YOUNGSTOWN -- The 2001-02 basketball season will wind up this week for both Youngstown State University men's and women's teams.
It has been a long struggling year for both teams.
The men suffered their 12th straight defeat on Saturday, falling to Horizon League leading Butler 75-50, a game the Penguins were never in after the first 30 seconds.
The men are 3-21 on the year, 1-13 in the Horizon League and 0-14 on the road, and they still must play at Detroit tonight before returning home for their final two games.
The women, although they've struggled for most of the season, are in fourth place in the conference with a 7-7 record. They are tied with Loyola.
The Penguins are 11-14 on the year and unless they get hot in the postseason tournament won't get above the .500 mark this season.
Play Thursday The women play next on Thursday against UW-Milwaukee, the No. 2 team in the conference. They will finish the season on the road Sunday at Wright State .
The YSU men are certain to be playing in the Horizon League tournament's play-in game on March 1 at Cleveland State University. Most likely, the Penguins will meet UW-Green Bay for the right to play the top-seeded team in the conference in the tournament's first round on March 2.
It has been a real learning experience for YSU third-year head coach John Robic and his Penguins. But with three freshmen playing key roles this season, the Penguins hopefully have a bright future in the league.
It was Robic's lone goal this year to not play in the tournament's play-in game and then have to face the top-seeded team. But it was a goal that the Penguins just couldn't meet.
As hard as the Penguins have played this season, they still do not have the talent or experience to play with the top seven teams in the conference.
Poor shooting team: Not only do they lack a strong inside player, who can battle with the league's top big men, but they have been a very poor shooting team this year.
The Penguins rank seventh in the league in scoring, averaging right around 65 points a game, but are last in field goal shooting with a 40.6 average.
"As hard as we work you still aren't going to win games shooting the ball as poorly as we are," Robic said.
The women could finish as high as third in the conference standings, if they were to get some help from Detroit, who is just ahead of them and plays its last two games on the road.
But the Penguins could also finish as low as sixth place if they should fail to win their last two games and Loyola and Cleveland State get hot.
If the standings were to stay the same as they are now, the Penguins would find themselves as the No. 5 seed.
They are tied with Loyola, which beat them twice, and would play the No. 4 seed -- Loyola, the host team in the tournament.
The women's tournament gets under way Feb. 27 with the league's play-in game between Butler and Wright State.
Tourney opener: The first round is set for Feb. 28 and the semifinals March 1. The championship game is March 3. All the action is set for Gentile Center, home of Loyola, in Chicago.
The Penguins have proven that they can play with the top teams in the league this year. With a very young team, the Penguins have high hopes for the future in the conference.
YSU has beaten five of its eight conference opponents, including two wins each over Butler and Illinois-Chicago.
The only teams they haven't beaten are Loyola and the top two, UW-Green Bay (0-2) and UW-Milwaukee (0-1), and they meet the Panthers Thursday night at Beeghly Center.
That's a doubleheader, by the way, as the women play at 5:15 p.m. and the men meet UW-Green Bay at 7:35.
Pete Mollica covers Youngstown State University athletics for The Vindicator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.