When you take a look at the Big South Conference standings and try to project the first-round pairings for the conference tournament, remember one thing.
Presbyterian is not eligible for the league tournament.
Right now, VMI (8-1) is first, followed by Radford (7-2). Liberty and Gardner-Webb (6-4) are tied for third and Winthrop and UNC Asheville share fourth at 5-5.
Only eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, with Presbyterian ineligible and the team finishing last -- right now High Point at 1-9 -- out of the running.
In Winthrop's case right now, the Eagles hold a tie-breaker edge over UNCA by virtue of their sweep of the regular season series. The Eagles also have beaten Liberty but have lost to the three other teams ahead of them.
That makes next week's conference schedule even more imporant.
Radford comes to the Winthrop Coliseum on Monday, VMI visits on Wednesday and the Eagles go to Liberty next Saturday.
The top four teams in the standings host first round games March 3. The No. 1 seed hosts the semifinals March 5 and the highest remaining seed hosts the finals March 7.
In a change from past seasons, the finals will be at 4 p.m. The past few seasons, the league has staged its championship as early as 11 a.m., with the winner one of the first teams to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
What makes the standings so hard to take for Winthrop fans is what's happened the past 10 years. Since the 1997-98 season, the Eagles have finished no lower than second. They finished first outright five times, tied for first twice, finished outright second twice and tied for second once.
A middle of the pack finish is uncharted territory.
The Eagles' league record of nine straight seasons with 10 or more conference wins is also in jeopardy.
MIDWAY GUESS: The BSC has made it to the halfway point in the league race, with no front runner for player of the year. Liberty's Anthony Smith was the preseason favorite and he'll be a contender, but certainly not a shoo-in.
Smith's teammate Seth Curry, who is a shoo-in for freshman of the year; Coastal Carolina's Joseph Harris; and VMI's Chavis Holmes will get some votes.
And what about the all-league team?
Here's one guess at the midway point.
First team: Holmes, Artisom Parakhouski of Radford; Harris, Curry and Smith.
Second team: Joey Lynch-Flohr, Radford; Grayson Flittner and Aaron Linn, Gardner-Webb; Al'Lonzo Coleman, Presbyterian; Jamaro Warren, Charleston Southern.
All freshman team: Keith Gabriel, VMI; Curry; Andre Jones, Winthrop; Joshua Henley, Gardner-Webb; Matt Dickey, UNC Asheville.
Since Jones became the starter at two guard 11 games ago, he's averaged 9.3 points, shot 41 percent overall and 38 percent on 3-pointers, 75 percent at the line and averaged 2.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals.
The last six games he's averaged 13.8 points, shot 49 percent overall, 45 percent on threes.
REGGIE UPDATE: While Jones should make the all-freshman team, teammate Reggie Middleton will get some consideration.
Since becoming the starter at point guard on Dec. 20 at Old Dominion, Middleton has averaged 7.4 points, 4.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals. His assist-turnover ratio of 1.94 is second in the league. Had the Eagles converted a few more shots at the rim, his assist total would be higher.
Middleton continues to struggle with his shot. In those 11 games as a starter he's shooting 32 percent overall, 23 percent from behind the arc.
• BRACKET BUSTERS: Winthrop finds out on Monday who it will play in the ESPNU BracketBusters game either Feb. 20 or 21. The Eagles will host a game one of those days.
The Eagles have played in the three previous events, going 2-1. The Eagles beat Northern Illinois 98-97 in an overtime classic in 2006, beat Missouri State 77-66 the following year and lost at home to Davidson 60-47 last year.
ESPNU will air the selection show at 6:30 p.m. to announce the 13 nationally televised games that will be broadcast by ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPN360.com. Given the Eagles' record, they will not land one of those games.
Look for the opponent to be a team relatively close by, perhaps a team from the Southern Conference such as Appalachian State or Elon. It could be an opponent that will bring some fans to the Winthrop Coliseum.
The opponent will also help fill a slot in next year's schedule. Winthrop will return the game next season.
Gardner-Webb and Liberty are also in this year's field and will play road games.
• KEY STARTS: Winthrop's next two Big South opponents are having banner years.
Radford, which beat the Eagles 73-52 on Dec. 6 as part of its 7-2 league record, is off to its best conference start since the Highlanders went 12-2 in 2000-01. They've won four straight leagues games on the road for the first time since 1998-99.
VMI's 16-3 record is the program's best in 32 years, and the 16 wins are already the most since the 1995-96 season. The eight Big South wins are the most for the program since joining the league in 2003-04.
• 3-POINTERS: Curry is averaging 20.7 points and leads all freshman nationally in scoring. He could become the first freshman in BSC history to average 20 a game ... Winthrop's Chris Gaynor set the league record for career steals last year with 259, but it didn't last long. VMI's Chavis Holmes recorded his 261st steal last week