Entering the final week of play, the Golden Rams are in a very precarious position. Following an emotionally charged road win against Cheyney on Valentines Day, WCU fell to Mansfield Saturday in a disheartening 85-71 loss. With two conference games remaining, West Chester sits at 5-5 and in fourth place in a division where no team has clinched a playoff berth.Lets just say the Golden Rams will not be the first team to do so.
After splitting with Kutztown, Mansfield and Cheyney, the tiebreaker comes down to overall record. The Golden Rams hold this tiebreaker only over Cheyney. Still lying ahead on the schedule are tilts against Bloomsburg on Wednesday at home, and the season finale at Millersville Saturday at 3 pm. The season could be hanging in the balance during WCU’s date with the Marauders next weekend.
Winning one of the next two is essential. But we will get to the playoff scenarios later.
First we need to figure out what type of team this is. Entering the season, expectations were sky high. Anything less then a conference championship was to be considered a disappointment from a team with so much leadership and so battle tested in the playoffs. But with a .500 record in the division, and a coach who seems to be eyeing the future, it is entirely possible that this is nothing more then a mediocre ballclub in a year where mediocrity is simply not good enough. All things considered though, this team is still very alive in the playoff race.
Due to the current climate of the PSAC East, depending on the results this week West Chester can finish anywhere from first place(which is highly unlikely), to missing the playoffs altogether. While the latter is the more likely scenario, the Golden Rams are lucky in the sense that with two games remaining against conference opponents they still in effect control their own destiny. Winning both games would clearly put West Chester in the playoffs as one of the top two seeds, depending on how Kutztown and Cheyney fair in their final two contests. But it is also just as likely that a 6-6 record gives you a spot in the tournament as it could also leave you on the outside looking in.
It is imperative that this team makes the playoffs for two reasons. First, this team is loaded with veteran talent and has the ability to win games with their backs against the wall. Anything can happen. And second, due to the youth on this roster, especially those players getting extended minutes down the stretch, postseason experience will be crucial going forward.
Their backs are against the wall, and destiny is before them. Now for this team, it all comes down to winning and finishing the job.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk show on 91.7 WCUR and is simulcast worldwide on the internet at www.wcur.fm, Saturdays from 12:00-2:00 p.m.