Rice basketball has their eyes set on a Conference USA Championship Tournament berth. Here’s what it would take to secure a spot.
The Conference USA Basketball Tournament pits the top 12 of 14 conference teams in a four-day event. An automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament is the grand prize. Rice basketball is playing their best down the stretch and hoping for a shot in Frisco. The Owls have to get there first before they can entertain any ideas of cutting down nets.
The easy way
Conference USA introduced the pod system last season in hopes of earning the league an at large bid. That hasn’t materialized yet, but it has added a bit more intrigue to the final month of the season. Teams 1 through 5, 6 through 10 and 11 through 14 face off against each other.
The top two brackets have the distinction of guaranteed spots in the conference tournament. The top two teams of the bottom pod get in whereas the bottom two are the only programs left at home. Here’s a snapshot of the current standings and projected finishes.
Here is a little more detail behind the projections, with the combined KenPom and ESPN BPI probabilities of each team finishing with 0, 1, or 2 wins.
Again, this is just a statistical simulation and not necessarily how we would expect things to play out (we lean towards chaos). pic.twitter.com/E2V8WWQO9O
— LA Tech Sports Report (@latechsportsrpt) February 10, 2020
Rice basketball is mathematically alive for the middle pod, but it’s complicated. Any loss would eliminate them from the middle pod and land them in the bottom pod. Here’s the path t0 the middle.
Currently sitting at 4-8 in conference play, Rice would need to win out, beating Old Dominion and Charlotte. That would put their record at 6-8. From there, Rice would need two of the following four things to happen to make the middle pod:
- UAB loses at least once (vs MTSU, at MTSU) dropping their record to 6-8 or worse. (Rice has the head to head victory)
- UTEP loses at least once (vs Marshall, vs WKU) dropping their record to 5-9 of worse
- UTSA loses twice (vs Marshall, vs WKU) dropping their record to 5-9
- Old Dominion loses twice (at Rice, at North Texas) dropping their record to 6-8 (Rice would have the head to head victory)
Marshall or FAU finishing 6-8 wouldn’t help Rice. Both programs own head to head wins over the Owls.
The hard way
If Rice is seeded in the bottom pod they’ll have to finish in the top two of that four team grouping. They’ve already beaten Middle Tennessee, so they’d most likely need to conjure a reprisal of that performance and find another win or two along the way. It’s possible but more challenging than an autobid.
Rice basketball fans need to root for these outcomes, in order of importance by day.
Midweek (Thursday games)
- Rice beats Old Dominion
- Middle Tennessee beats UAB (Wednesday)
- WKU beats UTEP
- Marshall beats UTSA
- FAU beats Southern Miss
- Rice beats Charlotte
- North Texas beats Old Dominion
- Middle Tennessee beats UAB
- Marshall beats UTEP
- WKU beats UTSA
There are a few more complicated scenarios that could allow Rice to sneak in. We’ll have an update on where things stand entering the weekend. The first step is a win Thursday against Old Dominion. If Rice can’t achieve that, the rest of these combinations are void.
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