GNAC seeding at stake for UAA basketball teams

mnesper@adn.comFebruary 26, 2014 

Seedings for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament are on the line for the UAA's basketball teams as they head into their final games of the regular season this week.

Thanks to wins over Simon Fraser and Western Washington last week, the women landed in the No. 8 spot in the NCAA Division II West Region rankings on Wednesday -- a significant achievement, because being in the top eight generally means a spot in the eight-team West Region tournament.

But before the West Region tournament, there is the GNAC tournament, which begins Wednesday in Lacey, Wash. The league's top six men's and women's teams will play in the tournament, with first-round byes going to the top two teams in the regular-season standings. The winners of the tournament clinch West Region tournament berths.

The UAA women (18-6 overall, 11-5 GNAC) could wind up as the GNAC's No. 1 seed, No. 6 seed or anywhere in between.

Wins over Seattle Pacific University (17-7, 10-6) on Thursday and Montana State Billings (21-6, 13-3) on Saturday would guarantee a No. 2 seed for the Seawolves. Wins in those games plus a UAF win over MSU-Billings -- which would rank as a big upset -- would give UAA the top seed.

"It's good to have our destiny in our own hands," coach Ryan McCarthy said.

To earn a first-round bye, the Seawolves will have to earn back-to-back wins on the road, including one over a Billings that is undefeated at home. UAA is better than its 6-4 road record, McCarthy said. Winners of four straight, the Seawolves are peaking at the right time, he said.

In December, UAA beat Seattle Pacific and MSU-Billings in Anchorage. The 31-point win over Billings was the biggest margin of victory in 50 meetings between the teams.

The UAA men (17-11, 10-7) don't have a shot at a first-round GNAC bye, but they could clinch the No. 3 when they meet UAF (16-9, 11-6) in Fairbanks for their regular-season finale Thursday.

A victory at the Patty Center -- where the Seawolves have won seven straight dating back to 2006 -- would seal a No. 3 seed for UAA. Both teams would finish 11-7 in the conference, with UAA winning the tiebreaker thanks to a regular season sweep of the Nanooks.

With a loss to UAF, the Seawolves can finish as low as sixth. UAF could tie for second place but would need Western Washington to lose its final two regular season games.

The Seawolves have won 16 in a row against the UAF men, although four of the last five games have been decided by six points or fewer. UAA beat the Nanooks by 20 points in December in Anchorage.

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335.

Men's GNAC standings

(through last week's games)

Team Conference Overall

Seattle Pacific 13-3 22-5

Western Washington 12-4 18-6

UAF 11-6 16-9

UAA 10-7 17-11

Western Oregon 8-8 15-11

Montana State-Billings 8-8 12-12

Central Washington 7-9 11-13

Saint Martin's 5-11 8-16

Northwest Nazarene 4-12 6-18

Simon Fraser 3-13 10-14

Wednesday's game

Simon Fraser at Western Oregon

Thursday's games

Seattle Pacific at Central Washington

MSU Billings at Northwest Nazarene

Western Washington at Saint Martin's

UAA at UAF

Saturday's games

MSU Billings at Central Washington

Seattle Pacific at Northwest Nazarene

Simon Fraser at Saint Martin's

Western Washington at Western Oregon

Women's GNAC standings

(through last week's games)

Team Conference Overall

Montana State-Billings 13-3 21-6

Simon Fraser 12-5 17-7

Western Washington 12-5 16-9

UAA 11-5 18-6

Seattle Pacific 10-6 17-7

Saint Martin's 9-7 15-10

Northwest Nazarene 7-9 14-10

UAF 3-13 15-5

Western Oregon 3-13 6-18

Central Washington 1-15 6-18

Thursday's games

Saint Martin' at Northwest Nazarene

Western Oregon at Central Washington

UAF at MSU-Billings

UAA at Seattle Pacific

Saturday's games

Simon Fraser at Western Washington

Western Oregon at Northwest Nazarene

Saint Martin's at Central Washington

UAA at MSU-Billings

UAF at Seattle Pacific

 

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