There is still hope for the Eastern Washington basketball team and it’s enough to create a headache.
Heck, the Eagles don’t necessarily have to win tonight’s regular-season finale against Sacramento State at Reese Court to earn a berth in the Big Sky Conference tournament.
But they better.
The Big Sky figured out all the different scenarios for the six berths in the tournament and came up with 256.
It’s that complicated, even with Weber State having locked up the No. 1 seed and Northern Arizona and Montana State assured to have their seasons continue.
Of the 256 possibilities, 155 involve the Eagles finishing seventh and missing the tournament for the first time in 10 years.
If the Eagles (14-14 overall, 7-8 Big Sky) lose to the Hornets (9-18, 4-10) tonight, they are still alive providing Portland State defeats visiting Idaho State in an afternoon game.
In that case there is still a chance because ISU (7-6 Big Sky) could lose home games to Montana (Monday) and MSU (Tuesday) and drop into a tie with the Eagles at 7-9, with the tiebreaker going Eastern’s way.
An Eastern win today – the Eagles beat the Hornets 100-85 in Sacramento – makes things much more complicated but definitely more favorable.
In hard numbers, if the Eagles lose they have 16 chances out of 128 to play next weekend, but 85 out of 128 if they win.
PSU (8-7), ISU (7-6), UM (8-6) and MSU (8-6) could all drop into a tie for sixth at 8-8.
In two-way ties MSU would eliminate the Eagles because of a season sweep; Eastern would have the tiebreaker over Portland State and Idaho State; and it’s a tossup with Montana’s Grizzlies, depending on how NAU finishes.
Eastern’s edge on PSU’s Vikings is a split with Weber State, which swept PSU.
In three-way ties, as long as MSU isn’t involved, the Eagles have a good chance, especially if PSU is involved.
In addition to the games at Eastern and PSU tonight, Northern Colorado is at Montana. Northern Arizona is at MSU on Sunday.
Besides the Montana games at ISU next week, Weber is at Sacramento on Monday and Northern Colorado is at NAU on Tuesday.
After the Eagles beat Idaho State 82-79 when Marcus Hinton hit a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left, head coach Mike Burns was thinking positive.
“Hopefully, the stars will align and allow our team to make it into the Big Sky tournament because this team would be a scary, scary team in the tournament with the way we are playing right now,” he said.
“With what we did tonight and what we did last week in Santa Barbara, I think we are on the cusp of doing some really fun stuff.”
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