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Paydirt: Closing in on the #1 Seed in the C-USA Tournament

The UTEP Miners have clinched a share of the C-USA regular season title.  Before tomorrow's battle with Marshall, I wanted to analyze what UTEP has to do to earn the #1 seed in next week's C-USA Tourney.  Obviously, first and foremost, the Miners can secure the #1 seed, and an out-right league title,  with one more win against either Marshall or UAB. But, what if the Miners somehow lose both of their remaining games?

Before we go on, it's important to understand the C-USA tie-breaker rules.   When two teams finish with the same regular season record, the first tie-breaker is head-to-head results.  If that doesn't break the tie,  the conference will look to each teams winning percentage against the next team in the standings.  For example, if UTEP and UAB both finish 13-3, they will technically share the title, but for seeding purposes, the tie-breaker would be each teams record against the team that finished third (Memphis or Marshall).

Let's Review  UTEP's Seeding Scenarios:

  • Scenario 1:  UTEP beats Marshall or UAB and secures #1 seed and an outright C-USA title.
  • Scenario 2:  UTEP loses to Marshall.   The separation between the top four teams and everyone else makes it relatively simple to iron out the possibilities.  Memphis travels to UAB on Wednesday.
  • If Memphis Wins:  UTEP clinches the #1 seed.  Yes, that's right. The best Memphis can do is finish at 13-3.  UTEP can't finish any worse than 13-3.  UTEP has the head to head victory so the Miners will clinch. 
  • If UAB Wins against Memphis and UTEP:  Here's what the standings would look like going into the last conference games on Saturday:
  1. UTEP (13-2)
  2. UAB (12-3)
  3. Memphis (11-4; last game is against Tulsa)
  4. Marshall (11-4;  last game is at SMU)
  • First Things First:  UTEP has the tie-breaker advantage over UAB if Memphis finishes in third place.  UAB has the tie-breaker advantage over UTEP if Marshall finishes third.  UTEP beat Memphis in their only game.  UAB would be 1-1 against Marshall and UTEP would be 0-1, so UAB would get the edge if the Herd grab the 3 seed.
  • Going into the final game, Memphis will still be in third place because they have the head-to-head win against Marshall.
  • If Memphis beats Tulsa on Saturday afternoon (12:00 noon tip-off), then the Tigers will clinch the #3 seed and consequently UTEP would clinch the #1 seed. 
  • If Tulsa beats Memphis, and Marshall beats SMU, Marshall will become the #3 seed and UAB would earn the #1 seed with a win at UTEP.  Marshall would have a better record than Memphis.  (For the sake of our sanity, I'm not gonna examine the extremely unlikely possibility that Memphis, Marshall, and Tulsa all end up 11-5 and tied for the 3 seed). 
  • BOTTOM LINE:  Confused yet?  Look at it this way.  The only way the Miners can't earn the #1 seed is if the following events happen in this sequence.
  1. UTEP loses to Marshall
  2. UAB beats Memphis
  3. Tulsa beats Memphis (Saturday at 11:00 a.m)
  4. Marshall beats SMU (Saturday at 6:00 p.m)
  5. UAB beats UTEP (Saturday at 7:05 p.m)