The Battle for Fifth

Published: February 29, 2008, 12:46 am, by admin
Heading into Saturday’s Mountain West Conference men’s basketball games, Air Force is tied for fifth place in the league with Utah and TCU (all three teams are 6-7 in conference play).

Moving into fourth place is unlikely for Air Force as San Diego State resides there with an 8-6 record and a game in hand. The Falcons face the Aztecs in both teams’ regular season finale, but San Diego State plays host to Colorado State (winless in league play) on Saturday. The Aztecs should wrap up at least fourth place with a victory over the Rams.

A slide all the way into eighth is impossible. Even if Air Force loses its final three games and Wyoming (in eighth at 4-10) wins both of its last two games, including a tilt at BYU, the teams would be tied and the Falcons hold the tiebreaker.

So it seems like Air Force will finish between fifth and seventh. Can the Falcons take fifth?

I figure it will take them winning two of three down the stretch and Wyoming upsetting Utah. Here’s how:

The remaining schedules for the teams vying for the fifth spot are as follows:

-Utah: at Wyoming, vs. Colorado State, at UNLV
-Air Force: at BYU, vs. TCU, vs. San Diego State
-TCU: at UNLV, at Air Force, vs. BYU

If we assume that each team will lose games to BYU and UNLV, the top two teams in the league, then here’s how the race looks:
-Utah (6-8) with games at Wyoming and against Colorado State
-Air Force (6-8) with games against TCU and San Diego State
-TCU (6-9) with a game at Air Force

If we further assume Utah will beat Colorado State, then the race comes down to three games:
-Utah at Wyoming (this Saturday)
-TCU at Air Force (next Wednesday)
-San Diego State at Air Force (a week from Saturday)

So if Wyoming upsets Utah, the Utes will finish 7-9. And if Air Force holds serve at home, it will finish 8-8.

Here’s the not-so-funny part for Air Force fans. The Nos. 2-4 seeds (which will face the Nos. 5-7 seeds in the first round of the conference tournament) still are up for grabs. So finishing sixth or seventh could arguably get the Falcons a better first-round match-up.

Confused yet? Me too. I’m starting to think “taking it one game at a time” is not so bad a cliché. We can worry about this a week from now.