To someone not paying full (or any) attention, this year's and last year's semifinals were quite similar: you had UBC beating Calgary and a Carleton buzzer-beater to end the second game.
But, of course, Mike Kenny's three-pointer at the end of today's fourth quarter merely brought the Ravens from within seven to within four as they lost 86-82. And the UBC-Calgary game, last year almost as good as the later Carleton-Western thriller, had a sloppy 2010 edition and featured a 12-point lead for the Thunderbirds with seven to go in the fourth.
Neate Sager, while filing copy on deadline, remarked that it was the most ironic three-point shot ever, given the number of times we had to get out our umbrellas when Saskatchewan's Michael Linklater launched a shot from downtown.
Linklater was the story tonight, and one of the more impressive of the tourney; plug his name into a news search and see what you get. (I can't do his story justice here.)
The crowd was also much less impressive than last year: not a surprise when the opposing fans have to come from Saskatoon rather than London.
Another obvious difference is in the reactions of the winning bench: Carleton's players exploded and fell around Stu Turnbull last year; tonight, without the drama, the Huskie bench merely walked out to greet the rest and everyone shook hands.
SSN did a long post-game show last year and everyone was all hyped up for hours afterwards because of the exciting pair of games. This year? The arena began to empty before Saskatchewan had even won, and was deserted five minutes after the final buzzer.
The Score also carried both games live last year; this year, a smaller subset of people saw the first game on TSN2 and a much smaller subset (read: zero) saw the second one live. (In fact, you might be able to catch the second half if you turn TSN2 on now.)
That doesn't mean these games today weren't exciting, of course; just that we had a lot to live up to as fans, as press-row inhabiters, and as TV viewers. Having these Saskatchewan Huskies in the final tomorrow, at a time when they seem to be playing better than anyone? I'll take it.
There's also an argument to be made how some people are, shall we say, mistaken by assuming the same teams will win every year: so far in 2009-2010, Carleton lost in men's basketball, UNB lost in men's hockey, McGill lost in women's hockey, and Laval lost in football. All #1 or close to it; all pretty much expected to win it all without difficulty.
The only team that everyone knew would win, and did win, were the Simon Fraser Clan in women's basketball, and they're gone, off to NCAA D-2.
So next year, not one defending champion in any of those five sports will be the one that was expected. You can call it parity, you can call it an off-night from the top-ranked teams, and you can say it's nothing compared to March Madness, but if you aren't following at least one of these sports...well, you're just missing out, aren't you?
Good night again, from Scotiabank Place.