There comes a moment in every poker tournament when you're put to a decision for all of your chips and you need to figure out just what your objective is. Maybe you're nearing the money bubble and you don't necessarily want to put all your chips at risk knowing you can fold your way to a small pay day. Maybe you think if you call the bet and win the hand, you're chances of winning the tournament improve exponentially, but then again, you could lose the hand and get knocked out. Do you want to simply cash or are you playing to win the whole thing?
Welcome to the situation that the Valparaiso men's basketball team is facing in advance of Saturday's much-anticipated Horizon League tilt between Green Bay and Cleveland State.
If you're the kind of person that is gunning for the win, then you're undoubtedly cheering for Cleveland State on Saturday. The math is really quite simple: if Cleveland State wins against the Phoenix, then all Valparaiso needs to do is win out and they'll be hosting the Horizon League tournament. Now before you think this is an easy task, remember, this is five games Valparaiso must win and they include the four toughest teams in the league (with two of them on the road) as well as the best player in the league (Kendrick Perry). If you really think Valparaiso can go 5-0 down the stretch, then by all means, cheer for the Vikings.
If you're the kind of person that is content with a minimum pay day, then you want Green Bay to win on Saturday. A Phoenix victory will almost guarantee the Horizon League title for Green Bay. Brian Wardle's squad would have a two-game lead with three games to play. yes, two of those games are road contests at Detroit and Oakland, but it's not as if those programs are setting the world on fire this season. Looking at the other side, a Cleveland State loss would (for at least an hour or two) put the Vikings on even ground with Valparaiso at four conference losses. Depending on Saturday night's result with Milwaukee, the Crusaders could find themselves just a half-game out of second place with four games remaining, including the regular-season finale against Cleveland State at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Mar. 1.
Right now there are plenty more questions than answers, but this much is true: if the Crusaders want to win the Horizon League, they'll need a Wisconsin sweep over the next week. If Valparaiso wants a bye in the conference tournament, it will need at least a Wisconsin split. Losing both games would drop the Crusaders back to the pack and then we'll do this dance all over again next Thursday night.
Are you playing to win or simply to cash? Cards in the air, let's shuffle up and deal.