Monday, April 27, 2009

Down the stretch they come

USD remains in control of its destiny in the West Coast Conference after taking two of three games in its weekend series against Portland. San Diego State, meanwhile, lost two of three to TCU and now will need to finish strong AND get some help if the Aztecs
are to finish among the top two teams in the Mountain West Conference (the top two earn first-round byes in the MWC Tournament).

USD has a first-place showdown at Loyola Marymount this weekend, then closes out the regular season by hosting USF. The key to all this will be how the Lions do against USD and Gonzaga in their final two series. By the way, Gonzaga holds the tiebreaker advantage over USD and would host the WCC Championship Series if both teams tie for first, or edge out the Toreros for the second berth in the series if both teams tie for second.

The Toreros are hoping to get sophomore right-hander Kyle Blair (biceps tendinitis) back for the series.

Plan B for USD to reach the postseason would be gaining an at-large berth. The Toreros still have nonconference games remaining against UC Riverside, Arizona State (two) and UC Irvine that would enhance their resume.

Here's the current standings and remaining conference schedule for the top four teams:

West Coast Conference standings
TEAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CONF . . . . OVERALL
USD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10-5 . . . . . 27-17
Gonzaga . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10-5 . . . . . 28-13
Loyola Marymount . . . . . . . . . . 9-6 . . . . . 25-21
USF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-7 . . . . . . 22-22
Pepperdine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7-8 . . . . . . 24-19
Saint Mary's . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7-8 . . . . . . 25-20
Portland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5-10 . . . . . 21-20
Santa Clara . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4-11 . . . . . 15-24

Remaining WCC series for top four teams:
Gonzaga — vs. Saint Mary's, vs. LMU
USD — at LMU, vs. USF
Loyola Marymount — vs. USD, at Gonzaga
USF — at USD, at Portland

WCC Championship Series (best-of-three)
Second-place team at first-place team May 22-24
(winner receives automatic berth to NCAA Tournament)

The Mountain West Conference race is a jumble, as usual, because of its unbalanced schedule and weather cancellations. New Mexico and BYU lost the last game of this weekend's series because of rain and TCU lost its entire series against Air Force two weeks ago. That means the standings will be determined by winning percentage once again.

The top two regular-season finishers receive a first-round bye to the MWC Tournament. There is still a road for the Aztecs to get one of those spots, but they will need to win all six of their remaining games and New Mexico or BYU would need to lose twice or TCU would need to lose four times.

SDSU also has positioned itself for an at-large berth if it doesn't win the MWC's automatic berth. The Aztecs have a four-game series at Santa Clara this weekend to regroup for the final two weeks. Their RPI is currently 27 and they likely need to win at least nine of their final 11 games to keep their RPI in at-large range.

Here's the current standings and remaining conference schedule for the top four teams:

Mountain West Conference standings
TEAM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CONF . . . . OVERALL
New Mexico . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11-6 . . . . . 31-12
BYU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11-6 . . . . . . 24-16
TCU . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8-4 . . . . . . 27-12
San Diego State . . . . . . . . . . . . 10-8 . . . . . . 28-17
UNLV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7-8 . . . . . . 22-21
Air Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-9 . . . . . . 14-26
Utah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3-12 . . . . . 15-24

Remaining MWC games for top four teams:
New Mexico — UNLV, at Air Force
BYU — at TU, vs. UNLV
TCU — vs. BYU, vs. Utah, at UNLV
SDSU — at Utah, vs. Air Force

MWC Tournament
Double-elimination format May 19-23 at TCU
note: top two regular-season finishers receive first-round byes
(winner receives automatic berth to NCAA Tournament)