ASHLAND — If nothing else, two road losses to end the regular season last weekend simplified Southern Oregon's outlook heading into the Cascade Conference Championships presented by U.S. Bank: Win or it's all over.
The Raiders (19-11 overall) went into the weekend tied for second but ended in a fourth-place tie with Eastern Oregon (21-7) at 13-7 in the CCC. The tiebreaker — based on records against teams who finished .500 or better in conference play — went to the Raiders, giving them the No. 4 seed and homecourt advantage for Wednesday's 7 p.m. CCC tournament quarterfinal game against the fifth-seeded Mountaineers.
Stuck in the receiving votes category of Tuesday's latest NAIA Division II coaches' poll, SOU is almost certainly out of contention for an at-large bid to the national tournament, the 32-team field for which will be announced Feb. 28. That means the Raiders' only path is to secure an automatic bid by winning the CCC tourney, which begins Wednesday at campus sites around the conference. The tourney is not bracketed, meaning the highest remaining seed will be matched with the lowest remaining seed next round. The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, and the championship will be played 7 p.m. Tuesday and broadcast live on Root Sports Northwest.
The CCC gets two automatic bids to the national tournament. College of Idaho claimed the first by winning the regular-season title. If the Yotes win the CCC tourney, too, Warner Pacific will get the second bid for earning the No. 2 seed.
The Raiders are in the postseason for the eighth year in a row and 13th time in 14 seasons. They last won it in 2005 and last appeared in the title game in 2015. As the No. 5 seed last season, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Oregon Tech. Eighth-seeded Corban went on to become the most improbable champion in tournament history, upsetting off top-seeded Northwest Christian, second-seeded Eastern Oregon and OIT in sequence on the road. None of the teams Corban defeated had lost a home game in the CCC regular season.
SOU and EOU have split four all-time meetings in the CCC tournament. They last met in the 2013 semifinals, when the Raiders pulled off a road upset, 89-71, to secure a berth in the national tournament.
The Raiders are 102-85 in the all-time series against the Mountaineers. EOU won Saturday's matchup in La Grande, 81-77, behind sophomore Max McCullough's 29 points and thanks to 20 SOU turnovers. On Dec. 2 in Ashland, Ben DeSaulnier scored 22 and Josh Washington had 19 points and nine boards to help the Raiders to an 84-71 win in which they led comfortably for the duration of the second half. It was EOU's seventh consecutive loss in Ashland.