukee and Wright State for the third seed.
It is possible for the Vikes to claim a share of the regular season title (Butler loses to Youngstown State and CSU, Green Bay loses one-of-two and CSU wins out), but due to tie-breakers, CSU has no shot at the first seed in next week's Horizon League tournament. What the Vikings are aiming for this week is the coveted two seed which garners a double-bye and a guaranteed slot into the tournament semi-finals.
Horizon League Standings:
Butler 13-3 23-4 Green Bay 12-4 21-8 Cleveland State 11-5 20-9 Milwaukee 10-6 15-12 Wright State 10-6 16-12 Youngstown State 7-9 11-16 UIC 6-11 14-14 Loyola 6-11 14-16 Valparaiso 4-12 8-20 Detroit 2-14 7-20
In order for the Vikings to receive the second seed, they need to win both games in Indiana and have Green Bay lose both of it's games, to last place Detroit on Thursday and against Wright State on Saturday night. The Vikings could end up tied with Green Bay if Green Bay loses one-of-two, but the Phoenix hold the tie-breaker due to their sweep of Milwaukee.
Obviously, the chances of a 20-win Green Bay team losing to last place Detroit are not very great. Barring a small miracle, the Vikings will have to be content with the third seed, which they have yet to clinch.
The third seed is no small prize in itself, as it offers a first round tournament game at the Wolstein Center on Tuesday March 3rd and it matches up with the second seed in the tournament semi-finals. The difference between the second and the third seeds may not seem great, but it will feel very tangible in the semi-final round when those two seeds likely meet in a neutral court game, while the top seed hosts the other semi-final match-up. The third seed also offers the prize of hosting the championship game at the Wolstein Center in the small chance that the top seed is upset before the championship round.
Step one for the Vikings is taking care of business Thursday against a struggling Valparaiso team. If CSU is victorious against Valpo, the picture becomes clearer because Wright State and Milwaukee also meet on Thursday. With a CSU win, one of the fourth-place teams will be knocked out of contention for the third seed.
The Vikings control their destiny for the third seed by winning out because they are a game up on both fourth place teams. Wright State currently holds the tie-breaker over CSU due to its sweep of Youngstown State.
If Milwaukee is victorious on Thursday, thus knocking Wright State out of the running, CSU would need to defeat Butler to lock up the third seed or Milwaukee would have to lose to Detroit on Saturday. If CSU and Milwaukee end up tied, the Panthers would hold the tie-breaker due to its split with the Butler.
If Wright State knocks Milwaukee out of it on Thursday, the Vikings will either need a win at Butler or a Wright State loss to Green Bay on Saturday to clinch the third seed.
And don't forget the possibility that Green Bay and Butler may have already lost on Thursday, meaning the Vikes would still be playing for a share of the title and a shot at the second seed on the season's final day.
Confusing? You bet it is, but the Vikings still have a lot to play for in the final two games of the season and they would have it no other way.
Best Case Scenarios for the Vikings:
For a share of the regular season title:
CSU defeats Valparaiso Thursday 8:30 p.m.Youngstown State defeats Butler Thursday 7 p.m.CSU defeats Butler Saturday 12 p.m. on ESPN 2Detroit defeats Green Bay Thursday 7:05 p.m. OR Wright State defeats Green Bay Saturday 7 p.m.
For the second seed in the Horizon League Tournament:
CSU defeats Valparaiso Thursday 8:30 p.m.Detroit defeats Green Bay Thursday 7:05 p.m.CSU defeats Butler Saturday 12 p.m. on ESPN 2Wright State defeats Green Bay Saturday 7 p.m.
For the third seed in the Horizon League Tournament:
CSU defeats Valparaiso Thursday 8:30 p.m.Milwaukee defeats Wright State Thursday 7 p.m.CSU would clinch third seed with a win over Butler or a Milwaukee loss to Detroit OR
CSU defeats Valparaiso Thursday 8:30 p.m.Wright State defeats Milwaukee Thursday 7 p.m.CSU would clinch third seed with a win over Butler or a Wright State loss to Green Bay