For the Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball team the task is simple — win the CCAA tournament or the season is over.
The Coyotes (17-9, 15-5) painted themselves into a corner with losses to Cal Poly Pomona and UC San Diego. Now, there is no margin for error.
The Coyotes open play in the CCAA tournament at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Coussoulis Arena against Sonoma State (12-15, 8-12), with whom they split during the regular season.
The good news for coach Jeff Oliver’s team is that Friday’s semifinals and Saturday’s finals will also be at Coussoulis, where the team is 10-1 this season.
Cal State is ranked 10th in the region and needs to be eighth to secure a spot in the West Region tournament. There are a half a dozen teams in the hunt for the last few spots, a couple of whom are playing in the CCAA event.
The winner of the CCAA tournament gets the conference’s automatic playoff bid.
“We need to win at least two and even that leaves room for doubt,” Oliver said. “We’re going in with the mindset that we have to win three.”
The Coyotes were part of a three-way tie for first with Cal Poly Pomona (19-6, 15-5) and Cal State Dominguez Hills (21-6, 15-5), giving them at least a share of the conference title for the eighth time in 10 years. But the seeding for the tournament came down to a third tiebreaker.
The Broncos, who will host San Francisco State (14-13, 8-12) in an opening-round game, were 2-0 against Cal State Los Angeles (the ninth-place team and the best of the teams that didn’t make the tournament) compared to Cal State Dominguez Hills’ 1-1 mark against the Golden Eagles.
The Coyotes were made the third seed based on their 9-5 record against tournament teams. Both Pomona and Dominguez Hills had 10-4 marks.
That logic mystifies Oliver.
“You’re rewarding Dominguez and Pomona for losing to teams that are the bottom of the barrel, that didn’t make the tournament. That doesn’t make sense,” he said.
While Sonoma State has played the Coyotes tough, it has not had an answer for big man Brandon Brown (20.6 points per game, 8.9 rebounds), who has scored 45 points in the two games against the Seawolves and is coming off a 32-point showing against San Francisco State on Friday.
“He has been dominant,” Oliver said. “He has had head on straight and doing a better job of not letting adversity get to him.”
Cal State women headed south
The Cal State women will need to repeat their upset of two weeks ago to get another home game as they will play their CCAA tournament opener at RIMAC Arena against top-seeded UC San Diego (26-3, 19-1), which also comes in ranked ninth nationally.
Coach Kevin Becker’s team, finishing in a three-way tie for sixth, was last in the pecking order when it came to the tiebreaker, so it was left with the eighth seed.
The Coyotes (10-16, 8-12) were the only conference team to beat the Tritons, doing so 64-59 on Feb. 14, behind the scoring punch of unheralded players Lisa Takata and Ana Onaindia.
“Obviously, they’re going to be ready for us,” Becker said. “We’re going to have to play even better than we did the last time we played them.”