At a time of the year when conference title races and postseason scenarios can be clear as mud, the objective is simple for Eastern Washington.
Beat Weber State on Saturday in Cheney in the regular-season finale and the Eagles will win the Big Sky Conference title outright and earn the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
Lose, and the Eagles (22-8, 15-4 Big Sky) might have to share the crown with Montana (18-12, 14-5), Northern Colorado (21-9, 14-5) or both in a three-way tie.
Either way, the Eagles will have earned the program’s fourth conference championship.
But EWU, which earned at least a share of the Big Sky title after dispatching Idaho State 100-77 on Thursday, wants to claim it as its own.
The Eagles play host to a Weber State (12-18, 8-11) team that’s had a poor season relative to its longtime conference success. EWU beat the Wildcats 79-77 in Ogden, Utah, in December.
Weber State, which beat last-place Idaho 72-64 on Thursday in Moscow, features the league’s top scorer in Jerrick Harding (22 points per game), an electric guard who was named the league’s preseason MVP.
Harding, who had 15 points against the Vandals, has fought through an ankle injury during the second half of Big Sky play.
The last time the Eagles won a conference title (2015), they needed to win at Weber State in the final regular-season game to share the crown with Montana. Last year, the Eagles ended the season with a road win against Weber State to secure the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament.
Saturday will also be Senior Night for the young Eagles, whose lone seniors are standout Mason Peatling and reserve guard Tyler Kidd.
Peatling, who has won the league’s player of the week award four times this season, averages 17.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
“Mason is playing his last game at a very emotional time,” EWU coach Shantay Legans said. “We want people to cheer, cry, smile and have a good time – you have to love the game of basketball because it’s brought us all together.”
If Weber State upsets EWU, Montana beats Southern Utah (15-15, 8-11) in Missoula and Northern Colorado beats struggling Idaho (7-23, 3-16) in Moscow, the teams would finish in a three-way tie for the crown.
In the three-way scenario, EWU would still be the No. 1 seed in next week’s Big Sky Tournament. If Montana and EWU share the crown, Montana would get the No. 1 seed, because the Grizzlies swept EWU. If EWU and Northern Colorado share, the Eagles would be No. 1 because they swept the Bears.
The top five seeds earn a bye in the Big Sky Tournament, which begins Thursday for EWU in a quarterfinal game in Boise. The Eagles appeared in the previous two titles games, falling to Montana both times.
If the Eagles win the outright Big Sky title and don’t win the conference tournament, they will be assured a spot in the NIT. The Eagles’ last NIT appearance was 2003.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.