Like a three-month-long game of musical chairs, the Big Sky Conference playoff race is coming down to its last few notes.
The problem is, almost everyone is still poised to take a seat; with four games left in the 20-game conference season, only Weber State is assured of a spot in the postseason tournament that begins March 13.
The next nine teams are within three games of one another, and it could turn out that a 10-10 team could get left out. “I hope it’s not us,” Eastern coach Jim Hayford said after the Eagles fell to 8-8 following a home loss Monday to Portland State.
In his postgame news conference Monday night, Hayford went on the question the league’s postseason format, which leaves four teams on the outside looking in.
“I do know that if it was a 10-team tournament, there wouldn’t be a bad game out there. There is going to be a good team or two that gets left out of the tournament. That is tough.”
The standings are skewed partly by a struggling Southern Utah team which is 0-16 in conference play. Every team getting two wins off the Thunderbirds, meaning that a 9-9 record against the other teams will yield an average record of 11-9.
“There is nothing I have ever seen like this,” said Hayford, who finished 7-13 in Big Sky play last year but just one game out of the tournament.
After this week’s road trip to Northern Colorado and North Dakota, the Eagles finish the regular season at home next week against Idaho State and Weber State.
Dean’s Seattle finale
Idaho point guard Glen Dean, a Seattle native, will be surrounded by family and friends when the Vandals play Seattle U on Saturday night in KeyArena.
“It’s probably going to be an emotional game because it will be my last time playing in Seattle,” said Dean, a senior.
Idaho’s Stephen Madison is the first player in WAC history to win the conference player of the week award five times in one season. But that’s not his only impressive feat this year.
Madison is the only player in the nation to lead his team in six statistical categories – scoring (19.8 ppg), rebounding (7.7 rpg), field goal percentage (.484), steals (0.96 spg), assists (65) and minutes played (34.6).
The senior is averaging 22.3 points in WAC play and has a chance to finish second on Idaho’s all-time scoring list, behind Orlando Lightfoot.