The first week of February generally starts the stretch run for basketball teams aiming for the playoffs. This year's CAC schedule features a three-game week that could make or break teams' hopes of securing a berth, or a home game, in the new six-team CAC playoff format.
Every team in the conference is still alive for a playoff berth, but following this week's action, teams will have either three or four games to play over the final two weeks. That makes this a key week for every team.
In the 2009 CAC playoffs, the top six teams advance, with the top two seeds earning first-round byes (2/24) and semifinal (2/26) home games. The championship game, as in the past, will be played on the home court of the highest seeded team (2/28).
On the women's side, where three teams are among the Top 25 in the USA Today/WBCA/ESPN national rankings, York hosts Mary Washington. YCP is undefeated in CAC play, ranked #14 in the national poll and already boasts a 77-72 victory at Fredericksburg, Va. this season. UMW is tied for second in the standings with Marymount, both 8-2 in CAC play, and is ranked 25th nationally (with Marymount and Scranton).
Another key women's showdown tonight is the St. Mary's at Salisbury clash. The Seahawks and Seagulls are tied for fifth place in the CAC standings heading into this week's action.
Wednesday's women's schedule features fourth-place Wesley, just a half game behind Mary Washington and Marymount, traveling to Arlington, Va., to face the Saints. Saturday, Wesley drives up the peninsula to face Salisbury.
On the men's side, where balance shows every team is capable of finishing on top on any given day, undefeated frontrunner Wesley has three games in six days, including a visit by Stevenson tonight and trips to Marymount and Salisbury. If the playoffs started today, all three of the Wolverines' opponents this week would advance to the post season.
Second-place St. Mary's, which was nationally ranked earlier this season, also plays three teams fighting for post-season bids this week, including a trip to Salisbury tonight, followed by home games vs. Hood (Wednesday) and York (Saturday).
Third-place Mary Washington, which was upended at Hood Saturday, has to play at York (Monday) and at Gallaudet (Saturday) this week in an effort to stay within striking distance of Wesley and SMC.
Salisbury, currently in fourth place but within two games of second place SMC, faces the top two teams in the conference this week with home games against SMC (Monday) and Wesley (Saturday).
The results of the three-game week should help set the table for another exciting CAC post-season in both men's and women's basketball.