What the Hilltoppers need to win the conference

Tyler Eaton

Following a pair of road wins against University of North Texas and Rice University, WKU’s men’s basketball team finds itself in a tie with Old Dominion University for second in Conference USA as both teams are 12-2 in conference play.

Both teams trail conference leader Middle Tennessee State University, which sits at 14-1 in conference play and is in the midst of a nine-game winning streak following the team’s lone conference loss to Marshall University.

Earlier this season, WKU beat ODU in Norfolk, and the two teams will meet again this Saturday in Diddle Arena in a game that will all but eliminate the loser from C-USA regular season title contention.

WKU will also take on MTSU in a game that will go a long way in deciding the league’s regular season champion.

While WKU, ODU and MTSU are the top contenders, Marshall could push back into the conference race with a sweep of its last four games. The Thundering Herd sit at 10-4 in conference play with a home game against ODU and a road game against MTSU still remaining.

As mentioned, Marshall handed MTSU its only loss in conference play on the season. For WKU to win the regular season title outright, the Hilltoppers may need the Thundering Herd to beat the Blue Raiders once again.

Because MTSU beat WKU earlier this season, the Blue Raiders would currently hold the tiebreaker if the teams were tied in the standings.

The loss to UTSA puts WKU in a position where it will likely have to win out to gain at least a share of the regular season conference title. The Hilltoppers will meet MTSU again in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on March 1, so they can still split the season series with the Blue Raiders.

The fastest track to a conference championship for WKU is to win its final four games. That would include beating ODU and MTSU while not stumbling to teams like UNC Charlotte, which WKU plays on Thursday.

A sweep of this week’s two game home stand for the Hilltoppers would all but eliminate ODU from conference title contention, making it a two horse race for the crown between WKU and MTSU.

A win over the Blue Raiders would then leave MTSU and WKU in a tie for first in the conference with the season series split. That would leave it to both teams to finish their seasons against Marshall and UAB, respectively.

If the Hilltoppers finish the last stretch of the season without a hiccup, they will clinch at least a share of the conference championship. If MTSU also falls to either UAB or Marshall, WKU would be crowned the sole regular season C-USA champion and get the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Reporter Tyler Eaton can be reached at 270-776-6797 [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler_eaton1022