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Vandals have inside track to first-round bye

Idaho's win over Eastern Washington last Saturday had to feel good for multiple reasons. One, it broke a four-game losing streak to the Eagles since joining the Big Sky Conference. Two, it gave Idaho an inside track to a first-round bye in the conference tournament. Meaning, the team wouldn't have to play until Thursday and would only need to win three games instead of four to win the bid to the NCAA Tournament. 

Idaho is currently tied for third with three other teams at 10-6, including Eastern Washington. North Dakota (which the Vandals swept) and Idaho State (Idaho's Saturday opponent) are also in the fray. 

The first tie-breaker for tied teams is head-to-head. The first tie-breaker for more than two teams being played is the combined head-to-head of all the teams tied. The team with the best record will be given the highest seed of the tied teams.

From the 2014-15 Big Sky Championships manual
 

a. Results of collective head-to-head competition (winning percentage) during the regular season among the tied teams.

b. If more than two teams are still tied, each of the tied team’s record (winning percentage) vs. the team occupying the highest position in the final regular season standings, and then continuing down through the standings, eliminating teams with inferior records, until one team gains an advantage. 

North Dakota trips to Montana to face Montana (12-3) and Montana State (7-9). The fun is that Idaho State (10-6) trips to face Eastern Washington and Idaho, both also tied at 10-6. 

Currently, Idaho is 3-1 against the group of tied teams. Eastern Washington is 2-2, North Dakota is 3-3 and Idaho State is 0-2. The Bengals only face Eastern Washington once, while North Dakota has already played a pair of games against every team in question. 

So what does Idaho need to do? Well, if it sweeps Weber State and Idaho State then the Vandals will get the No. 3 seed to the conference tournament no matter what. Even if Eastern Washington sweeps, the tie-breaker will then be record against the No. 1 or No. 2 team. If both teams beat Weber State, it will go to record against Montana. Idaho beat Montana, while Eastern Washington did not. 

If Idaho loses to Weber State and beats Idaho State then it'll take both Eastern Washington and North Dakota winning out to keep Idaho from getting a first-round bye. 

If Idaho beats Weber State but loses to Idaho State, things are a little more complicated depending on the result of Thursday's Idaho State at Eastern Washington game. The Vandals have the head-to-head against North Dakota by virtue of the sweep and will get the tie-breaker over Eastern Washington by virtue of its win over Montana if the Vandals are only involved in a two-way tie with either of those schools.  Idaho State may get the No. 3 seed outright, making it a three-way competition between UND, EWU and Idaho for the No. 4. Idaho has a 3-1 record against those teams, while North Dakota will be 1-3 against the other two. Eastern holds a 2-2 record against the Vandals and Fighting Hawks. 

In that case, Idaho would get the No. 4 seed. 

Basically, Idaho puts itself in a good position to get a first-round bye if it simply wins one more game. 

The worst Idaho could still do is sixth place, if it happens to lose both games. In that case, Idaho would play the No. 11 seed on Tuesday for the right to face the third-place team on Thursday. 




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Sean Kramer
Sean Kramer is a freelance correspondent who covers the University of Idaho football team and men's basketball team.





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