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Bandits notebook: Tough road ahead

The weekend is over for National Lacrosse League teams, and the situation has become clearer for the Buffalo Bandits. Their playoff hopes have been reduced to slim, and none might arrive before we know it. Here's a recap:

There were five teams entering this weekend that were stuck on five wins for the season. Four of them won a game - Philadelphia, Rochester, Minnesota and Colorado. Buffalo did not, getting thumped by Minnesota. In Sunday play, Toronto beat Rochester while Philadelphia ended a losing streak with a win over Minnesota.

Let's then start with the obvious in looking at some of the playoff possibilities. If the Bandits lose their two remaining games, their postseason hopes are dead. They'll be at 5-11.

What's more, Buffalo could be done as early as Saturday night. If the Bandits lose to Washington while Rochester beats Calgary, Buffalo could do no better than 6-10 while Rochester would have seven wins with two to play. Philadelphia could lose its last two but win a tiebreaker with Buffalo if both were 6-10.

And ... in the crossover, either Minnesota and Colorado, which play against each other in their last two games, still could finish 6-10. Even so, Colorado would have the tiebreaker on Buffalo if both had 6-10 records because of head-to-head results. Minnesota would have the edge on goal differential in head-to-head games. The Bandits and Swarm split their two games, and they did not play any teams the same number of times (for example, Buffalo played Toronto three times and Minnesota played Toronto twice).

A Buffalo win over Washington and a loss to Rochester would have the same effect. The Bandits would be 6-10, and still lose tiebreakers to Philadelphia (assuming two losses there) and either Minnesota or Colorado.

Need some good news? If Buffalo loses to Washington and beats Rochester, it would finish 6-10. If the Knighthawks finished 6-10 (losses to Calgary and Edmonton as well), the Bandits would win a tiebreaker because it had won three of four with Rochester.

If I'm reading the rules right -- if Rochester, Philadelphia and Buffalo all finished 6-10, the Bandits would have a 4-3 record against the other two, Philadelphia would be 3-3 and Rochester would be 3-4. That would give Buffalo second place in the division - which would give it a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

If the Bandits finish 7-9, they still could be behind both Philadelphia and Rochester if those two teams swept. Buffalo would win a tiebreaker from Rochester but lose it to Philadelphia. In case of a three-way tie, the Bandits again would again have the best head-to-head record against the other two teams and take second.

OK, the Bandits don't look as if they are capable of beating anyone right now. Traveling 2,600 miles to play a team that has a chance at first place in the West will make it more difficult.

The Bandits have a pulse. But it's faint. Very faint.

--- Budd Bailey

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