With less than a week left in the regular season, all local basketball teams have some work to do if they expect to make the Division II Tournament.
The USC Aiken Lady Pacers (19-6, 13-2) have the best chance of any of the six men's and women's teams of making the Division II Tournament. An Aiken win at Georgia College & State Saturday would give the team its first Peach Belt North Division title.
A win would solidify the sixth spot in the region rankings. The top six teams in the South Atlantic Region will qualify for the postseason tournament. But there is an automatic bid for the tournament champions of the three conferences (Peach Belt, Central Intercollegiate, South Atlantic) that make up the South Atlantic Region. Also, there are no CIAA teams currently in the top-six, meaning that the Lady Pacers are actually the seventh team in the region.
The best way for USC Aiken to make the Division II Tournament is to win on Saturday and get the North No. 1 seed. Then, if USC Aiken can win two games in the PBC tournament and advance to the championship game, it would have a legitimate shot. If the Lady Pacers win the PBC Tournament, it would take matters out of any committee's hands.
Meanwhile, the Pacers (14-11, 8-7) need a win against the Bobcats to gain the North No. 3 seed and a first-round tournament matchup with either Columbus State or North Florida. Should USC Aiken lose on Saturday, it would face conference champion Armstrong Atlantic State in the first round. That may not be a bad matchup for the Pacers since they held a 10-point lead with 2:58 remaining against the Pirates in Savannah, Ga., before the Pacers lost the game in the waning moments, 66-63.
In the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Paine (14-11, 8-9) plays host to LeMoyne-Owen tonight at 7:30 p.m. in its regular-season finale. While conference champion Morehouse seems to be the team to beat in the SIAC tourney, the Lions know anything can happen, as it did in 1999 when Paine stormed to its tournament championship win.
After a 2-10 start to the season (including a 1-7 conference record), the Lady Lions (8-15, 5-10) have rebounded to save their season. Last season, Paine defeated Miles in the first round of the SIAC tourney before losing to Fort Valley State.
Because of its lackluster play on the road, Augusta State's (16-9, 10-5) Division II Tournament hopes may have been dashed. The Jaguars, just 3-7 away from home including a 2-5 conference road record, must win at Francis Marion (6-19, 3-12) on Saturday to win its third straight PBC North Division title and grab the North No. 1 seed. But Augusta proved it has no winnable games on the road when it lost at Kennesaw State (10-15, 5-10) and Georgia College & State (10-14, 6-9).
The Jaguars were ranked as high as fourth in the region and are currently sixth. But everything comes down to Saturday's game and the tournament if they want to advance to the Division II tournament. Augusta will have to do the seemingly impossible and win three tournament games at Lander, where it lost 68-60 on Feb. 3.
While the Jaguars have played .500 ball in February, old nemesis Lander has positioned itself for a possible Division II bid. The Senators have won 11 of their last 12 and will win the division with an Augusta loss on Saturday.
The Lady Jaguars (12-13, 5-10) will need several miracles in the next week if they want to extend their season. First, Augusta needs to win at Francis Marion (20-5, 12-3) on Saturday and needs UNC Pembroke to lose at Kennesaw State for the Jaguars to get the North No. 3 seed. Should Augusta lose it will face No. 1 Columbus State (24-0, 15-0) in the first round of the PBC tourney.