Last weekend's results, namely Carleton earning an eight-point victory on Queen's court, hastens re-extrapolating. Carleton has run the table in league play since that inexplicable road defeat against Algoma in November. Somehow, the one-loss teams in Ontario are respectively Nos. 4 and 5 in the coaches' poll while the Marauders remain No. 2, even though they were defeated soundly by one team and lost at home to the other. Is there strategic voting happening? Quite possibly.

In Canada West, No. 9 Saskatchewan is top seed for the RPI-offs, with the 2-3-4 slots filled by Regina (ranked No. 3 nationally), Winnipeg (No. 7) and unranked Alberta. Based on the consensus of the cognoscenti, then, the conference's two best teams are on course to play for an auto-bid.

(Live it, learn it, love it: following university hoops means knowing the seeding criteria for the Final 8. Warning: there is more RPI talk and no one will be put off if you just scroll to the bottom for the bracket.)

The brass tacks of Canada West's RPI-based seeding is that its two best teams have a harder road toward the auto-bids, the more advantageous seeding and the greater chance of distinguishing the conference on national TV.

The top four of Calgary, Alberta, Saskatchewan and UBC means that if the form holds, UBC and Calgary will meet in a play-in game at the Canada West Final Four on the Dinos' floor. A loss there would not kill UBC's Final 8 chances, but it would likely take the currently No. 6-ranked Dinos out of the at-large conversation and deprive the Sportsnet audience of seeing Thomas Cooper. For shame!

This was a more interesting one than anticipated. Ryerson is woke since walking into the (River) Lions' den down in St. Catharines when it lost to Brock. This weekend's Ottawa/Carleton double-dip might not alter the RPI, but it will be a good simulation of what Roy Rana's charges could expect in an OUA Final Four.

With that in mind, there's been some shuffling. How does Dalhousie and Ottawa meeting in a rematch grab everyone?
The "top six rule," so-called, is a point of contention each season come Final 8 seeding time.

Long story short, at the 2012 men's nationals, Acadia's reward for winning the AUS Final 6 was being seeded No. 8 and put up against Carleton. Conference runner-up St. Francis Xavier drew in the No. 6 seed and a matchup against Concordia, which it won before going to capture a bronze medal.

That hastened a rule that conference champions must never be seeded lower than sixth and the addition of wording that ("results of regional playoffs must be respected"). The consequence is that the two deeper conferences' second or third entry gets shunted to No. 7. But based on a decade's worth of quarter-final results since the re-introduction of an eight-team championship, it might actually be better to end up No. 7.

(Live it, learn it, love it: following university hoops means knowing the seeding criteria for the Final 8. Warning: there is more RPI talk and no one will be put off if you just scroll to the bottom for the bracket.)

A dozen years ago the Saskatchewan Huskies football team had a beastly back named David Stevens and now, judging from their record, the men's hoop concern has a phantom sixth man named Even Stevens.

Two thoughts popped up the What-If tool for Canada West, which shows 19-1 UBC finishing third in RPI: thank goodness no one out at UBC begrudges Canada West letting in a bunch of CCAA schools. The sober second thought was that perhaps Saskatchewan being rewarded for holding their own against a tough schedule is a proof of the system's efficacy. (If they get blown out in the playoffs, though, that sentence never happened.)

If everything breaks as it should, UBC could end up with the costliest first-game-of-the-new-year loss in convenient, selective memory. On Jan. 6, Saskatchewan's Alex Unruh and Jaylan Morgan combined to shoot 9-of-13 on three-pointers, combining for 39 points (and an eFG% of 86.1 per cent!) to pace the Huskies to a 95-78 win. If the form holds, 14-6 Saskatchewan will be seeded ahead of 19-1 UBC (conference records only).

The reality here is that a budget league in a country where travel costs can border on the usurious should use a mathematical formula to seed the playoffs, especially when the teams have a "sampler" package of 10 opponents per season. That is what is right and good about the forward thinking that led to the decision and all the due diligence in computing it each week. There's also a health and wellness benefit to student-athletes that they stay in the same city for two days. One also has to be sensitive for the amount of work the awesome Martin Timmerman puts in on this, since there would be no rant fodder without him!

It seems like Saskatchewan might end up ahead of UBC by virtue of winning their first of their two games in Bridge City on the first full weekend of the year. Is that really fair? It could be argued, "Well, Saskatchewan proved it can play with the best in the country." By that same convenience sampling, Regina proved it can play with the best in the country when it defeated Saskatchewan.

What happened was the Huskies got a tough draw and have gone a solid, right in the meat party of curve 7-5 against the top half of the Canada West class. They broke even against all of the teams they played in the top six. It's doubtful there was some conscious "we only gotta get one here boys" mindset afoot, but seems like quite an anomaly that Saskatchewan was able to beat everybody and also lose to everybody.

Barring a major disaster against 13th-ranked UNBC, Saskatchewan will hop over UBC, who's playing 16th-ranked Trinity Western.

If you go down the line, though, showing all of Saskatchewan and UBC's opponents and wins against them in order of RPI ranking, you'll see all of the common opponents turn up higher in the UBC columns.

Huskies (currently 2nd)Thunderbirds (currently 3rd)
Opp'tRPI WinsOpp'tRPI Wins
Lethbridge7th2Brandon 9th2
Brandon9th2Mount Royal11th2
Mount Royal11th2UNBC13th2

To reiterate, be glad no one at UBC still begrudes Canada West for waving former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell's legacy projects into the conference.

There is a better formula-based system out there, and we'll get it eventually. On to the fake bracket:

  1. Carleton (OUA representative): Easy pick, again.
  2. UBC (Canada West champion): Despite it all, UBC's body of work suggests they are capable of winning a play-in game on a neutral floor.
  3. Ottawa (OUA rep): Only plausible scenario where they are not the No. 2 seed in OUA would involve Ryerson winning on Carleton's floor on Feb. 17. 
  4. Dalhousie (AUS champion): The Tigers are a combined 1-4 against Saint Mary's and UNB and 18-3 against the rest of U Sports. The team with the best pace-setting point guard has a huge edge in single-elimination tournaments and well, Dal has Ritchie Kanza Mata
  5. Alberta (Canada West rep): The top seed for the playoffs has the most opportunity of making the tournament. 
  6. McGill (RSEQ champion): Play out the regular-season string with single games against the rest of the RSEQ. They have a plus-52 point differential in three head-to-head games against Concordia, so losing top spot on a tiebreaker is not too much of a worry.   
  7. Ryerson (at large): The imagined scenario is they revenge hard on Brock in the OUA third-place game.

    Brock has kept seven consecutive opponents to fewer than 70 points. The Badgers aren't deep or overly efficient on offense, but like Dalhousie down east, they somehow hang around.
  8. Saint Mary's (host): The race for second in AUS, with the Huskies and UNB Varsity Reds even at 10-6 (tiebreaker held by SMU), is very tight.

    Saint Mary's still has one game left with Dalhousie. Three of UNB's last four are against very competitive St. FX.
Please feel free to disagree. There will be several more tries to get this right. Here's the seeding criteria:

Fun one to do this week, with a Top 5 tilt in eastern Ontario and the split series in Canada West last weekend (Winnipeg at Regina and Saskatchewan at Alberta).

The debate over the at-large berth ... the large conferences each seem to have a fairly definitive Big 3 (Queen's, Carleton, McMaster in Ontario and Regina, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan) in Canada West. The at-large likely goes to one of the third-place teams. Of course, if Laval gets upset in the RSEQ final, both are SOL.
Three teams, well, schools,giving us a smile and taking one's mind off of the fact that life is one long series of disappointments until you just wish Tom Brady was dead.

  • Concordia Stingers men's hockey, ranked No. 7. The season that national rookie of the year candidate Anthony DeLuca has had with the Stingers illustrates the upside of university puck. (I have no idea how one would handicap the field for those awards, but the 21-year-old frosh is leading OUA with 23 goals and 41 points across 27 games, which seems tough to surpass.)

    DeLuca, a smaller-stature skilled winger, was prolific in the developmental leagues in Quebec, playing in the world under-17 challenge when Canada still sent regional squads, and blossoming into a 44-goal, 91-point scorer on a league-champion Rimouski Océanic team as a 19-year-old. He went the pro route in the Coast league last season before opting to sign on with the Stingers and second-year coach Marc-André Element. In OUA East, the 5-foot-10 DeLuca has become a star who's received an extension on making a case to play for a paycheque, or play for one again. Another endearing part of Concordia's team is that their lineup includes Philippe Sanche, who was a kind of QMJHL latter-day Theo Fleury when he played for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.

    Of course, any Armada reference justifies posting a Kids In The Hall link:

    Concordia leads OUA with 40 special-teams goals and its power play is a semi-halfway lethal 24.8 per cent, thanks in large part to DeLuca having 13 man-up markers. With one game left, a trip west to face Queen's in a second-place showdown on Friday, the Stingers (18-7-2) have matched their combined regular-season win total from the previous two seasons.

    When a team turns it around like that, credit should travel all the way from the athletes to everyone working to create conditions for success. With Patrick Boivin having left the director position to be president of the foundering Montreal Alouettes, the chain of command is presumably in flux at Con U, and it seems very unfair that people who have worked hard have that occupation stress on the front burner when they should be looking forward to preparing for some playoff games at Ed Meagher Arena (a great university barn, by the way).
  • Nipissing Lakers women's hockey, ranked No. 9. Let's honour NU sports communications clerk Robb Fenton with the inaugural Michael Grobe Memorial Award For Honesty In Sports Information. The preseason preview stated, "Don't expect the Lakers to blow opponents out of the water" -- word play! -- and sure enough, they don't have a top-15 scorer. Yet here they are holding down second place with two weeks to go. Tendy Jackie Rochefort is third in OUA with a 1.38 average. Their top three scorers Bronwyn Bolduc, Kaley Tienhaara and Samantha Strassburger are each from northern Ontario, so 705 represent! 
  • Brandon Bobcats, both basketball teams. Under the heading of "by gar it's been a while," both of the Westman roundball concerns are playoff-bound. Canada West takes in 14 of 17 teams (as opposed to 12 of 17 in Ontario) for playoffs, so it might seem like the bar is not too high.

    Please consider that the men's basketball Bobcats had one conference win last season, then imagine how much despair and transference into gallows humour there very well might have been as the losses mounted. The Bobcats (9-11 in  Canada West) will have at least one more weekend after assembling around fifth-year wing Earl Thompson Jr. for a playoff push, winning 6-of-10 games since the break. Thompson had a fine Senior Night last Saturday, going for 27 points on a 54.2 eFG% during a decisive win against Manitoba.

    The Brandon women's team will play in the post-season for the first time this century, since their last appearance was in 1999. The main cogs are Keisha Cox (Canada West's No. 3 scroer) and Mikaela Stanton out of Oceanside, California. Six contributors are in-province, with the off-the-bench efficient energy coming from rookie Adrianna Proulx (who judging from the stat sheet, never turns the ball over) and third-year forward Lauren Anderson (9.4 points in 19.3 minutes). Nice job by coach Novell Thomas' team.
The women's hoops hierarchy in Canada West will be clearer after this weekend, since resurgent Winnipeg is hosting No. 2-ranked Regina for a two-game series. Defending national champion Saskatchewan has Alberta in for a double-dip.

At first glance, Laval stands a goodly chance of sailing through the RSEQ and getting the No. 1 seed, as it tries to end a record 0-for-17 history at nationals. Ontario, which has three weeks left in its regular season and Canada West, which has two to go, each have about a half-dozen teams capable of going to nationals.

Those advancing get to begin March break in Victoria, on Vancouver Island. It's a hard-knock life.
The framing of the bracket depends on how far Victoria (eighth in RPI in Canada West, sixth with an 11-5 conference record) goes in the playoffs.
The release each week of the Top Ten rankings brings out so many emotions: joy ... excitement ... scanning a screen. The exercise of publicizing a list of 10 opinion polls during the winter sports season is very anodyne. And the slow death of salaried media also means there is precious little for the university sports-lovin' mind to read. Starting this week, there will be an effort to shout out the teams whose effort and striving is bringing a little light into the university sports world.

Three up for this week:
Live it, learn it, love it: following university hoops means knowing the seeding criteria for the Final 8.

Over the next six weeks, the goal will be to keep up on the chalk picks for the men's basketball nationals, which are March 9-12 at the arena formerly known as the Halifax Metro Centre. Carleton, of course, is 7-of-8 at winning nationals held in the East Coast, with the only loss coming in their first trip in 2001, when they lost in the quarter-final against McMaster by the margin of a buzzer shot after a disputed out-of-bounds call.

There is a lot of basketball to be played before it becomes evident, once again, that the field is playing for U Sports silver and bronze medals. Out west, did you see what UBC did on the weekend?
The early challenges with seeding appear to be:
  • who ends up as the 2 seed, the OUA runner-up or Canada West champion? That also determines the matchups for Canada West's other representative and the OUA third-place team, assuming it receives the wild card berth. The rules will dictate that RSEQ's winner will be the 6 seed. 
  • how high to seed Dalhousie if the Tigers go in through the front door as AUS champion. Their win against Ryerson was on the road (good for the Tigers), but it was on the first weekend of October (bad for the Tigers).

At this writing (Jan. 30), here's a back-of-the-Starbucks napkin cogitation:
  1. Carleton (OUA representative): Easy pick. Interestingly, since OUA adopted the single-site Final Four in 2010-11, the Ravens have never hosted. 
  2. UBC (Canada West champion): 127 points?! The estimable Howard Tsumura, on his final weekend at The Province, summed up just how in the azure hell the T-Birds did that against Brandon last Friday. Hint: they took 78 shots and sealed Brandon off from the O-boards.
  3. Ottawa (OUA rep): The Gee-Gees could conceivably finish second in RPI even if they lose against Carleton and Ryerson to finish with a 16-3 conference record, while the Rams finish 17-2.

    Those points could come from having two games with the Ravens, plus two games with two other teams which each had two games with the Ravens. That was what I was trying to say late last week.
  4. Dalhousie (AUS champion): The Tigers are a combined 1-4 against Saint Mary's and UNB and 18-3 against the rest of U Sports. The team with the best pace-setting point guard has a huge edge in single-elimination tournaments and well, Dal has Ritchie Kanza Mata
  5. Calgary / Alberta (Canada West rep): Too soon to say, and Saskatchewan is also in the mix.  
  6. McGill (RSEQ champion): The Redmen are the default pick to come out of Quebec due to defense; they haven't let anyone break 80 all season, including NCAA teams in exhibitions. Concordia is intriguing; 1-2 against McGill and held its own against mid-level OUA competition in October.
  7. Brock (at large): Consider this the spoils of Brock defeating Ryerson last Friday, prevailing 74-65 in front of 3,000-plus in St. Catharines, not a statement of who's better. Most of the RPI scenarios point to the Badgers nestling into the No. 4 spot in the OUA bracket. The team which has to play Carleton on Friday could end up being fresher for a bronze-medal game against the vanquished from a Ryerson-Ottawa semifinal.

    Ryerson was just off in that game (7-for-37 on triples as they played from behind), and that happens. Their Carleton/Ottawa trip on Feb. 17-18 could be really good preparation for the postseason.
  8. Saint Mary's (host): The half of the bracket with Dal also gets the other AUS team for the evening draw on the first night of the tournament.
Please feel free to disagree. There will be several more tries to get this right. Here's the seeding criteria:

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