Western Kentucky's loss at Florida Atlantic diminished the Hilltoppers' chances of getting one of five first-round byes in the tournament. And Florida International dropped a game at Troy that we had penciled in for a victory.
Right now, it would take 13 victories for UALR (9-6) to claim a bye. But that's only if Florida Atlantic can win its final five games. Likely, 12 games will easily claim a bye and 11 might easily do it.
UALR still has a shot at the West Division championship and a No. 2 seed, but the Trojans will need to win some games they won't be favored in. The most likely scenario would be a tie between UALR and ASU at 12-8. That would require ASU to lose at North Texas and at UALR in the final week of the season. UALR would have to either beat Middle Tennessee at home on Saturday or sweep the Florida trip and beat both Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State at home in the final week. That would get UALR to 12-8. In that scenario, the first tiebreaker is division record. UALR would be 6-2 while ASU would be 5-3.
If UALR and ASU tie in both conference record and divisional record, the next tiebreaker is record vs. the top teams. Even if UALR beats Middle Tennessee on Saturday to even that tiebreaker up with ASU, UALR would still lose when it moves to South Alabama. ASU swept USA while UALR was swept.
Here's who plays where on Saturday:
- Arkansas State at Louisiana-Monroe, 4 p.m. - This would be a major slip up if ASU doesn't win here.
- Western Kentucky at Florida International, 6:30 p.m. - FIU can solidify its position for a first-round bye with a win. WKU can't afford another loss.
- Middle Tennessee at UALR, 7 p.m. - UALR changes the equation if it can win. Middle Tennessee is in at-large NCAA Tournament position. That would change with a loss.
- Florida Atlantic at Louisiana-Lafayette, 7:15 p.m. - Florida Atlantic kept its hopes alive for a bye with a victory over WKU on Thursday. The Owls need a victory or they're probably missing out.
- North Texas at Troy, 7:30 p.m.