Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Dutchmen's quest for the imperfect 10

Now that I have your attention! (As I noted two years ago, if you are of a certain age, Kathy Ireland is the 10 in your life.)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when sports geeks like me get to sit down and crunch numbers and figure out all sorts of wild and wooly CAA tiebreakers. This year’s that time of the year features more permutations than last year’s that time of the year, but I’d rather spend less time trying to figure out how the Dutchmen could finish second through fourth than more time on computing the odds of finishing anywhere from ninth through 12th place.

But them’s the breaks, so here’s a quick look at where the Dutchmen stand regarding potential first- and second-round matchups (yes, we’re optimists) entering tonight’s BATTLE FOR 10TH PLACE against the College of Bill Lawrence.

While the Dutchmen can technically finish ninth or 12th, each scenario requires a series of very unlikely longshots coming to fruition. But my middle name is thorough (actually, it’s not), so we’ll get to those in a bit, after going over the most likely possibilities for the Dutchmen—finishing 10th or 11th.

—The Dutchmen (2-14 in CAA play) will finish 10th with a win over William & Mary (3-13) tonight coupled with either a Dutchmen win over UNC Wilmington Saturday or a William & Mary loss to Georgia State. Obviously whomever wins tonight has the tiebreaker, since this is the lone game of the season between the Dutchmen and Fighting Lawrences (hooray unbalanced schedule!)

Finishing 10th would almost certainly mean a first-round game against Northeastern, whose slim chances of finishing sixth require beating George Mason tonight and Delaware losing to Towson. The Huskies (8-8 in CAA play) swept the Dutchmen this season but are skidding lately (1-5 overall since beating Hofstra Jan. 28) and present a better matchup for the Dutchmen than any potential opponents in an 11 vs. 6 game.

Should the Dutchmen beat Northeastern in the first game of the Friday afternoon session, they’d face the second seed in the quarterfinals. Drexel, VCU and George Mason are all in the running for that spot, with the Rams and Patriots (in that order) most likely to finish second. We’ll get to the permutations later in the week if it is required, but I think everyone would rather avoid VCU as long as necessary, both because the Rams wrecked Havoc with the Dutchmen this year and because you never ever ever ever ever want to go 5-on-8 against VCU in Richmond.

—A loss tonight will ensure the Dutchmen can finish no higher than 11th. And the Dutchmen will “clinch” 11th tonight if they lose and Towson loses to Delaware. The Dutchmen could also finish 11th if they win tonight, lose to UNC Wilmington Saturday and William & Mary beats Georgia State in its finale.

The matchup scenarios for an 11 vs. 6 game are murkier with Old Dominion (12-4), Delaware (10-6) and Georgia State (10-6) all in contention for that spot. Georgia State is currently sixth, by virtue of being swept by Delaware, and will be locked into sixth if it loses at home to Old Dominion tonight and Delaware beats Towson. A Dutchmen-Panthers first-round game would be a nightmarish one for the Dutchmen, who were never really in a 59-43 loss to Georgia State Feb. 4.

But the Panthers will have plenty of motivation as they pursue their 20th win on Senior Night this evening, and a victory would put the wheels in motion for a three-way tie at 12-6 tie that would drop Old Dominion into the six spot. Old Dominion finishes by hosting red-hot Drexel, Delaware hosts Northeastern and Georgia State visits William & Mary. In a three-way tie, Delaware would be the no. 4 seed by virtue of going 2-1 against Old Dominion and Georgia State (hooray unbalanced schedule!) while Georgia State would be fifth by virtue of beating the Monarchs (hooray unbalanced schedule!). Of course, facing a Blaine Taylor-coached team furious about ending the school’s streak of never playing on Friday won’t be much fun either. Delaware could also finish sixth, but the Blue Hens will assure themselves no worse than a fifth-place finish by beating Towson tonight.

—As for the longshot scenarios involving Hofstra’s seeding: The Dutchmen could finish ninth, and face eighth-seeded UNC Wilmington in the first game of the tournament, if they win out, James Madison loses out against Drexel and Towson and William & Mary beats Georgia State.

Towson missed a last-second chance to tie or win the game in a two-point loss to James Madison Dec. 11 and could very well beat the injury-wracked Dukes, whose head coach, Matt Brady, blew out his Achilles practicing with the team last week. But it’s hard to see William & Mary losing tonight and then beating Georgia State. Plus, let’s face it, even if James Madison loses out and the Tribe knock off the Panthers, the Dutchmen would also have to win as many CAA games in the final four days of the regular season as they won in the first 81. We’re optimistic here, but the odds aren’t in favor of that happening.

—The real longshot is the Dutchmen falling all the way to 12th, which happens only if they lose out and Towson (1-15) sweeps Delaware and James Madison. Hofstra wins any tie with the Tigers thanks to the Dutchmen’s win on Feb. 1 (hooray unbalanced schedule!). The Dutchmen could certainly lose their final two games, but it’s tough to see Towson winning its last two, especially with a roadie at scorching Delaware tonight.

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