Croup’s Corner – There’s still a chance…

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

Thank goodness January is over for the men’s basketball team.

It was rough, and the players all recognize that. The team posted a 2-8 record in the first month of 2017 that included a 1-8 record in River States Conference (RSC) games.

The Pioneers stand at 7-15 overall and 4-8 in RSC play. They’re on the outside looking in on the RSC playoff picture, and enter the week two games behind Rio Grande for fourth place in the RSC East.

Only the top four teams from each division move on to the RSC Tournament. If Point Park doesn’t make up ground on Rio Grande in the next couple weeks, there will be no postseason.

January wasn’t pretty. Point Park picked up the second victory of the month Wednesday, an 87-85 non-conference win over Villa Maria College.

“It feels like we haven’t won all year,” several players said after the game.

Point Park went 18 days between wins that included a four-game losing streak. We can look back at January and at another weekend with a pair of losses, but the past is in the past.

There are five more RSC games left as we turn the calendar to February. Forget about January. It’s over. February is going to be tough, but it is manageable and possible to climb out of the rut the Pioneers have dug in order to reach the post season.

Point Park plays six games in February, which include five RSC games and a non-conference road game at Villa Maria.

The Pioneers have to win, and they’ll have to do it on the road if they want to leapfrog Rio Grande.

Rio Grande also has five RSC games in February. Both teams play the same opponents in the month, making for an interesting finish.

Point Park has a tough weekend on deck at home with games against No. 7 Indiana University East, and Ohio Christian. Both teams are ahead of Point Park in the RSC East, but the two combine for a 9-13 road record, leaving the door open for vulnerability.

Those two teams started Point Park’s four-game losing streak earlier this month on their home courts. IU East topped Point Park 102-79, and Ohio Christian defeated the Pioneers the following afternoon, 128-72.

Rio Grande fell to IU East earlier this year, 92-62, but defeated Ohio Christian 70-66 at home. The RedStorm host IU East Feb. 7 and travel to Ohio Christian Feb. 11.

Point Park travels to cross-town rival Carlow on Feb. 7 for a chance to sweep the season series against the 3-20 overall team. Carlow is 2-9 in conference play and below Point Park in the RSC East standings. Rio Grande ends its season at home against Carlow on Feb. 18.

West Virginia Tech also stands in the way of the two teams as their seasons come to an end. The Pioneers end their regular season schedule at West Virginia Tech, which earned a No. 22 national ranking last week, on Feb. 18. The Golden Bears, the top team in the RSC East with an 11-1 conference record, host Rio Grande Saturday.

The fifth RSC opponent for the two teams in February? Each other.

Point Park travels to Rio Grande Feb. 17 in the second-to-last RSC game of the season. The Pioneers steamrolled over the RedStorm 82-57 on Dec. 2 to start their RSC schedule.

Even if the Pioneers defeat Rio Grande in the rematch, they will have to win at least one of their other four RSC contests and rely on Rio Grande to lose its remaining four games.

Essentially, Rio Grande controls its own destiny to the post season. The Pioneers will have to beat teams that are better than them and teams that have destroyed them in previous matchups this year. They also have to hope Rio Grande breaks down and loses its remaining games.

So, long story short, the season isn’t over yet. But the Pioneers have to win and root hard against Rio Grande in the coming weeks.

“It’s not over until the fat lady sings,” the saying goes.

There’s still a chance. But the lady is warming up in the wings.