Saturday, February 12, 2011

Catching up with the Liberty League (Women's Basketball)

All three local teams — RPI, Skidmore and Union — are still alive and fighting for spots in the Liberty League's four-team postseason tournament. With just one week of regular season games left to play, let's take a look at each of the three teams' chances of advancing to postseason play in the (suddenly) topsy-turvy Liberty League; six teams are within 1 1/2 games of each other in the standings after Saturday's games.

RPI (10-12, 6-5), fifth-place tie 

RPI picked up a big win on Saturday, downing first-place Union, 55-52. The Engineers have a quick turnaround and will host Vassar on Tuesday.

At 6-5 in league play, RPI is likely one of three teams fighting for the conference tournament's fourth and final spot; right now three teams (Union, St. Lawrence and William Smith) sit in a first-place tie at 8-4, while Skidmore (7-5) is in fourth place and Vassar (6-5) is tied with RPI.

For RPI to secure the Liberty's fourth spot, a win on Tuesday is all but a necessity because a loss will put Skidmore 1 1/2 games up and Vassar 1 game up on the Engineers. Looking forward from Tuesday's game, RPI should beat Hamilton (2-10) next weekend while an away game at first-place William Smith will be a challenge.

To have a chance, RPI needs to win at least two games and likely needs all three.

Skidmore (11-11, 7-5), fourth place

The Thoroughbreds did themselves no favor in losing at Vassar on Saturday, 59-49. With a win in Saturday's game, Skidmore would have joined the tie atop the Liberty League and been feeling pretty secure in its positioning for the playoffs.

Even still, Skidmore could be a lot worse off — the Thoroughbreds final two games are at home and one of them is against last-place Clarkson. The other is against first-place St. Lawrence, a team the Thoroughbreds lost to by nine earlier this season.

Given Vassar and RPI still play each other one more time — guaranteeing a loss for one of those two clubs — Skidmore definitely seems to be in the driver's seat.

Union (13-7, 8-4), tied for first place

The Dutchwomen look pretty safe for the tournament; Union is a game up on fourth-place Skidmore and also owns the tiebreaker against the Thoroughbreds, having defeated Skidmore twice this season.

But Union still has work to do — the Dutchwomen would like to earn that top seed, if only because whoever finishes as the top team does not get a first-round date with the two other Liberty League squads currently tied for first.

To this end, things do not break too badly for Union. The Dutchwomen have two remaining games — both at home — and one of them is against last-place Clarkson (2-10). The other one is against St. Lawrence, giving the Dutchwomen a chance to knock off one of its first-place rivals in the final weekend of the season; however, Union did lose to St. Lawrence by 13 points when the two teams met earlier this season.

To finish with the top seed, Union will likely need to win both games. If the Dutchwomen win both games, first place should be there for them — two wins means St. Lawrence has lost and William Smith has a tough back-to-back (fourth-place hopefuls RPI and Vassar) next weekend.

At the very worst, one win should push Union into the postseason as no worse than the fourth seed.

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