Sunday, April 30, 2017

The title-clinching scenarios for the 5 remaining contenders are wild

There are five teams still in contention for the Mountain West title.

Only Utah State and San Jose State control their own destiny at this point, and the Aggies can clinch the title and the automatic NCAA bid that comes along with it by sweeping next weekend's 3-game series at San Jose State.  But a SJSU sweep next weekend will not assure the Spartans of a conference championship.  Confused yet?

If the Aggies do not sweep the 3-game set at San Jose State, there are numerous other scenarios in which the Spartans or Fresno State, Nevada or San Diego State can all clinch the crown.

Only Utah State will complete its Mountain West schedule next weekend.  The other eight teams in the MW will still play 3-game conference series the following weekend.  And unless USU sweeps San Jose State, the title still may be up for grabs on the final weekend of the season.

That's due, in large part, to the snowed out game between Fresno State and Utah State, which could cause fits among the title contenders, throwing the regular-season Mountain West title into chaos where the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament is decided by percentage points.

If Utah State, for example, takes two of three at San Jose State next week, the Aggies could still end up finishing in second place in the final standings if Nevada sweeps its final two opponents.  Such a scenario would leave USU at 16-7 in conference, while the Wolf Pack would finish 17-7 by virtue of playing a full 24-game Mountain West schedule.

Even a 3-game sweep by San Jose State next week over Utah State would not guarantee the Spartans the outright Mountain West title.  SJSU still would have a 3-game series to finish the season at UNLV.  Losses in Las Vegas could still mean four other teams could finish atop the league.

Two-time defending Mountain West champion Fresno State is still mathematically alive for the conference title after a stunning, 3-run, 2-out rally in the seventh inning carried the Bulldogs to a 4-3 win at UNLV and a 3-game series sweep Sunday.

The Bulldogs would need the following scenario in order to claim their third straight MW championship:  Fresno State must sweep New Mexico and Colorado State to end the regular season, AND have Nevada lose at least twice in its final six games (at Boise State, and home vs. San Diego State), AND have San Diego State lose at least once in its final six games (home vs. UNLV, and at Nevada), AND have San Jose State sweep its home series vs. Utah State, but get swept at UNLV.  A far-fetched scenario?  Perhaps.  An impossible scenario?  Not at all.

The Bulldogs and Aztecs face the longest odds to win the conference championship, but the important thing is both teams are still alive.  We'll know much more by this time next week when either San Jose State or Utah State is guaranteed to have at least eight conference losses.