FORT WAYNE – We have to win.
Senior forward John Peckinpaugh’s straightforward pronouncement sums up most of the remaining 11 days for the IPFW men’s basketball team to avoid being shut out of next month’s Summit League tournament for the first time in five years.
We’ve put ourselves up against a wall; now we’ve got to fight our way into the tournament, Peckinpaugh said. It’s never a spot you like to be in, but we’re going to work in practice in the next few weeks and try to make the best out of it.
IPFW has four games remaining and three of them – including today’s 7 p.m. meeting against league-leading Oral Roberts (23-5, 15-1) – are Summit League contests.
With a 4-11 conference record, the Mastodons (10-15 overall) are in a three-way tie for eighth place with South Dakota (9-15) and UMKC (10-17). The top eight teams advance to the Summit League tournament March 3-6 in Sioux Falls, S.D., with the final two ending their seasons.
Because South Dakota is in a transitional year of joining the Summit League, it is not eligible to participate in the postseason tournament, even though its games count toward the standings. That makes it a two-team race between IPFW and UMKC for the No. 8 seed, providing IUPUI (11-16, 5-10) can remain one game ahead.
After tonight’s game with Oral Roberts at Memorial Coliseum, IPFW goes out of the league Saturday to play at Eastern Kentucky, then finishes the regular season with road trips to South Dakota (Feb. 23) and UMKC (Feb. 25).
UMKC, which plays at Western Illinois tonight, will play its final two conference games at home against Oakland and the Mastodons.
A loss at UMKC would make all tiebreaking procedures moot, since the Kangaroos would own a 2-0 head-to-head record against IPFW. Should the two finish with the same league record and a win over the other, the tiebreaker is determined how each team fared against the highest-finishing team on down the standings. Unless IPFW beats Oral Roberts, that could go down as far as Southern Utah and Western Illinois and where they finish. By virtue of its win over Southern Utah, IPFW would benefit from the Thunderbirds finishing higher. The same can be said on UMKC’s behalf, with its victory over Western Illinois.
They have an understanding what’s at stake; what it’s going to take to get us into the conference tournament, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said. Now it’s just a matter of going out and executing it.