With two weeks left in the Big South Conference regular season race, Winthrop's Eagles at least know what the goal is.
At 6-9 in the league, 7-18 overall, the Eagles aren't going to finish first in the league -- or second or third.
But fourth and a first-round home game in the conference tournament are still possible. To get there, the Eagles have to win their last three league games, starting at Gardner-Webb (11-14, 7-8) tonight. One stumble and it's a first-round road trip, something the Eagles have not faced since the league went to its current format.
While the Eagles know where they stand, coach Randy Peele isn't taking a must-win approach to tonight's game.
"There's no question it's a big game and the only way we can finish fourth is by getting to 9-9 in the league," he said, "but I'm just trying to coach this team a day at a time and try to get better.
"I'm convinced that no matter how it's seeded, the way this league has gone, anybody can beat anybody on a given night."
Monday night's action could be a foreshadowing of what might happen in the league tournament.
While Radford was winning at Charleston Southern on Monday to move to 13-2, VMI, averaging an NCAA leading 95.9 points per game, was held to a season-low 57 in a loss at Presbyterian to drop to 11-4. Radford has a two-game lead, and first place is the Highlanders' to lose. They play at VMI on Saturday, and both have nailed down a first-round home game in the tournament.
Liberty's 85-82 win at Coastal Carolina on Monday pushed the Flames to 11-5, and they aren't out of the No. 1 race. Monday's win also secured a first-round home game. Coastal has played seven straight games that have gone down to the final seconds, but has won just two.
Through 75 league games, the road team has won 36 times, a .480 winning percentage. That's the most road wins since the conference tournament was changed to home sites prior to the 2002-03 season.
Every team has lost at home. Radford has moved into first place on the strength of an 8-0 road record. Liberty has one home loss, while everyone else has at least two.
While the home court may not mean what it has, UNC Asheville (8-7), Gardner-Webb and Winthrop are chasing that fourth spot.
The best Winthrop can finish is 9-9 in the conference, but that could set up an interesting scenario. The Eagles, Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville could all finish 9-9. If that happens, the Eagles would be the No. 4 seed because of their 3-1 record against the other two.
If they can win tonight.
When Winthrop faced Gardner-Webb on Jan. 14, it was a night to forget. The Eagles were drubbed 44-31 on the boards, shot 35 percent and allowed the Bulldogs to go on a 13-0 run to close the first half that buried them in a 16-point hole.
Mantoris Robinson and Charles Corbin combined for 30 points, shooting 14-of-22. The rest of the Eagles made 7 of 38 shots.
The Eagles were a season-worst 1-for-15 on 3-pointers.
"We were 1-for-15 on the three," said Peele, who was ill and missed Monday's practice. "We knew we had issues shooting, but it really showed that night. We had some good looks, but didn't make them.
"When we didn't make shots, we didn't have enough energy on the defensive end and they are the best motion offense team in the league."
The performance was so dreadful, Peele called a midnight practice that lasted for 90 minutes and was, to say the least, physical. The Eagles responded the next game with a 20-point blowout of UNC Asheville and a road win at Charleston Southern, their only two-game winning streak this season.
One matchup could change tonight, with Robinson, Winthrop's best defender, drawing the assignment on Aaron Linn, Gardner-Webb's point guard, instead of taking Grayson Flittner, their leading scorer.
"There's no doubt he's the straw that stirs their drink," Peele said. "Flittner is really good, but Linn makes them go. Having Mantoris guard him is ideally what we want to do."
Flittner, who averages 15.8 points, has also been slowed by a knee injury. He missed four games before coming back in Saturday's home court loss to High Point. He played 25 minutes but missed all seven of his field goal attempts.
Linn, who averages 15, had 21 against the Panthers.
Peele expects to see more zone tonight, which means some shots have to fall.
"But we've got to be able to do a better job using the dribble against the zone," Peele said.