MARQUETTE - The mess at the top of the GLIAC wasn't as big as it could've been, but there is still a fair amount of untangling to do to decide three of the four top seeds in the upcoming GLIAC postseason tournament.
With Northern Michigan University defeating Michigan Tech 67-59 and South Division champion Ashland University blitzing Lake Erie 95-48 on Thursday night, the Wildcats, Huskies and Eagles finished tied for the No. 2 seed in the tourney at 16-6.
To break a three-way tie that involves teams from both divisions, the GLIAC uses a point system. The league office conducted a count Thursday night that put NMU as the No. 2 seed with 87 points, Tech third at 86 and Ashland fourth at 83. The league said it will confirm the points and seeding this morning.
Northern Michigan University senior Annie Rubendunst, left, dribbles past Michigan Tech University sophomore Danielle Blake, right, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
A Wayne State loss Thursday would've created a four-way tie for the No. 1 spot, but the Warriors instead hung on for an 80-74 win over Lake Superior State to move to 17-5 and grab the top seed and an inside track to hosting the tournament semifinals and finals next weekend.
The tiebreaker at No. 2 has several implications for the teams involved. While Northern, Tech and Ashland all get to host first-round games on Wednesday, the opponent should be theoretically easiest for the No. 2 team and toughest for No. 4.
There won't be much difference between Nos. 2 and 3, since each will get a 12-10 team - either Grand Valley State, Northwood or possibly Saginaw Valley State if the Cardinals win their season finale on Saturday against Ferris State.
No. 4 has to take on 14-8 Malone from the South, on paper a tougher battle.
The potential of a Wayne State upset in the first round has much bigger implications for the tri-runners-up since the highest surviving seed following Wednesday's action hosts the final four.
So if the Warriors were to go down right away, the No. 2 team gets first crack at the enviable spot of playing at home the rest of the way. No. 3 would need losses by the top two teams for its shot at hosting, while No. 4 would have to get nothing but road upsets pulled off by the lowest seeds to play at home on Saturday and Sunday, March 8-9.
From his own research, NMU coach Troy Mattson said with the win over Tech on Thursday, he felt the Wildcats not only created a good tournament opportunity, but clinched a spot in the NCAA Division II Tournament that begins in several weeks.
A report on the NCAA website, www.ncaa.com, showed Northern was sixth in the Midwest Region as of Wednesday, with Wayne State fifth, MTU eighth and Ashland 10th.
The other six spots in the top 10 are taken by Great Lakes Valley Conference teams, led by Drury (Mo.) at No. 1. The top eight teams from each region are expected to be named to the national tourney.
GLIAC schools have appeared in the past three D-II national championship games, with Ashland winning last season and the Eagles and MTU runners-up the two previous years.