In their first UAA conference game of the season, held back in early January, the Maroons (16–8, 8–5 UAA) squared off against rival Wash U (19–5, 8–5). Motivated by the strong home crowd, the Maroons trounced the Bears 63–43 in that meeting.
Now, as the regular season comes to a close, the Maroons look to go 2–0 against the No. 17 Bears for the first time since the 2010–2011 season. A win over Wash U would provide the Maroons with a great case for inclusion in the postseason tournament while securing the Chicago squad a top-two finish in the UAA conference. A loss would put the Maroons in a sticky situation.
Looking back on the previous meeting between the two sides proves somewhat unrevealing. On January 10th, the Bears were 2–19 from beyond the arc and recorded a measly 30.3 percent field goal percentage. On the season, the team is shooting just under 40 percent from downtown. No matter how good the Maroon’s defense is come Saturday, it would be unreasonable to expect the Bears to hit only 10 percent of their threes.
The man to watch is 6’2” third-year Luke Silverman-Lloyd. The California native is shooting an impressive 48.3 percent from three. If he gets hot, the game could get out of reach. Of course, opening up the three-point opportunity comes from putting in work down low. Over the course of the season the Bears have relied on 6’7” Matt Palucki to work the paint. The big man has been averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game. If the Maroon frontcourt can find a way to contain him, victory will surely be within reach.
The South Siders will also have to execute on the offensive end of the floor. Thus far this season, Chicago has relied on third-year guard Jordan Smith. In addition to the 15 points he puts on the board each game, he also acts as one of the primary creators. Needless to say, come Saturday the Maroons will look to Smith to carry the load and come up big when the time comes.
There are three postseason scenarios, each dependent on the outcome of this game. 62 teams are invited to the postseason: 43 conference champions and 19 at-large bids. The simplest way to reach the tournament is to win the conference. This is still within reach. If No. 15 Emory loses and the Maroons win, they will have a tied 9–5 conference record. The Maroons would be declared conference champions based on their superior record over third-place Wash U. If Emory wins, four hours prior to the tip-off between Wash U and Chicago, the conference title will be out of grasp. The Maroons would then be dependent on the selection committee to provide them with one of the 19 at-large bids.
With a 16–8 record, the Maroons lie right on the bubble. A win over the No. 20 Bears would certainly bolster their resume. Elaborating on the postseason implications, third-year forward Alex Voss remarked, “It looks like a loss will end the season.” This mentality coupled with the fact that this provides every person on the Maroons’ roster with a chance to earn his first postseason appearance should provide plenty of motivation. For now, however, Voss and the Maroon team know that if Emory wins, “[their fate] is not in [their] hands.” All they can do now is go out and win.
The team’s final conference game of the year against Wash U will begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday on the road.