The UConn women’s soccer team has its bye week this weekend, but this is still a huge weekend for the Huskies. They will be doing some serious scoreboard watching to see how their chances of making the American Athletic Conference Tournament change while most of their competition plays two games this weekend.
The top six teams in the conference make the tournament. As of right now, UConn is tied for No. 6 with a 2-5-1 conference record. The team they are tied with is Temple, who also happens to be the team they face in the regular-season finale on Oct. 31. Obviously, UConn must win that game to have a chance at the tournament, but unfortunately, that is not enough. The Huskies and Owls have played two more games than every other team in the conference, so their status as the sixth-place teams is in jeopardy.
The Huskies will require some help from some fellow American members to advance to the tournament with a win in the Temple game. Actually, they’ll require a lot of help. Basically, the formula is that the teams that are out of reach of the Huskies need to win as much as possible, while the teams that are within reach need to lose as much as possible. So basically, UConn needs to root against SMU, ECU, Houston, and Tulsa whenever possible this weekend. The problem becomes when two of these teams play each other, which happens quite a bit.
Once again, all of this is assuming that UConn takes care of business with Temple in its final game and finishes with a 3-5-1 record that would give them 10 points in the conference. If they don’t do that, none of this matters.
ECU is the key in this situation because, like UConn, it has seven points right now but with three games left. The Pirates also have the tiebreaker over UConn, so if they finish better than 0-1-2 in those three games, the path for the Huskies gets a lot more difficult. In fact, at that point, the best way for the Huskies to make the tournament is if the three teams currently below them in the standings (Tulsa, Houston and SMU) all go 1-2 in their last three games. That would give all of them 3-6 final records for nine points, leaving them all one point shy of the Huskies.
There is only one combination that will allow this to happen. First, SMU has to beat Tulsa and Memphis has to beat Houston tonight. Then, Tulsa has to beat Houston and Memphis has to beat SMU on Sunday. Finally, next Thursday, after UConn beats Temple, Houston must beat SMU and Memphis must beat Tulsa.
That is the only combination that would guarantee UConn to get at least the sixth seed if ECU wins a game. With that scenario, they could rise as far as the fifth seed if ECU loses all of their final three games to UCF, USF, and Cincinnati, leaving them with a 2-6-1 record and out of the tournament.
If ECU does indeed finish 0-1-2 or worse in their last three games, there are a few more ways the Huskies can make the tournament, mostly having to do with ties and tiebreakers.
That is where this whole situation gets sticky. UConn has the tiebreaker over Houston and SMU but not over Tulsa, so if any ties happen this weekend between the teams that are below UConn in the standings, the situation will get really confusing.
The simplest way I can put it is that if a team is going to go 1-1-1 in the final three games and finish with an identical 3-5-1 record, UConn should hope it is Houston or SMU and not Tulsa because then UConn would finish in front after winning the head-to-head matchups against Houston and SMU.
Basically, it breaks down like this, UConn can make the tournament by winning its final game over Temple if:
ECU finishes better than 0-1-2 AND Houston, SMU and Tulsa all go 1-2 in their last three games (scenario explained above) OR Houston or SMU finishes 1-1-1 in the final three games while Tulsa finishes without a win
ECU finishes 0-1-2 or worse AND the above scenarios still happen (UConn would be the fifth seed in this case), either Houston or SMU finishes better than 1-1-1 in final three games or Tulsa finishes 1-1-1 or better in the final three games
I know it’s really confusing and I probably missed some more obscure scenarios that could allow UConn to get in. The bottom line is, UConn fans should root completely against ECU for the rest of the season. If ECU doesn’t win the rest of the way, the Huskies’ chances go up considerably, and there are more scenarios that can put them in.
If ECU does happen to pick up a win this weekend, then UConn needs the teams below them to beat each other up, which is much less likely to happen. So UConn still has a chance to make an appearance in the American Women’s Soccer Tournament, but its destiny is more in the hands of its competition than its own.
It must be frustrating because the Huskies could do what they need to do and pick up a win over Temple next week, but if ECU and Tulsa both win games this weekend, the Huskies will find themselves on the outside looking in, regardless. That means UConn needs the luck to be on its side when its competition goes at each other in this ever-important weekend for women’s soccer.
Danny Barletta is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @dbars_12.