Eastern controls own destiny in final games

Eastern+guard+Karle+Pace+advances+the+ball+against+Austin+Peay+Feb.+22+in+Lantz+Arena.+Pace+had+19+points+in+a+73-72+win+for+the+Panthers.+

Brian Barrett | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern guard Karle Pace advances the ball against Austin Peay Feb. 22 in Lantz Arena. Pace had 19 points in a 73-72 win for the Panthers.

JJ Bullock, Editor-In-Chief

The last four finishes for the Eastern’s women’s basketball team in the OVC standings have gone like this: Last place, last place, last place, 10th place.

This season, however, it is looking very likely that the Panthers (11-5 OVC) could finish in fourth place after winning both its games this weekend, while Tennessee Tech (10-6 OVC) lost two.

Headed into this season, the Panthers were again picked by their peers to finish outside the conference’s eight tournament teams, picked 10th in the preseason poll.

Eastern’s recent resume history did not bode well for it in the preseason poll, but the Panthers had higher expectations for themselves. Were the expectations as high as a fourth-place finish in a conference stacked with talent at the top? Maybe, maybe not.

But either way, as the OVC heads into its final two games of the season, Eastern is 11-5, in fourth place in the OVC and in control of its own destiny. Those facts alone have shattered all preseason expectations.

If the Panthers win their final two games against Southeast Missouri (13-3 OVC) on Thursday and Southern Illinois Edwardsville (1-15 OVC) on Saturday, then they will clinch the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament. Likewise, if the Panthers go 1-1 over their final two games and Tennessee Tech does the same, the Panthers will be the No. 4 seed. However, if Eastern goes 0-2 and Tennessee Tech goes 2-0 or 1-1, the Panthers will be the No. 5 seed.

Tennessee Tech’s path to 2-0 or even 1-1 is significantly tougher than Eastern’s. Tennessee Tech faces first-place Belmont (14-2 OVC) Thursday and an 8-8 Jacksonville State team that will be playing for a lot Saturday.

Both Eastern and Tennessee Tech will be playing those games on the road, and both Eastern and Tennessee Tech have 7-5 road records this season.

Who gets the four seed and who gets the five seed probably will not matter much; in fact, it might not matter at all as Eastern and Tennessee Tech are locked into those spots, and the four seed plays the five seed in the first round of the tournament.

So, in the grand scheme of things, no matter who wins and who loses in the final two games, Eastern and Tennessee Tech will see each other in the tournament. The only variable is who will have a four and who will have a five in front of their name.

 

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]