The lingering overthink with the bracket for the women's Final 8 is spurred by presumptive at-large team Calgary being second nationally in the Ratings Report. Canada West runner-up Alberta is eighth in the Ratings Report, and fifth among the teams likely to compete next week. But the at-large team has received a lower seed than its conference's qualifiers for the last five years, so that should inform the confidence interval with putting the Dinos below their provincial-brethren Pandas.

The avoiding-same-conference-matchups principle heavily dictates this stab at the bracket. Ryerson handled Brock in a recent regular-season game and should be a fairly heavy favourite in the Critelli Cup, with a high seed at stake. If there are no further surprises, the bracket ought to look like this.   
Sometimes a bug creates a feature. Some might also joke Western celebrating after cashing in on unearned privilege is very on-brand.

The Mustangs undeniably did the work in dramatic and difficult fashion with a 104-103 instant-classic overtime win against Laurier in their OUA semifinal game on Wednesday. The atmosphere in London, Ont., and the game's finish probably did more for the profile of basketball on those campuses than a pair of decisive Carleton and Ottawa wins would have on Wednesday. It is a net positive for the conference if one believes exciting league playoffs are a goal in a market-driven sport.

But a less visual truth is that the OUA divisional alignment and playoff format set the bar unequally. Western, as the top team in the OUA West, was seeded higher for the playoffs than Ottawa, Ryerson and Laurentian, who all either topped or matched the Mustangs' 16-6 conference record and also beat Western on the floor. One can credit the OUA for embracing the arbitrary chaos of a one-off, single-elimination tournament and also say it needs a tweak. As others have pointed out, imagine the outcry if Ottawa was not the Final 8 host team?

It is also likely to contribute to a scenario where the sixth-best team in Ontario's regular season ends up seeded No. 5 at the Final 8. Before explaining that, though, it is worth pondering how, say, alien visitors would seed five of these six basketball teams an eight-team tournament.

From U Sports Hoops' Rating Report:


One does not envy the seeding committee, clearly. They have a weird situation where the likely at-large and host teams have a better body of work than three berth winners. Does Carleton really deserve to play Calgary instead of Bishop's or UQAM? Does Dalhousie, assuming an AUS title for the Tigers, really deserve to play Ottawa instead of Western?

No and no, but that's where we are.
Carleton-Calgary at the Final 8 is going to happen two rounds earlier than we have been used to seeing recently, once all the dust settles.

The penultimate weekend of conference playoffs was choice, if you value unlikelihoods. First UBC crossed the Rockies to upset Calgary and earn a tournament ticket. Laurier and Ali Sow, the OUA's bracket buster, won two road games in a row to set up a violet clash (sorry) against Western to decide who gets to represent the part of Ontario beyond Barrhaven. Thirdly, Alberta was seconds from being thrown into the at-large berth consideration hopper on Sunday, until Brody Clarke made an overtime-forcing shot that gave the Golden Bears the overtime momentum to outlast  Manitoba on Sunday.

Alberta, UBC and host Ottawa are confirmed for nationals. Calgary, by my count, would be the first team in five out of the 10 at-large berth criteria once Carleton and Dalhousie earn berths.

The Ryerson-Ottawa play-in game on Wednesday is a do-or-done affray for both Top 5 teams, since Calgary's defeat in the Canada West playoffs has put the Dinos at the top of the at-large queue.

The wild-card criteria categories for the women's basketball Final 8 is fairly straightforward, consisting of (1) winning percentage in all games; (2) RPI for non-conference and regular-season games; (3) playoff advancement, how many wins from claiming an automatic berth and (4) Simple Ranking System score for all non-conference and regular-season games, excluding playoffs. Any team which is the only one to lead multiple categories after the conference playoffs gets the berth.

That means it would go to the Dinos, who contrived to lose to Alberta despite attempting 42 more shots from the floor than the Pandas in an 80-78 game last Friday. Calgary is first in Category 2. In Category 1, their .862 all-games winning percentage is also higher than what any of the four OUA semifinalists would have after a defeat on Wednesday.

The two big conferences are posing challenges. Out west, Calgary wrested the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs from Saskatchewan on the margin of an all-time character win on the Huskies' court on the last full weekend of January, but Saskatchewan is well, Saskatchewan, and grades out No. 1 in the ratings report.

Ottawa moved up to No. 1 nationally and has also clinched first overall in OUA, as far as I can tell. If they rate a 

So at first glance, giving Canada West the Nos. 1 and 3 slots with the OUA's berth winners going 2 and 4 makes the most sense. Ryerson and Western both have a better wild-card case than UBC, whose RPI-determined route to nationals includes a potential conference semifinal/play-in game at Saskatchewan.
At this stage, we know Carleton, Dalhousie and Alberta are sitting pretty, conference playoffs seeding-wise. Ottawa is both No. 4-ranked nationally, the fourth playoff seed in their own league and has no grounds to complain about the latter, since they are the Final 8 host team.

Far be it to point out that with three clear powers in east, west and central Canada and a competitive host team, U Sports could just borrow the Memorial Cup format and stage a 10-day tournament over the March Break to decide the national champion. It would require changing a lot of travel plans and student-athletes missing more school, but it still might be neater and tidier than debating Manitoba vs. Ryerson for the wild-card berth. And all of that will be tidier than the Iowa Caucus.

Carleton, of course, has actually lost a game, which creates a two-for-one situation: it confirms they will win another championship since Carleton, according to lore, does better when it bleeds their own blood and foments a winter-of-discontent vibe. And the cottage industry of OMG-the-Ravens-are-vulnerable narratives gets to keep the lights on for a few weeks. The fact that sixth man extraordinaire Isiah Osborne only played 24 minutes in Carleton's recent tilts with Ryerson (88-82 win on Jan. 25) and Ottawa (68-67 loss last Friday) due to injuries and foul trouble does seem like an important data point.

Consider the bear poked. Five weeks out from the Final 8, it is worth it to begin bracketing.

At first blush, there is a parity paradox which will wend its way down-bracket when, wait for it, it comes to whether the wild card team will be a semifinalist out of Canada West or Ontario. It is easier at this point to identify three clear worthies out west — Calgary, Alberta with Brody Clarke back and Manitoba are all north of .600 in conference RPI and above .800 in overall win percentage — than it is to identify how the hierarchy of OUA falls into line behind the Behemoth off Bronson Ave. that is the Carleton Ravens. Ontario is clearly the most competitive conference, with a good five teams one could see getting hot in the playoffs and winning an auto-berth.

The first principles are just to help to foster understanding of the seeding rules. Conference tournament winners must be seeded in the top six; same-conference matchups in the quarterfinals are frowned upon but not forbidden; and common sense just suggests that Carleton and host Ottawa will be on opposite sides of the draw. But the OUA's three-division format and 12-team playoff bracket might make that tricky.
First things first, while the revolution will not be televised, our national championship game will be, on an MBN, so hurray!

And now the national ballot. Acadia is No. 4.

On (the KISS) principle, I opted to only rank the 15 teams that were extant last weekend.
A carpenter's shirt pocket, the Boston Bruins' top four defencemen and this week's ballot. What is four number twos? The choice at the top of this week's ballot was whether to double down on Montréal after some finishing issues nearly cost them in a 20-17 win against Concordia, or to elevate Western after it romped over woeful Windsor. Ultimately the Carabins still have the loudest statement win, against my No. 2, Laval, so it's a vote for them.

The next level of the pantheon involves how to sort out the hierarchy of Canada West, with Guelph and McMaster slotted in somewhere. Alberta and Guelph are posting better results than the one-loss teams, Calgary and McMaster, that they lost to at home in the first week of the season. Recency reduces the weight of those results.
  1. Montréal (5-0 RSEQ). Lack of finish nearly cost them in the three-point win against Concordia; they've had seven missed field goals on the year and the rest of the RSEQ has only biffed 10.
  2. Laval (3-1 RSEQ). Imagine what they were thinking during the fourth quarter of Montréal's game on Friday.
  3. Western (6-0 OUA). The last two defences Chris Merchant and Co. see in the regular season are ninth and third in OUA.
  4. Guelph (4-2 OUA). Better results than McMaster had against three common opponents, plus that season-opening game against the Marauders feels like so long ago.
  5. McMaster (4-1 OUA). Would be interesting if they were playing Guelph this week.
  6. Alberta (4-1 CW). On a four-win streak entering their rematch with Calgary.
  7. Saskatchewan (3-2 CW). Well, if the head-to-head result from five weeks ago counts for so little, then the Huskies' 14-point win against Calgary deserves a reward.
  8. Calgary (4-1 CW). Probably underrated; will regain their usual perch if they assert themselves authoritatively against Alberta.
  9. Waterloo (4-1 OUA). At Western, home to Laurier and at McMaster for the last three, so Tre Ford and cohorts are in tough.
  10. Acadia (5-0 AUS). Still flawless after the long trip to Lennoxville.
  11. Manitoba (3-2 CW). Just squeaked by Regina at home, suggesting they're closer to fifth in Canada West than first, even though they are only a game back.
  12. Ottawa (3-2 OUA). Offensive regression has caught up to them big-time.
  13. Saint Mary's (3-1 AUS). Got better on their bye week, apparently.
  14. Carleton (2-3 OUA). Get the nod over Laurier (also 2-3) due to a tougher schedule.
  15. McGill (2-3 RSEQ). McGill leads the RSEQ Rump Legislature Round-Robin with Concordia and Sherbrooke and also tallied a conference-most 16 sacks.
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