ASHLAND — Home-court advantage in the first round of the Cascade Conference playoffs will be on the line this weekend when the 21st-ranked Southern Oregon men's basketball team hosts Corban and Northwest Christian to close out the regular season.
Southern Oregon (20-8, 11-5 Cascade) is currently in position to grab the No. 3 seed in the postseason conference tournament. Eastern Oregon (14-2) and Warner Pacific (13-3) have essentially locked up the top two seeds, with SOU, College of Idaho (10-6), Northwest (10-7) and Concordia (9-7) battling for the final two hosting spots.
The Raiders hold the tiebreakers over Northwest and Concordia, while College of Idaho's games this weekend will determine the Coyotes' tiebreaking rank. Three-way ties become more convoluted, but with two fewer losses than both Northwest and Concordia a single win this weekend clinches at least the fourth seed and a home game for the Raiders.
The league tournament begins Wednesday at 7 p.m., with the top four teams hosting seeds five through eight.
"We've got our work cut out for us, but we know it's a big weekend for us and can get us into that third slot pretty solidly," SOU head coach Brian McDermott said. "Hopefully if we can take care of a little business there it might move us up a little bit in the rankings, which would help us in our opportunities to try to get to the national tournament."
Prior to the Saturday's men's game at 7:30 p.m. a senior night ceremony will honor seniors Taylor Roos and Terriel Thomas, along with the four seniors on the women's team.
After a mid-season swoon led to four losses in five games, Southern Oregon has gotten back on track with four consecutive wins. Last weekend, the Raiders picked up a key 80-73 road win against Northwest before following with a 75-56 victory over Evergreen.
With 16 conference games in the books, the Raiders lead the CCC in scoring (77.4 per game), shooting percentage (.473), 3-point percentage (.397), assists (16.9) and 3-point defense (.283). They also rank second in opponents' shooting percentage (.394) and third in scoring margin (plus-5.4 per game).
Kyle Tedder has been on fire from 3-point range, making a league-high 52 during the conference season while shooting 44.1 percent from long range. That has translated to a team-best 15.3 points per game that ranks fifth in the conference with Eric Thompson ranking eighth (14.5) and David Sturner 11th (13.0). Sturner also ranks second in rebounding, averaging a double-double with 10.4 boards per game. Jeff Bush ranks third in assists (5.2) and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2).
Corban and Northwest Christian have both struggled this season and will come to town as two of the bottom three teams in the conference standings. The Warriors are tied with Oregon Tech for seventh with a 5-11 record, 9-16 overall, while the Beacons have a 9-19 overall record, 3-13 in conference play.
The two teams rank ninth and 10th in scoring, with Corban averaging 63.4 points per game and Northwest Christian tallying 62.1. Josiah Sebens leads the Warriors in scoring (11.9), followed by Andrew Evans (11.3), and Sebens is one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference. He has made 34 shots from beyond the arc in 15 conference games while connecting on 44.7 percent of his attempts.
"They've changed their lineup around and finally gotten comfortable," McDermott said of Corban. "They're doing a lot of pick-and-roll stuff and shooting a lot of 3s. They're one of those dangerous teams because they shoot a lot of 3s and they can sure make a lot of 3s."
Jordan Buhler (12.9) and Trevor Parker (12.8) lead Northwest Christian in scoring. The Beacons have lost 15 of their last 17 games, but one of those wins was a 64-57 road win over College of Idaho two weeks ago. McDermott knows they can present a difficult challenge and will not be an easy win.
"Almost every night, they're in it right to the end," McDermott said. "That's obviously a dangerous team, when you know that only one or two possessions can change the outcome."
The Raiders opened the conference season with a pair of road wins over these two teams. Southern Oregon knocked off Northwest Christian in a 71-69 overtime contest on Nov. 30 and pummeled Corban 71-45 the following night in Salem.