Women's basketball: 2011 Final 8 preview

Just like with the men's Final 8 preview last week, here's our preview for the women's tournament, presented in descending order of how likely that team is to win (based on RPI and SRS through Mar. 13). All categories are the same or self-explanatory, except "from the season preview", which refers back to Kate Hole's preview from October.

Also available is this one-page at-a-glance sheet (PDF), as well as the CIS preview.

With the regionals format in place this year, we have one of the more intriguing fields in recent memory. Two of Friday's quarterfinals should be fantastic games.

Before we get started, how about this great big Ontar-ari-ariorama? (Been a while since we used that word.) Four teams from the OUA, and just one from Canada West?

Well, the only other alternative, given the results from the regionals -- specifically, Laurier's win against host Regina -- is three OUA and two CW, so it's not as skewed as it sounds. The at-large berth was awarded to Carleton, who went 1-1 at their regional (losing to St. F-X) instead of, say, those Cougars (who also went 1-1).

It's fair to question the choice of Carleton over Regina, but Carleton's not really a "wrong" choice. Both teams finished second in a large conference. Either team could have qualified if they won two games at home last weekend. (In fact, this way into the tournament was only available to the Ravens because they failed to qualify another way. I think that's irony, but I can never tell anymore.)

Saskatchewan coach Lisa Thomaidis told the Star-Phoenix, "They changed the whole way the tournament is seeded — there are, like, 10 criteria that were the same ones used to select the at-large berth and I think we saw from this first go-round that there are lots of problems with that, with different teams that got in over others and things like that."

It's hard to argue Toronto, Laurier, and St. F-X don't deserve their berths, having gone on the road (to another province) and won them directly. That was kind of the point of regionals. So if choosing the Ravens over the Cougars is what constitutes "lots of problems" then there must not be any other problems left to solve in CIS basketball.

On the other hand, the coach who was directly affected by it, Regina's Dave Taylor, was quoted as follows:

"We controlled our destiny for two weeks and didn't get it done," said Taylor, who noted the Ravens deserved the wild-card spot ahead of Regina based on the criteria used by the CIS. "That's why you don't want to go in the back door. Sometimes the back door can be slammed in your face."

And Taffe Charles, of course, thinks his team should be there:

With Canada West teams having won the last 19 championships, many expected that conference's runner-up, the Regina Cougars, to get the wild card but Charles said the selection criteria, which included regular-season winning percentage and winning percentage against teams with good records, favoured the Ravens. "The numbers do show that we had a better year than Regina."

Now that we've covered that part off, on to the preview!

Odds of winning: 50.4%
RPI / SRS: 1st / +19.3
Top-100 players and award-winners: Jessica Clémençon* (MVP, 2), Miah-Marie Langlois** (24), Bojana Kovacevic (28), Korissa Williams (81), Iva Peklova (92)
How they qualified: Hosts and OUA champions
Last year: 2nd place
From the season preview (ranked 1st): "Any pundit choosing someone other than Windsor to win this year’s championship would have, in nicest terms, a heck of a lot of explaining to do."
First-round point spread: Laval, +17
Outlook: The odds are very much in Windsor's favour, a combination of being the host, the No. 1 seed, and tops in the RPI (though they are virtually tied with the Huskies). Not to mention they've lost only two games all year by a combined eight points, and lost only one to a non-qualifier. Laval's knocked off a top seed before, but even then I can't see Friday's game going any way other than a Lancer win. As a whole the Lancers make 78% of their free-throws, but don't get to the line that often ... possibly because they have a 78% success rate. Distress-a-Jess probably won't work, since Clémençon is even better from the line (85.6%).

Odds of winning: 21.5%
RPI / SRS: 2nd / +15.7
Top-100 players and award-winners: Katie Miyazaki (5, defensive MVP), Kim Tulloch* (6, MVP), Jill Humbert* (10), Marci Kiselyk (60), Jana Spindler (73), Lisa Thomaidis (coach)
How they qualified: Won Canada West
Last year: 3rd place
From the season preview (ranked 2nd): "The addition of defensive specialist Miyazaki will be a spark to their backcourt tinder, but it’s the front court they need to work on: both the Huskies and their SFU transfer have struggled with turnovers in the past, and it has been their Achilles heel in important games."
First-round point spread: Laurier, +6
Outlook: Despite winning nearly every Canada West award in sight, the Huskies (since they are the 2-seed, not the 1) consider themselves to be "flying under the radar a bit" and are looking to put "all the pressure" on Windsor. But let me put some pressure, however small, on Saskatchewan too: they have probably the best offence in the country, the defensive player of the year two years running, and Detroit is watching!

Odds of winning: 7.1%
RPI / SRS: 3rd / +8.9
Top-100 players and award-winners: Jahlica Kirnon* (13), Denisha Haywood (53), Kari Everett (56), Nicole Works** (84), Stephanie Toxopeus (89), Fabian McKenzie (coach)
How they qualified: Won the AUS
Last year: 5th place
From the season preview (ranked 12th): "...you might think they would be ranked higher – but they’re going to miss Portugal-bound Kelsey Hodgson (and her 22 points per game) desperately. That, coupled with returning only half of their roster (and half of their points) will put Cape Breton in a much tougher spot in 2011." (Well, we can't get them all right.)
First-round point spread: Too close to call, vs. Toronto
Outlook: Losing Hodgson didn't hurt the offence too much after all, though their defence took quite a hit. Odd how that works. Still, they're likely to run right into Windsor in the semis should they advance. Which would not happen if they did not have the befuddling 4 seed.

Odds of winning: 6.7%
RPI / SRS: 4th / +7.4
Top-100 players and award-winners: Alyson Bush** (41), Ashleigh Cleary (51), Kendall MacLeod (52)
How they qualified: At-large berth after finishing second in the OUA and losing their regional to St. F-X
Last year: Did not qualify.
Last appearance at nationals: Never.
Really? Yes.
From the season preview (ranked 9th): "Returning 80% of production to a team that finished a hair’s breadth from OUA East glory will certainly help the Ravens, as will their strong outside shooting and low turnover rate."
First-round point spread: Too close to call, vs. St. F-X
Outlook: Taking a page from their male counterparts, these Ravens also have the slowest pace factor of anyone at nationals. The rematch against St. F-X will be a good one. This is a pretty solid team, generally ... not really sure how they ended up with just the one second-team all-star.

Odds of winning: 5.3%
RPI / SRS: 7th / +10.2
Top-100 players and award-winners: Nicki Schutz* (40), Jill Stratton (49, rookie), Sherri Pierce** (75), Michèle Bélanger (coach)
How they qualified: Won the Fredericton regional, defeating UFV and Western
Last year: Did not qualify.
Last appearance at nationals: 2008, finishing in a tie for 7th.
First-round point spread: Too close to call, vs. CBU
Outlook: Stingy and aggressive defence might get them past CBU and who knows what will happen against Windsor in the semis. Toronto beat them back in November, despite being outshot, because they took 20 more shots due to the 25 turnovers they caused. One of their weaknesses was still evident, though: they shot only 63% from the line, and let Clémençon score 18 despite making just five field goals. (The Blues have also defeated Western once and Laurier twice, so they are familiar with how to match up with the top OUA West teams.)

Odds of winning: 5.2%
RPI / SRS: 8th / +10.9
Top-100 players and award-winners: Ashley Stephen* (30, defensive MVP), Donisha Young (61), Kirsten Jones (66), Sheryl Chisholm** (91)
How they qualified: Won the Ottawa regional over Alberta and Carleton
Last year: Did not qualify.
Last appearance at nationals: 1997. No, really.
First-round point spread: Too close to call, vs. Carleton
Outlook: If Matt Skinn were Kevin Hanson, you wouldn't ever hear him yell "BALL PRESSURE!" (don't worry, it's a joke that five people get) because the X-Women are involved in more turnovers than Cleo Lemon. In a good way, I mean: their defensive turnover rate is the highest in the country (and, as well, their offensive rate is the lowest in the country). Could this be the best quarterfinal game? Too bad Saskatchewan can only play one of the X-Women and Ravens at this tournament.

Odds of winning: 3.4%
RPI / SRS: 9th / +8.2
Top-100 players and award-winners: Renata Adamczyk* (11), Megan Grant (55), Felicia Mazerolle (rookie), Paul Falco (coach)
How they qualified: Ran the table at the Regina regional, beating the Citadins and Cougars
Last year: Did not qualify.
Last appearance at nationals: 2004, when they went 0-2.
First-round point spread: Saskatchewan, -6
Outlook: A rather good defence is going up against a very good offence. I think six points might be too close, unfortunately for the Hawks, a team that (like most of Laurier) have that Homer Simpson appeal to them. (I'm rooting for an upset only because it might finally motivate the crack reporting staff at The Record to look up WLU's team name, and thus learn that they are not the "Laurier Lady Hawks.")

Odds of winning: 0.5%
RPI / SRS: 25th / +1.8
Top-100 players and award-winners: Marie-Michelle Genois* (32), Marie-Pascale Nadeau (94), Elyse Jobin** (96)
How they qualified: QUBL champion. They barely qualified for playoffs in the first place, though our Ilana Shecter perhaps saw it coming all along: she was bullish on Laval's chances against McGill in the semifinal and then said (before their win against UQAM) that they "seem poised to win it all."
Last year: 6th place. They lost one of the worst games I've ever had the misfortune of having free courtside seats for. (And I went to Waterloo.)
From the season preview (ranked 10th): "Genois will take care of business inside, and if they can figure out a replacement point guard they should be top of the QUBL once more."
First-round point spread: Windsor, -17
Outlook: What, "Windsor, -17" isn't enough? The turnovers will probably cause an early exit for Laval.
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  1. Same as last weekend wildcard team shouldn't get an easier draw than any of the teams that qualified by winning to get there.
    Wildcard team should have to play number 1 seed even if it happens to not favor the polls.

  2. I disagree since he wild car often comes from a conference that has far more depth than other conferences. I'm glad to see that the seeding committee uses some logic, instead of blindly placing Carleton below teams like Laval. One game (i.e. an upset loss to St. FX) does not make for a season.

  3. I wouldn't suggest that the wild card automatically be given a lower seed but I don't like the idea of having two teams play each other at nationals less than a week after playing in a regional.

  4. @Dave: We had that issue last year (Windsor vs. Ottawa) but I'm more okay with it this time around for two reasons. One, Carleton doesn't play St. F-X every year, so it's not "yet another" game between them. Two, the Windsor/Ottawa game before the 2010 nationals was a blowout (46-19 at the half) and X-Carleton wasn't.

  5. In re: Thomaidis, it's just petty regionalism from a coach about to go down in her own flames on Friday. It's a problem that teams that travel 1,000+ plus km to win a regional tournament are in nationals, instead of Canada West's bronze medalist?

  6. @ Sager

    Her comment was in reference to the wildcard for REGIONALS, not Nationals, just to clarify.

  7. Ms. Miyazaki,

    The way the StarPhoenix played it made it out to be a comment on the nationals. It's on the writer to provide that context. But you're right, I see what she meant.

    Good luck vs. Laurier (I honestly have no idea who will win, but I will watch!).

  8. Well here are some numbers for Taffe Charles to consider

    only a 17 point win @ Waterloo (one of the smallest margins all season; the same margin of victory that RMC had)
    2 point win @ Queens
    1 point win home to Queens
    3 point win @ Laurentian

    grant it..since Windsor had an automatic bid, Carleton should have got the OUA's guaranteed one bid for making the OUA Final