If all goes well Niagara will be celebrating a MAAC regular-season championship on Monteagle Ridge this weekend.
And if the Purple Eagles stumble? Well, there might be room for error.
Here’s how the postseason tournament picture sizes up as the Big 4 regular-season schedules near their conclusion:
NIAGARA (17-11, 12-4)
Current standing: First in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Best-case scenario: Wins over Rider (16-13, 10-6) and Saint Peter’s (9-18, 3-13) at home would lock up the regular-season title and guarantee the Purple Eagles no worse than a bid in the NIT. They could get away with winning one of their final two so long as Loyola (Md.) does no better than a split in its final two (at Iona on Friday and home to Manhattan on Sunday).
Worst-case scenario: Even with two defeats Niagara can fall to no worse than third in the final standings.
Most likely scenario: Purple Eagles win a pair and the crown. The final game might even prove inconsequential. If Niagara beats Rider at Taps on Thursday and Loyola loses at Iona on Friday night, the race is over.
Update: Sophomore Juan’ya Green is one of 25 finalists for the Lou Henson National Mid-Major Player of the Year Award. The only other sophomore among the finalists is BYU’s Tyler Haws. There are no freshmen.
CANISIUS (17-11, 10-6)
Current standing: Tied for third in MAAC.
Best-case scenario: Although highly unlikely, Griffs still could capture the conference regular-season title based on an intricate set of tiebreakers. They’d have to beat Saint Peter’s on Thursday and Rider on Saturday in home games, have Niagara lose two and Loyola (20-9, 11-5) drop one just to get into the conversation.
Worst-case scenario: Right now Manhattan, at 8-8 in conference, is headed for one of the two first-round MAAC Tournament games. Let’s just put it this way: Canisius doesn’t want to drop a pair and open the door even a hair.
Most likely scenario: Rider game should tell the tale. Beat the Broncs and Canisius should finish top three and likely create the possibility of an all-WNY MAAC final.
Update: Junior Billy Baron joins Niagara’s Green as one of 25 finalists for the Henson Award. Jordan Heath is listed as day-to-day after spraining an ankle in the BracketBuster loss at Vermont on Saturday.
ST. BONAVENTURE (13-13, 6-7)
Current standing: 12th in Atlantic 10. Twelve of the 16 teams qualify for conference tournament.
Best-case scenario: Hold a 1½-game lead over Dayton with three games remaining – home to Charlotte (18-8, 6-6) on Saturday, at Dayton (14-12, 4-8) and home to Fordham (6-22, 2-11). Two wins should be enough to get Bonnies into A-10 tourney with anywhere from an eighth- to 12th-place finish.
Worst-case scenario: Losses in two of the three — especially if one of them is at Dayton - could cause problems.
Most likely scenario: Bonnies are sitting in a favorable position and, with four teams above them at 6-6, there’s opportunity to move up and improve seeding. It doesn’t hurt that Charlotte recently suspended guard and scoring leader DeMario Mayfield for the season for a violation of team rules — his third misstep in two years.
UB (11-16, 6-6)
Current standing: Fourth in the Mid-American Conference overall standing among postseason-eligible teams. Top five finishers receive byes to Cleveland portion of MAC Tournament. The 6-7-8 finishers host first-round games on campus sites.
Best-case scenario: A top-four finish, which would give Bulls a bye into the quarterfinals.
Worst-case scenario: Could fall into bottom three and play a first-round campus road game but the more reasonable worst-case would have them at home in the first round.
Most likely scenario: With four games remaining the variables abound. Bulls are at Kent State (15-12, 5-7) on Wednesday, home to Akron (22-4, 12-0) and Ohio U. (20-7, 11-1) after that and finish the season at Bowling Green (11-16, 5-7). Loss at Kent would pull Golden Flashes even in standings and give them tiebreaker advantage for season sweep.
Update: Akron puts the nation’s longest winning streak on the line at Ohio U. on Wednesday. If Zips survive they’ll hit Alumni Arena on Saturday night looking for No. 20.
BN Big 4 Player of the Week: Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt places a premium on the defensive side of the game, a big reason why 5-foot-10 senior Eric Mosley found himself splitting time with Charlon Kloof at the point. As Mosley evolved into a better defender his minutes increased, and with that his offensive production has gone through the roof.
Mosley dumped 39 points on Massachusetts (the most points by a Bonnie in A-10 play), followed up with 16 at Duquesne and is averaging 24.2 over the last five games. In the two games last week he went 17 of 28 from the field, 7 of 14 from three-point land and totaled six assists and five steals. He also was named A-10 Player of the Week.
NIAGARA (14-13, 9-7)
Current standing: Tied with Rider for fourth in the MAAC and hold tiebreaker advantage.
Best-case scenario: It looks like fourth place is the goal for the Purple Eagles, who sit two games out of second-third with two to play.
Worst-case scenario: Loss to Canisius (10-17, 7-9) on Friday and at Manhattan (6-21, 3-13) on Sunday could drop Niagara as far down as sixth but the Purple Eagles already have avoided a first-round MAAC Tourney Game.
Most likely scenario: There are no guarantees in a Niagara-Canisius game but Niagara is set up to finish fourth.
CANISIUS (10-17, 7-9)
Current standing: Tied with Siena for sixth place and close season on road against the Saints.
Best-case scenario: Two wins could potentially put the Griffs in a fourth-place tiebreaker mix.
Worst-case scenario: It all likely comes down to the season finale at Siena with the winner taking sixth and avoiding a first-round tourney game.
Most likely scenario: Griffs beat Siena at home on Jan. 4 but have lost three of last four and seven of last nine. Will have to rise up to avoid first round.
UB (9-17, 7-6)
Current standing: Seventh overall in the MAC.
Best-case scenario: Could move up a spot but schedule suggests they’ll finish right where they are.
Worst-case scenario: Bulls will do no worse than hosting a first-round tournament game.
Most likely scenario: Hosting a first-round tourney game March 9.
ST. BONAVENTURE (9-18, 2-10)
Current standing: Tied for 14th in A-10. Top 12 make conference tourney.
Best-case scenario: Bonnies win final two against Fordham (20-7, 10-2) and 12th-place La Salle (8-19, 4-8) while La Salle and 13th-place VCU drop final two.
Worst-case scenario: One loss eliminates Bona from A-10 tourney picture.
Most likely scenario: Bonnies finish 14th and miss tourney.