If you're a regular reader of ours, you'll know two things:
  1. The lack of live televised coverage of the men's Final 8 irks us; and
  2. So does Rod Black.
So today's announcement that the CIS partnered up with EastLink TV, Shaw and NBA TV Canada to broadcast both upcoming Final 8 tournaments live is ... well ... okay in the end, provided that you happen to have the right regional channels.

From the release:
EastLink TV will have live broadcast of the men’s semifinals on March 10 and the gold-medal final on March 11. Dan Robertson (play-by-play) and Cecil Wright (colour) are set to call the action from the Metro Centre.

In addition, there will be a tape-delay (and multiple encore viewings!) on NBA TV Canada.

Coverage will be live, yes, but without knowing exactly what EastLink TV is, I can say Shaw is a cable channel in Western Canada that is so far down the dial that attracting new viewers to the sport or the product will be near impossible. Unlike previous years when the final was shown live (with Showron Glover providing quite a show at Scotiabank Place) to being relegated to tape-delay on TSN2, the Final 8's final games will now be in a spot where only a few die-hards will be able to even notice.

EastLink seems to be primarily a maritime outlet, which means that fans Quebec and west may be out of luck if we want to watch the game on an actual TV. But wait!

EastLink and Shaw will make their live feeds for all games available to all regional cable carriers in areas not served by the host broadcaster, ensuring fans across the nation will be able to watch the events live.

The deal allows the CIS to say that the Final 8 is being shown live cross-country, although both those terms come with an asterisk. If you miss any action, NBA TV Canada will have the tape-delay, which is of little comfort if you already know the result. Sports just aren't as fun when they aren't live or when you have to watch via a webcast (though as Rob has pointed out in our e-mail discussion before I wrote this, it likely wouldn't be webcast-level camera-work and commentary, but a more-palatable TV broadcast on your computer).

Compared to the Vanier Cup (an excellent event) and the national semifinals, as well as the OUA championship game, being broadcast live on national high-definition TV, the treatment of the CIS Final 8 is lacking for an event that ought to be just as big. Regional TV just won't attract any fans to the game, unfortunately.

On the plus side, however, check out who's doing play-by-play and colour for the Shaw broadcast for the women's semis and finals:

Shaw will provide live coverage of the women’s semis on March 18 and the title match on March 19, with Jim Mullin (play-by-play) and Howard Tsumura (colour) entertaining CIS basketball fans from the Jack Simpson Gymnasium.

So, there's that. But if you don't live in Western Canada (excluding select cities in Ontario) you won't be able to watch the women's games live.

I don't know why we can't just watch these games live, on TV and cross-country. It seems like a logical enough move.
The first week of the CIS postseason was certainly dramatic, with buzzer beaters, close games and breakout performances. Some of the nation's top 10 teams have already said goodbye to the 2011-12 season, and with this week being the final edition of the official CIS rankings, we'll take a look at what's gone right and wrong so far this year for the nation's best teams.

Here's this week's CIS top 10; and the RPI, SRS and other relevant metrics.

  1. Carleton Ravens (23-0 OUA, 29-0 CIS, no. 4 RPI, SRS +22.6) - NO CHANGE

    The Carletons didn't look all that dominant in their 2012 playoff debut, letting a scrappy Laurentian team stick around for the first half on the strength of CIS-leading scorer Manny Pasquale's 34 points. They went an uncharacteristic 6-for-24 from downtown, and though that wasn't enough for the Voyageurs, one has to wonder if they can get away with that kind of shooting performance against McMaster on Friday or (presumably) Lakehead on Saturday. This season the Ravens have lived by the three-ball, and they'll need to do better from range if they want to keep their dominant season chugging along.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Kinda everything. Phil Scrubb has been dominant with the ball, Tyson Hinz is continuing to make defensive scheming a nightmare for opposing coaches and Willy Manigat and Elliot Thompson have spread the floor with their solid shooting. They're also pretty good on defense.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: I'm reaching here, but Justin Shaver, who could be an impact player in this league, hasn't cracked Dave Smart's rotation over dependable veterans Kyle Smendziuk, Kevin Churchill and Thomas Scrubb. Sometimes to send a message to other teams they're already beating that the Carletons are really, really good, Smart will have a veteran player give a rookie a slap on the chest or a stern warning to box out or defend better. I saw Cole Hobin do exactly that to Shaver earlier this year and it doesn't look like he's improved enough to the point Smart feels comfortable playing him over his trusty vets. Again, I'm nitpicking here, but this also says a lot about how good Carleton expects everyone to be.

  2. Lakehead Thunderwolves (21-2 OUA, 30-2 CIS, no. 7 RPI, SRS +12.9) - NO CHANGE

    Like their eastern rivals in Ottawa, the Thunderwolves also left a bit to be desired in their OUA quarterfinal, letting a surprising Guelph team hang around a while longer than expected. They'll be facing a high-energy Ryerson team on Friday that could give them similar problems, although it was a total drubbing when the teams met in the fall.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Ben Johnson has emerged as a deadly three-point shooter (54.5 %) and Lakehead's balanced attack has been tough to adapt to for defences all year.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: They've lost two games by a total of six points all year, so not a whole lot.

  3. Saskatchewan Huskies (18-4 CW, 23-5 CIS, no. 1 RPI, SRS +15.3) - NO CHANGE

    It wasn't necessarily the way they wanted it to happen, but Barry Rawlyk's Huskies are through the first hurdle and will now host the Canada West Final Four on a court they've lost exactly zero games on this year. The Huskies beat Trinity Western thanks mainly to two hero games from Jamelle Barrett, who looks absolutely terrifying coming into the playoffs.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The Huskies are peaking at the right time behind Barrett, who is playing some obscenely efficient ball on the offensive end. In the two wins over TWU, Barrett scored a Carleton-like 1.22 points per possession, going 29/44 for 77 points while adding 19 assists. After struggling with some nagging injuries earlier in the year, a now-healthy Barrett is playing arguably better than any single player in the CIS.

    In addition, Michael Lieffers has become arguably the best rebounder in the country and Matthew Forbes has adjusted beautifully to his new starting role.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Forward Nolan Brudehl's season-ending injury. The veteran big man was a huge part of Sasky's brilliant runs the past two seasons and will be missed in this year's attempt.

  4. UFV Cascades (15-5 CW, 19-6 CIS, no. 5 RPI, +8.0 SRS) - NO CHANGE

    Well this was pretty freaking awesome, perhaps the play of the year in the CIS so far this year.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The Cascades have gone from a fringe Top-10 team to start the year to a legitimate national contender. They've won 9 of 10 games over a very tough schedule coming into the Final Four and look so, so tough to beat. Their top-4 ranking is an all-time high for the program.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A 5-4 record away from home. Granted, they've played three top-10 teams for four of those games, but they'll have to deal without the friendly confines of home for their season to continue.

  5. Victoria Vikes (16-5 CW, 17-7 CIS, no. 8 RPI, +9.3 SRS) - NO CHANGE

    If Friesen's game-winner for UFV above isn't the play of the year in the CIS, Terrell Evans' series-winning tip-in might be. The Vikes survived a suddenly formidable challenge from the Calgary Dinos and their fifth-year duo of Tyler Fidler and Boris Bakovic and punched their ticket to the prairies. The all-Pacific matchup of Vic and UFV in the first round should be a doozie.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Ryan MacKinnon's All-Canadian-caliber season has been phenomenal and the reason Victoria's got a chance to return to nationals this season.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A shaky start to the second semester (2-3, including a loss to Winnipeg) brought up questions about the team's ability to defend, though it should be mentioned they also beat Alberta and UFV in that stretch.

  6. St. FX X-Men (16-4 AUS, 26-4 CIS, no. 3 RPI, +8.0 SRS) - NO CHANGE

    All is well in Antigonish as X has won seven straight to lock up a first-round bye and the top seed in the AUS tournament. After a shaky start 4-4 to January, they look like the top dog out east.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The loss of graduates Charlie Spurr and Christian Upshaw has been eased by the rise of Jeremy Dunn and Terry Thomas as well as the steady presence of point guard Tyrell Vernon. Also, coach Steve Konchalski won his 1,424,567th game as coach.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A little bit of mini-turmoil when Thomas and others went to the bar within three nights of a game, leading to a suspension and a blowout loss against UPEI.

  7. Alberta Golden Bears (16-6 CW, 18-7 CIS, no. 2 RPI, +11.9 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 8

    Another team that's unbeaten at home this year (in a fancy new arena, too), the Golden Bears return to the Final Four for the second consecutive year with their eye on taking their season a step further thanks to a drubbing of UBC that hasn't been seen in a long time.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Jordan Baker and Daniel Ferguson have been really good at playing basketball. Recently, Sahr Saffa has joined them, slaying UBC with 41 points on 16/29 shooting in the two playoff wins over the Thunderbirds.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A 4-6 away record and the occasional off night from Baker and Ferguson has dotted Alberta's record every now and then.

  8. McMaster Marauders (18-5 OUA, 20-7 CIS, no. 10 RPI, +9.6 SRS) UP FROM NO. 9

    It's too bad the Marauders will have to face Carleton in the first round of the Final Four - much to the chagrin of Chris Oliver - this Friday, because if they lose (and they probably will; I can't be that much of a homer) their remarkable second half run will come to an end. Their playoff win over Windsor was their ninth victory in a row, and the development of Amos Connolly's young team has been one of the surprise stories of 2012. Six of Mac's rotation players are in first- or second-year, including OUA West Rookie of the Year candidate Adam Presutti.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The rookies have been solid and the defence has been tenacious.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Victor Raso, who has had a solid season shooting threes and being Mac's most vocal player, still hasn't played since suffering a concussion on Feb. 8 against Western. They'll need his smart play and ability to spread the floor if they want to give Carleton a run for their money on Friday.

  9. Concordia Stingers (14-2 RSEQ, 21-6 CIS, no. 6 RPI, +5.3 SRS) NOT PREVIOUSLY RANKED

    The Stingers hop back into the top-10 this week thanks mainly to Laurier's collapse and UBC's playoff exit. Still, they're clearly the class of Quebec and are now "looking to win the war" that is the RSEQ playoffs.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The Stingers are less of a one-man attack led by Kyle Desmarais than last year, with Decee Krah and QUBL Player of the Year Evens Laroche making Concordia some kind of three-headed, venomous insect of doom and three-point shooting.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Not much, and the Stingers are on cruise control heading into the postseason. Outside of Carleton, they might be the best guarantee to make nationals.

  10. UBC (13-5 Canada West, 22-10 CIS, no. 17 RPI, +8.4 SRS) - DOWN FROM NO. 7

    Well, this is an unfamiliar position. Outside of Carleton, the Thunderbirds have been the most consistently great program over the past few seasons, including runs to the national championship game in 2009 and 2011 and the national semi-finals last year. To not have UBC in the Canada West Final Four this year is weird.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Nathan Yu did it all for UBC this year, scoring, distributing and playing solid defense. He was basically a poor man's Barrett, winning games for the Thunderbirds sometimes on his own.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Yu is a nice player, but the fact he had to do so much is an indictment of the lack of depth UBC had this year. They really missed Alex Murphy's stead hand at the point and Josh Whyte's ability to move defences.



1. Carleton - The season begins, in earnest, now.
2. Saskatchewan - Barrett is on a mission.
3. Lakehead - Will get a chance to defend their OUA title (remember that?) this weekend.
4. UFV - Joel Friesen's shot was awesome.
5. Victoria - Terrell Evans' shot was also awesome.
6. Alberta - Can they win away from home?
7. McMaster - Can they bring enough fans to Waterloo to make a difference against Carleton?
8. St. F-X - Right where they should be - atop the AUS
9. UBC - They took one on the chin against Alberta.
10. Concordia - Are they better than Acadia or Ryerson? Maybe.


THE "YOU WANT ME TO SHOOT? OKAY." LINE OF THE WEEK: Barrett's beast mode game to oust Trinity Western was a classic: 15/23, 41 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds with just three turnovers. That's an all-time great line.



1. Carleton gets revenge on Lakehead, beating them 75-65 in the Wilson Cup game.
2. Saskatchewan runs away from UFV in the Canada West final, 110-88.
3. Acadia upsets St. FX in the AUS title game and punches a ticket to nationals.
4. Concordia edges McGill in a tight battle for RSEQ honours, 65-61.
Well, it took until the second game of the semi-finals, but a road team finally won a game in the AUS men's hockey playoffs. We've also had some fireworks, serious penalty minutes, suspensions, and veiled threats of payback.

UNB Varsity Reds (1st place) vs. UPEI Panthers (4th place)

Game 1 of their best-of-five series saw UPEI looking a lot sharper at the outset then the well rested (and a bit rusty) V-Reds, with the Panthers scoring twice on Travis Fullerton in the first five minutes. UNB picked up their play and drew three straight penalties, but came up blank on the power plays. They did score a late goal, but UPEI's Chris Desousa answered on the power play to make it 3-1. The second and third periods saw UNB dominate territorial play as they chipped away at the UPEI lead before finally going ahead in the third period. It didn't help their cause that the most dominant V-Red forward on the ice, Tyler Carroll, was tossed from the game early in the third period for a checking from behind major penalty. UPEI netminder Mavric Parks was named the game's 3rd star for his 37 saves in the loss.

Game 2 was an edgier beast. You can read all the details here or here and count the penalties here. UNB came out hitting. There was lots of penalties. Refereeing was inconsistent, so the teams, fans and media all questioned the calls and non-calls. UNB scored first, and UPEI answered. UNB scored three times in second period. V-Reds picked up another major penalty for checking from behind. The UPEI victim went out and earned a perhaps retaliatory checking from behind penalty of his own in the third period. UNB scored again. Three minutes later while on the PK, UNB d-man Ben Wright dumped the puck into UPEI corner and then ran over Parks when he went into the corner to get the puck. Heated scrum and major penalty for Wright. After their power play is over a UPEI player on his first shift bumped into Fullerton in his crease and earned two plus 10. Heated scrum. Soon after Desousa blindsided UNB's Thomas Nesbitt in neutral ice. Another scrum while Desousa gets two and ten for hitting from behind. UNB reacted by swapping out Fullerton in nets. UPEI responded by swapping out their goalie. Two minutes later on the power play a Panther pulled the skates out from under goalie Dan LaCosta and a goal is waved off and the culprit heads to the box.

After the game UPEI head coach Forbes MacPherson laid the blame for the shenanigans at UNB's feet, noting that UNB was the team with their second checking from behind major and 'everything happened' after Parks was run. He also pointed out that he was happy how his team responded in the the third period and that UNB 'still has to play on the Island'. The implied threat here is that hockey teams from the mainland have over the years always complained about the traditional "old school" hockey played in PEI. Coach MacPherson is an Islander. So is UNB's Gardiner MacDougall. They know what is being alluded to.

For their part UNB didn't seem very bothered by the what may happen on the Island. UNB captain Kyle Bailey, while very disappointed in Wright's uncharacteristic hit on Parks, said his team is prepared to play whatever style of game their opponents want to play. They won't have to worry about Chris Desousa Wednesday, who tweeted out Monday that he'd been given a two-game suspension for that high-hit in the third period.

Friday - UPEI 3 @ UNB 4
Saturday - UPEI 1 @ UNB 5

Saint Mary's Huskies (2nd place) vs. UdeM Aigles Bleus (3rd place)

Game 1 did not start well for Moncton with P-A Marion out sick and therefore backup Andre-Michel Guay in nets. It wasn't all Guay's fault that UdeM was down 4-0 after the first period. According to their coach Serge Bourgeois they didn't wake up until the third period, and then after it was 6-0.

Game 2 Moncton showed up, and perhaps not coincidentally, Marion was back in their nets. Despite being outshot every period UdeM was up 1-0 after one, captain Dean Ouellet converted on a penalty shot in the second period and they added another goal to make it 3-0. SMU captain Cam Fergus scored early in the third period on a power play, but that was as close as the Huskies would come against Marion who made 34 saves for the win.

Friday - UdeM 2 @ SMU 6
Saturday - UdeM 3 @ SMU 1

This week

UNB is at UPEI on Wednesday, and will stay on the Island for Game 4 if necessary. If there is a Game 5 it will be Sunday afternoon in Fredericton. SMU is at UdeM on Wednesday. Game 4 will be Saturday night, also in Moncton. If there is a Game 5 in this series it will be Monday back in Halifax.
The men's Final 8 is only 12 days away, so it's time to bust out the Bracketology again. Our panel this week consists of nine CIS basketball followers (both within and beyond the CIS Blog borders) and here are their guesses at the Final 8 seedings:

No two ballots are exactly alike, though Wayne Thomas and I came close, with different flips of the coin producing a different Canada West third-place finisher in our imaginary universes.

And even if we have small differences, there are obvious similarities: Carleton's No. 1 on everyone's ballot, and Lakehead and Saskatchewan are Nos. 2 and 3 on all but one. Nobody's expecting a Mac or Ryerson upset in the OUA semifinals, everyone feels Concordia is an inevitable RSEQ champion, and only Peter James expects someone other than St. F-X to win the AUS. Overall we have only 11 different teams on our nine ballots.

Most people gave the wild card spot to the bronze medallist from out west (Victoria, UFV, or Alberta, depending on the panelist). Greg Colgan and Andrew Bucholtz put McMaster in there instead.
The various Final Fours (or Sixes) will start later this week. There's already at least one winner in CIS basketball, though.

The Masters University Basketball League, the world's most popular CIS basketball fantasy league, finished its third season last weekend (with the games on Feb. 19), and one of our past champions has repeated.

Following 10 weeks of play, Neate Sager collected 45 points (one point for winning a category, half a point for tying), beating some guy by the smallest possible margin and capturing his second title in three years. His first championship win, in 2009-10, was also by the same smallest possible margin, over the same person, but a win is a win.

Last year's champion, Alexandre Tourigny, finished only ahead of Cam Charron (who had some excellent players but in his own words, forgot to play them). Alex was expected to cruise to another title with both Phil Scrubb and Jahmal Jones among his keepers from last year, but that's why they play the games — or in this case, why they collect the stats for specific players and pretend they're a team. He gets to keep both Scrubb and Jones for another year, however, so perhaps 2012-13 will see a resurgence.

Full standings and results:
  1. Neate Sager, 45 points
  2. Rob Pettapiece, 44.5 (0.5 behind)
  3. Andrew Bucholtz, 41.5 (-3.5)*
  4. Craig Burley, 41.5 (-3.5)
  5. Alexandre Tourigny, 37 (-8)
  6. Cam Charron, 30.5 pts (-14.5)
* Wins tiebreaker based on head-to-head results.

Congratulations to everyone but Cam.
In what's becoming a regular occurrence in CIS sports, history has been rewritten again. It turns out the York Lions' women's volleyball team did not, in fact, win in three sets against the RMC Paladins Saturday, and they will not, in fact, be hosting the OUA Final Four this week. York apparently used an ineligible player, middle blocker Michelle Pierce, who transferred from Windsor and sat out the mandated 365 days, but didn't play in a regular-season game (so was ineligible for the playoffs). The rule isn't all bad, but it's remarkable that York didn't pick up on this; these kinds of eligibility situations should be intensively studied by every coach and athletic department given the consequences. Instead, we now have a tournament rescheduled and relocated on short notice (it's now set for Ottawa), an #8 seed in it instead of the favoured #1 seed (which might have been the OUA's best hope at nationals), and egg once again over the collective face of CIS.
This year, in lieu of a full basketball prediction contest, we ran a simple one: what will Carleton's average margin of victory be in their OUA East games?

Predictions ranged from 12 (huh?) to 47 (that's more like it), and when the games were completed, Carleton ended up winning all 14 of them, by an average margin of 42.2 points.

One person guessed 43 points: Ralph Dewar, whose son plays for the University of Alberta, and who says he keeps "loose track" of what is happening in Ontario. He certainly pays enough attention to recognize this is one of Carleton's better teams, and that strength, combined with their weaker competition this year, was enough push them above the 40-point mark. Last year, the Ravens won by "merely" 36 points on average.

(Peter James's fleeting success continues to elude him, with his prediction of 27.3. He must have misread this as "average margin of victory in first three quarters.")

As it happens, someone else predicted 41.4 points (technically farther away from the right answer than 43 is, due to rounding in the 42.2 number) and if Carleton had scored one fewer point in any game (or allowed one more point), then the title would have been taken away from Mr. Dewar and given to ... let's see here ... oh, me.

Congratulations to the winner, and thanks to all who entered, even those of you who guessed a number lower than 20.
Victoria and Saskatchewan won out last week, giving both those teams the #1 seed in their respective divisions and will get to host their matchups this week. Overall, there's a pretty good playoff field as no team squeaked in off a run off good luck in the end, and there's always the potential for an upset or two in a three-game series, although that hasn't happened since 2009. Last season only two road teams so much as won a game, but it's basketball playoff season, and crazy happens.

Who will go on to the Conference Final tournament next weekend...?

#1 Victoria vs. #4 Calgary
Victoria: 14-4, #5, .573 RPI - 6th
Calgary: 10-10, Unranked, .531 RPI - 17th

In their one meeting this year, Victoria rolled over Calgary 75-63. The Vikes are one of the top rebounding and defensive clubs in the Conference, which should make it tough on Calgary who haven't been held below 80 points very often and have been on a recent scoring tear. Boris Bakovic is a weapon that the Vikes didn't get to see in the teams' first game against one another and the Dinos have a real top-heavy team with him, Tyler Fidler and Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, but Victoria have much better depth. That said, if they have a bad night shooting from beyond the arc, who knows? Calgary might yet force a third game.

Prediction: Victoria in 2

#1 Saskatchewan vs. #4 Trinity Western
Saskatchewan: 16-4, #3, .615 RPI - 1st
Trinity Western: 10-9, Unranked, .550 RPI - 13th

1st in Ratings Percentage Index, 2nd in Simple Ranking System, and 3rd in the National Poll, this is a very dangerous Saskatchewan team that should be the favourite to win the Conference, much less upset the disappointing Spartans who haven't looked as people expected them to this season. Jamelle Barrett has gotten hot for the Huskies, who crushed Trinity at Trinity 98-73 in November while shooting 60% from the field. This is the league's top offense against the worst defence among playoff teams.

Prediction: Saskatchewan in 2

#2 Fraser Valley vs. #3 Lethbridge
Fraser Valley: 13-5, #4, .585 RPI - 5th
Lethbridge: 11-9, Unranked, .556 - 11th

A very dangerous Pronghorn team, after quite a stunning turnaround and getting all those college recruits, find themselves in the playoffs against another big team that they could potentially beat. In fact, they have, with an 87-78 win back in January in the Abbotsford gymnasium the next two or three games will take place. UFV can't be discounted though: they have their big men in Jasper Moedt and Michael James, and two good mid-range shooters in Sam Freeman and Joel Friesen. On paper, UFV have the better team, but not by a whole heck of a lot. Lethbridge turned a lot of heads this year with a powerful, potent offense that has the occasional breakthrough (they've cracked 90 eight times and 100 twice).

Prediction: Fraser Valley in 3

#2 Alberta vs. #3 UBC
Alberta: 14-6, #8, .597 RPI - 3rd
UBC: 13-5, #7, .566 - 9th

To summarize, not the opponent that Alberta was hoping for. Amazing what a difference first place makes: Alberta missed out and got UBC, while UBC missed out and got Alberta. Figuring out the Thunderbirds this season is a little like herding cats. They have two guys in Nathan Yu and Malcolm Williams who are onions shooting the basketball and the team racked up a huge margin of victory average (+13.2) this season. On the flip side, they lost 5 games, all of them on the road against playoff teams (coincidentally, also 0-5 in those games. When you consider that two of their four road wins came in the Thompson Rivers gymnasium and not the regular Tournament Capital Centre, you have to think that this isn't a team that plays well when their opposition is comfortable in their surroundings and the sight lines and can shoot the ball).

UBC had the best shooting defence in the league at 37.7%, slightly better than the Golden Bears' 38.8%, so you have to think this could be a pretty low scoring series that could come down to second shots or points in the paint. I think Alberta is a little better suited to this sort of game with Jordan Baker who can drive well and can pull up for jumpers. Alberta is also a team that moves the ball very quickly which could be done to elude the T-Birds perimeter guys, so long as they don't turn it over. I'm inclined to say the Bears win this series because UBC doesn't have a good track record on the road this season, and Alberta is a team good enough to get the ball inside against them, or to beat them along the perimeter like Victoria did last week. Still, like the UFV/Lethbridge series, there's good potential for an upset here, but I don't think it will happen.

Prediction: Alberta in 2
The McMaster Marauders' women's basketball team's impressive late-season run came to an end Wednesday night in Hamilton with a 77-59 loss to Western, and there was a surprising absence: head coach Theresa Burns. Burns missed the game thanks to a uniquely-Canadian injury, a concussion suffered playing hockey on the weekend. It's rare not to see Burns, who's been the Marauders' coach since 1992, on the sidelines, but from this corner, they made the right decision; any sort of strenuous activity can inhibit concussion recovery, and coaching playoff basketball certainly counts there. Things didn't work out for the Marauders Wednesday night, though, as they struggled right from the start and trailed by 12 early on.

Things only got worse from there. The Marauders pulled within eight to trail 20-12 at the end of the first quarter, but Western went on a second-quarter run and made it 41-25 at the half. McMaster did pull within nine in the third quarter and looked to potentially make a game of it, but the Mustangs bounced back and led by 14 at the end of the frame. They then boosted their lead to 18 in the fourth quarter and never looked back en route to victory. Katelyn Leddy paced the Mustangs with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Jenny Vaughan had 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists and Lacey Knox had 13 points and seven rebounds.

For the Marauders, Taylor Chiarot had 14 points and eight rebounds, Liz Burns chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds and Hailey Milligan contributed 11 points and six rebounds. It was a disappointing end to the team's season, but their year as a whole was still a nice recovery from 2010-11's 6-16 campaign. Although Burns wasn't able to make this game, the school did the right thing by encouraging her to take the time to recover. It's not a storybook ending or "win one for the Gipper", but it's a solid story, and one that shows the dangers of concussions for everyone, not just elite athletes.
This week sees two conferences begin their postseason, with some seasons about to end for some Top 10 teams. Here's a look at how it's looking like each team will match up with its first round foe.

Here's this week's CIS top 10; and the RPI, SRS and other relevant metrics.

No. 1 Carleton Ravens (22-0 OUA, 28-0 CIS, no. 4 RPI, SRS +23.2) - NO CHANGE

Unless York can pull off a massive upset of Ottawa (note: they can't), the Ravens will host the winner of Laurentian vs. Toronto. And as much as I'd like to say the Pasquale brothers or Toronto's veteran presence could threaten Carleton's undefeated season, it's not going to happen.

No. 2 Lakehead Thunderwolves (20-2 OUA, 29-2 CIS, no. 8 RPI, SRS +12.9) - NO CHANGE

The Thunderwolves will host Guelph (if they beat Laurier), Brock (if they beat Windsor and Laurier beats Guelph) or Windsor (if they beat Brock and Laurier beats Guelph). The Lancers managed to play Lakehead tough in their weekend series, with the Thunderwolves escaping with 87-83 and 85-79 victories. The Lancers might be the most athletic and strongest team in the conference, especially at the forward spots, giving Lakehead's smaller frontline some serious matchup problems.

No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies (16-4 CW, 21-5 CIS, no. 1 RPI, SRS +14.9) - NO CHANGE

Host Trinity Western, a team they handled pretty easily in November, in a best-of-three series starting Friday night. A relatively easy schedule has allowed the Huskies to win 10 straight, but they should be able to handle a weaker Spartan team on their home court.

No. 4 UFV Cascades (13-5 CW, 17-5 CIS, no. 5 RPI, +9.0 SRS) - NO CHANGE

One of the most unexpected contenders of the year, UFV will host Lethbridge, a team that did what no one else did in 2012 by beating the Cascades at home. Lethbridge won that game by dominating the boards and getting to the free throw line 44 times (even though they made just 26 of them.

No. 5 Victoria Vikes (14-4 CW, 15-6 CIS, no. 6 RPI, +10.4 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 6

Thanks to Ryan MacKinnon's huge three-pointer, the Vikes will host Calgary. In their only meeting this season, the Vikes handled the Dinos pretty handily on enemy soil (that's what they call Alberta in BC, right?). That was, however, before CIS all-time leading scorer Boris Bakovic returned from injury, making this one of the more intriguing first-round matchups.

No. 6 St. FX X-Men (15-4 AUS, 25-4 CIS, no. 4 RPI, +7.0 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 8

After some mid-semester struggles, X seems to have righted the ship. They're on a six-game winning streak and have locked up the top seed in the AUS playoffs with one week to go. Their final regular season contest comes this Saturday at home against Saint Mary's. Also, they'll be feeling good about how they share the ball after Memorial's scorekeepers predictably and hilariously gave them an assist on every single field goal in their 75-64 win over the Seahawks.

No. 7 UBC Thunderbirds (13-4 CW, 19-5 CIS, no. 7 RPI, +11.8 SRS) - DOWN FROM NO. 5
and No. 8 Alberta Golden Bears (14-6 CW, 16-7 CIS, no. 3 RPI, +9.7 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 9

Last weekend's loss to Victoria means the Thunderbirds will be in the unfamiliar position of starting their playoff drive on the road against Alberta. This should be the closest of the best-of-three series this weekend, with UBC's veteran presence from Kamar Burke and Nathan Yu facing up against Alberta's dynamic duo of Jordan Baker and Daniel Ferguson. You can catch the game, by the way, at Canadawest.tv.

No. 9 McMaster Marauders (17-5 OUA, 19-7 CIS, no. 11 RPI, +9.7 SRS) UP FROM NO. 10

One has to think that as much as the Marauders have dominated the Laurier Golden Hawks in their two meetings this season - the latest a 93-67 shellacking with a first-round bye on the line - they'd love to see Brock or Guelph come to the Burridge Gym this weekend. Windsor beat them twice, and Laurier is a tough team to beat three times in a row (should the). One big question to answer will be whether Mac gets captain Victor Raso and his sharp perimeter shooting back from a concussion.

No. 10 Laurier Golden Hawks (16-6 OUA, 22-10 CIS, no. 17 RPI, +8.4 SRS) - DOWN FROM NO. 7

Last week I said it was too early to say the wheels have come off of Laurier's season. Now, it's hard to suggest otherwise. Their no-show in a massive game for a first-round bye is a troubling sign for a team that has lacked urgency in February. Now, they'll need to beat a scrappy Guelph tonight for the right to face Mac again. How the sorta-mighty have fallen.



1. Carleton
2. Saskatchewan
3. Lakehead
4. UFV
5. Victoria
6. UBC
7. Alberta
8. McMaster
9. St. F-X
10. Concordia


THE "DAMN, I MISSED ONE." LINE OF THE WEEK: St. FX's Terry Thomas went 11/12 for 29 points and seven rebounds in a blowout win over Memorial.

THE "GOOD TIME TO SHOW UP, MAX" BAD LINE OF THE WEEK: Max Allin's 2/16 performance (against a pretty tough defensive matchup, it should be said) in Laurier's biggest game of the year is pretty bogus.
Our third weekly look at the best upcoming games.

See the first post for the details. (* denotes an if-necessary third game in a best-of-3.)

5. Men's basketball: UBC at Alberta
Game score: 77.8
Fri 7:00pm MT / Sat 7:00pm MT / Sun 3:00pm MT*

With how the playoffs are set up, one of these very good teams can't make the Final 8 now. But with five Canada West teams among the top 8 nationwide in SRS, at least one of them had to be eliminated before the CW Final Four. (Can we put the loser of this game in the QUBL semifinals?)

The only game these teams have played this year went to overtime, and given how close these teams are, that wouldn't be a surprise if it happened again.

Trying to find a statistical edge for either team is right difficult. About the only things setting them apart, overall, are that the T-Birds have actually outfouled their opponents, and they're generally less reliant on one or two big scorers. But really, it's very close. Should be an excellent series.

4. Men's hockey: Lakehead at Windsor (Game 1)
Game score: 79.5
Wed 7:30pm ET

Lakehead's home-ice advantage brings this down to a 73.5 for the game(s) in Thunder Bay, but the Lancers, winners of eight straight, have a fighting chance in Game 1. This is also the most evenly-matched game on the schedule this week (ignoring team quality, though neither team here is bad).

3. Men's volleyball: Manitoba vs. Alberta
Game score: 79.7
Fri 6:00pm PT

It's kind of a shame that the Canada West Final Four is a non-elimination tournament. Oh, sure, each team wants to win the conference title (and presumably receive a higher seed next week in Kingston) but as we saw with men's basketball last year, losing a conference championship doesn't really hurt you much at all.

In any case, this is the best volleyball game that we're guaranteed to see this weekend. (You can probably guess what the best potential game is.)

2. Men's hockey: Carleton at UQTR (Games 1 and 3)
Game score: 79.8
Wed 7:00pm ET / Sun 8:00pm ET*

Again, the games at Carleton are scored lower (but not by much, at 74) since the Ravens rank as the better team.

These teams sort of split their season series (two Carleton wins, one UQTR win, one UQTR shootout win) but Carleton outscored UQTR by about goal and a half per game (20-13 in four games).

1. Men's volleyball: Manitoba at Trinity Western (should both advance)
Game score: 80.2
Sat 7:00pm PT

Technically we don't know this game will happen. But the other options are Alberta / TWU or a TWU upset on Friday night, which both imply a very watchable game anyway. If these teams play on Saturday, it could be a game for the #1 seed at nationals as well as the CW championship. And, of course, less than a month ago they traded three-set wins in Winnipeg.
The OUA men’s basketball regular season is over and now it’s time for some playoff basketball. Lakehead and McMaster will have some time off before facing the winners of the quarter-finals in the semi-finals on Feb. 25. Laurier will matchup against Guelph and Windsor will host Brock. The Golden Hawks, by far, saw the biggest upset come against them this weekend and were pushed out of second place by McMaster on the last game of the regular season. Some teams have back-ended their way into the playoffs, while others have picked up steam at the right time. The Wilson Cup final is only two weeks away, so now it’s time to see who can make it there.

OUA Standings here; Playoff schedule here

Games In-Depth
February 15
Laurier 95 vs. Waterloo 96

The utter collapse of Laurier continued this weekend, and they started with a loss to Waterloo. After a disappointing 1-1 record last weekend, Laurier needed one win to clinch second in the West. And they couldn’t get it done. It should’ve come against Waterloo, but instead they’ll be missing a couple of days off that they would’ve gotten with a bye had they clinched second place. It wasn’t their offence that let them down, but against the eighth seed team, you need to have better defence. Kale Harrison had 26 points and 13 rebounds, while both Matt Buckley and Kyle Enright finished with 20 points for Laurier. Mike Wright led the way for Waterloo with 23 points and 8 assists and Zack Angelini ended with 18 points and 9 rebounds. You would think that the weekend would only get better for Laurier after this, but they still had one more game to play.

February 18
Laurier 67 vs. McMaster 93

Wow. That’s all that can be said about this one. Second spot in the West was on the line for this one and Laurier laid an egg, while McMaster showed up big time. The Marauders ended with 51.4% from the field to Laurier’s abysmal 31% and outrebounded the Golden Hawks 49 to 35 and 20 assists to 9. The second quarter was the turning point when Laurier flat out couldn’t stop McMaster. The Marauders put up 31 points to Laurier’s 11 and the game was pretty much over after that. Kale Harrison had a team high 16 points for the Golden Hawks, but there wasn’t much help after that. Taylor Black had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while Adam Presutti finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. It doesn’t really get much worse than this for Laurier who had second place all but locked up throughout the season only to lose to go 1-3 in the last four games of the regular season while McMaster ran the table.

Player of the Week
Ryan Thomson
Lakehead Thunderwolves

In two games that were largely meaningless for the Wolves, Thomson led the way and helped Lakehead finish the regular season on a winning note. In two games against Guelph, Thomson had a combined total of 46 points, 17 rebounds and 5 assists in 61 minutes of playing time. He also went 6-for-8 on three’s and 19-for-29 from field goal range. Even though it came against a much lower ranked Guelph, Lakehead is on a roll going into the playoffs and Thomson was a big part of it.

Upcoming Playoff Games
February 22
Brock vs. Windsor

In a rematch of their Feb. 15 game, the Lancers will take on the Badgers in the first playoff game involving the West. Windsor won that game 79-72 and look to see a similar outcome. Windsor is far deeper than Brock and can count on five or six guys every night to contribute in some way. Brock is a little more limited and if you shutdown Andrew Kraus or Tshing Kasamba, you’ve slowed the Badgers down enough to likely get a win.

Guelph vs. Laurier

A few weeks ago I would’ve said Laurier by a landslide, but really, who knows with Laurier right now. They ended their otherwise great season on horrible losses. With four fifth years and two fourths in Laurier’s lineup, I expect them to wakeup and realize it’s this year or bust. The Gryphons have a few players they can count on to score, but after Kareem Malcolm, Daniel McCarthy and Adam Bering, there’s not much to Guelph’s roster. Look to see Laurier finally wakeup from their shaky end to the season and break out with a ton of points.
So is this the most competitive season in ages in AUS men's hockey? Ever? Both quarter-final series went the distance. Monday night one Game 3 was a 1-0 squeaker while the other went into double-overtime. Home ice was definitely an advantage as the home teams won all the games in both series.

Moncton - StFX 

In one sentence: X-Men couldn't score in Moncton. Thursday was a tight, careful game until the third period. UdeM got two in the third and added an empty netter while P-A Marion made 30 saves for the shutout. Saturday in Antigonish StFX played much better and even managed to score first. But les Aigles Bleus answered with two of their own. X put on a furious push in the second period but Marion stood tall. Fortunately StFX cashed in on an early third period power play to tie the game and captain Murdoch MacLellan got the winner at 12:25. Game 3 was back in Moncton and the power outage returned to the X-Men.UdeM captain Dean Ouellet scored less than three minutes into the game on the power play and Marion earned another shutout. This one got interesting late in the game when defenceman Spencer McAvoy appeared to tie it on a wraparound but the referee waved it off apparently due to another X-Men in the crease interfering with Marion.

Thursday - StFX 0 @ UdeM 3 
Saturday - UdeM 2 @ StFX 3 
Monday - StFX 0 @ UdeM 1 

UPEI - Acadia

This series? Lots of goals. Friday night the lead changed twice in the game before the Panthers rookie Chris Desousa scored the winner late in the third period. Sunday in Wolfville the Axemen had a three goal lead before UPEI got on the board. They answered that goal 31 seconds later. The Panthers did get some momentum back late in the second period but just couldn't close the gap in the third period, although they got a late goal to make it close. Monday in Charlottetown the first period was wild. Acadia scored early in the first, but UPEI replied just 14 seconds later and added another three goals in just over 13 minutes to chase Evan Mosher from the Axemen net. However Acadia scored a power play goal late in the first period and added a shorty early in the second period and the momentum went all their way. There was only 61 seconds left in the period when they scored to tie the game, and the with the sell-out crowd reeling they scored again 34 seconds later to take a lead into the second intermission. There was a lot of penalties called in the game, and Matt Carter took advantage of a Panthers power play early in the third period to tie the game. There were no more goals in the period, so after a short break off to the ten-minute overtime. Panthers made it challenging for themselves by taking a penalty, but they killed it off. Not to be outdone, they took another penalty late in OT, but Acadia helped them out by evening it up 28 seconds into the power play. This was followed by an intermission and off to the second overtime period. This one lasted 11:41 when after Acadia almost scored at one end of the ice the Panthers went back the other way on a 3-on-1 and Carter notched the winner.

Friday - Acadia 3 @ UPEI 4 
Sunday - UPEI 3 @ Acadia 4 
Monday - Acadia 5 @ UPEI 6 OT-2


UNB and Saint Mary's had first-round playoff byes thanks to their finishing one-two in the AUS standings. The Varsity Reds will now host UPEI in one best-of-five semi-final series while Saint Mary's has the home ice advantage in the series against Moncton. They haven't announced the schedule yet, but my guess is they'll probably start Thursday or Friday. The SMU-UdeM series is difficult to handicap. Les Aigles Bleus won both meetings in the first half while the Huskies won the two in the second half. This could come to home ice, which gives the advantage to SMU.

As for the other series, yes, the Panthers did beat the Varsity Reds three times out of four in the regular season, but the wins were against the second string goalie with the bad groin and the third string goalie who wasn't on their roster until November. And that third game? UNB came back from a 6-1 deficit to tie it 7-7 before losing the game by a late goal by Jared Gomes. Travis Fullerton returned to the UNB nets the next game and the V-Reds went 6-0-1 to close out the season, including a dominant 4-1 win over the Panthers on Feb. 10.  This series will feature the top two offences in the AUS, but if Fullerton stays healthy he'll probably be the difference maker.

[Update: Although it hasn't been posted on the AUS schedule yet, it looks like both best-of-five series will start with games Friday-Saturday in Halifax and Fredericton. Also, I forgot to point out last night that this is the first playoff series win for the Panthers in 15 years. That was a win over Moncton that ended with an on-ice brawl, national talking head excitement and eventually the Dryden report.]
You may remember that we ran a pair of football prediction contests here in the fall (1, 2). We were going to do the same for men's basketball, but time ran out on us, so instead we're just running this one simple contest: what will Carleton's average margin of victory be in their 14 OUA East regular-season games?

After receiving a grand total of 27 entries, we have an average prediction of 29.5 points. (For reference, last year Carleton won their OUA East games by an average of 36.1 points; in 2009-10, they averaged +26.9, including their loss to York.)

Through all 14 games, the Ravens averaged a winning margin of 42.2 points. The winner of the contest will be named this week (Feb. 20-24).

  • Jan. 6: Beat York by 36
  • Jan. 7: Beat Laurentian by 47
  • Jan. 13: Beat Ryerson by 31
  • Jan. 14: Beat Toronto by 34
  • Jan. 18: Beat Ottawa by 40
  • Jan. 20: Beat Queen's by 32
  • Jan. 21: Beat RMC by 82
  • Jan. 27: Beat York by 42
  • Jan. 28: Beat Laurentian by 35
  • Feb. 3: Beat Ottawa by 29
  • Feb. 10: Beat RMC by 72
  • Feb. 11: Beat Queen's by 33
  • Feb. 17: Beat Toronto by 35
  • Feb. 18: Beat Ryerson by 43
Our second weekly look at the best upcoming games.

See the first post for the details. (* denotes an if-necessary third game in a best-of-3.)

5. Men's volleyball: Brandon at Calgary
Game score: 80
Fri 7:30pm MT / Sat 7:00pm MT / Sun 2:00pm MT*

One of the quarterfinal matchups in this powerhouse conference was bound to show up here, and it's kind of surprising the Brandon/Calgary series is not ranked higher.

At the very least, it would be harder to find a more even playoff matchup in any sport this year. These teams both finished 11-9 in conference play, split a pair of four-set games, are virtually tied in RPI (6th nationwide) and SRS (+1.1, fifth), and put up remarkably similar overall stats.

And, to add to all of that, this playoff series determines a spot at nationals.

4. Men's basketball: UPEI at Acadia
Game score: 81
Fri 8:00pm AT / Sat 4:00pm AT

Both teams are in the upper third of both the RPI and SRS rankings. These teams played on the island in November, with the Panthers winning both but only by a combined 12 points. The Axemen lost two close road games last weekend; UPEI played the same opponents in reverse, also losing both, although they took St. F-X to overtime.

It's not really clear what's going on in AUS basketball this year (in a normal universe, UPEI would be in second place, not tied for first) and these two games may help us separate one team from the other.

3. Men's basketball: Laurier at McMaster
Game score: 81
Sat 2:00pm ET

(It's 81.3 vs. 80.8, if you're wondering why this is ahead of UPEI/Acadia.)

Our Brian Decker, on this game: "This matchup will see two teams going in opposite directions likely facing off for a first-round bye in the OUA West playoffs. Laurier has lost two of their last three games (to their closest pursuers, Windsor and Mac, no less) to lose a tight grip on second place in the division, while McMaster has won six straight games and vaulted inside the CIS Top-10 for the first time all year. If Laurier beats Waterloo (5-15) and Mac beats Western (8-12) on Wednesday night, the winner of Saturday's game will have the first week of the postseason off.

"Both teams will be looking to get some key players back from head injuries: the Marauders lost team captain and three-point marksman Victor Raso to a likely concussion in a home win against Western on Feb. 8, while the Golden Hawks are missing skilled big man Pat Donnelly after he left the Hawks' Feb. 8 win over Guelph with a head injury. Raso's dependable shooting and veteran presence is a big part of the young Marauders' recent success, while Donnelly's tough inside presence and ability to stretch the floor with his jumpshot makes him a favourite target of point guard Max Allin's passes. Whether these teams have these key players back could have a big impact on who sits and who plays in the first week of the OUA West playoffs."

2. Men's basketball: UBC at Victoria
Game score: 84
Fri 8:00pm PT

No surprise here. It's the rematch of last week's game, which was itself equally watchable. And as our Cam Charron reminded us yesterday, the winner of this game hosts Calgary next week but the loser must travel to play either Alberta or (likely) Saskatchewan — a huge difference riding on 40 minutes. (Correction thanks to UVic's Andy Watson, who points out, correctly, that the Huskies have already clinched first.)

1. Women's hockey: Saskatchewan at Alberta
Game score: 84
Fri 2:00 pm MT / Sat 2:00 pm MT / Sun 2:00pm MT*

Two very good teams (both +2 or better in SRS, top 10 in RPI) begin a Canada West semifinal series on Friday that won't, in and of itself, determine who goes to nationals (it's Alberta plus the Canada West champion/runner-up this year). However, these games are of course hugely crucial for the Huskies nonetheless, as they have to win two of three here and two of three next week, likely against the Dinos, if they want to return to Edmonton in March.
The final CIS men's volleyball top 10 has been released, and it sees the inclusion of the playoff-bound Queen's Golden Gaels at the expense of the eliminated Winnipeg Wesmen. Meanwhile, the UBC Thunderbirds plummet after another unsuccessful weekend.

A link to the official CIS top ten can be found here. Updated SRS and RPI rankings can be found here.

Welcome to the Show

#10 Queen's Golden Gaels (SRS: 13 RPI: 7)

It's been a long wait for the Gaels this season, but Queen's finally enters the national rankings in the last week. The Gaels were a victim of their slow start, which saw them lose three of their first four matches this season and forced the Kingston squad to claw back into Ontario's upper echelon. The tricolour team has done just that, and is undoubtedly the form team in the OUA at the moment having won six straight. That winning streak included triumphs over divisional rivals Western and Windsor, and Queen's reeled off five straight sweeps after a five-set win over York on Jan. 15.

Entering the OUA playoffs as the third seed, the Gaels will host the Guelph Gryphons in a quarterfinal slated for Saturday night.

On the Outs

Winnipeg Wesmen (SRS:9 RPI:16)

The entry of the Gaels into the top 10 spells the end of the line for the Wesmen, who are unsurprisingly dropped from the national rankings after failing to hold on to a postseason berth in Canada West. With a bye in the last weekend of conference play, Winnipeg was forced to watch as the UBCO Heat snatched away the final playoff seed. That must be a bitter pill for the Wesmen to swallow, but with a final record of 7-13, they probably shouldn't have expected much otherwise.

On the Move

UP: #6 Calgary Dinos (SRS: 6 RPI: 13) and #7 Brandon Bobcats (SRS: 7 RPI: 14)

DOWN: #8 UBC Thunderbirds (SRS: 8 RPI: 11)

The Dinos and Bobcats benefited from another losing weekend on the part of the UBC Thunderbirds to leapfrog the west coast squad into sixth and seventh respectively. To be fair to UBC, the move down probably should have happened a week earlier, rather than coming in the wake of two losses to a Trinity Western team that has dropped only one match all season. Either way, the Thunderbirds are on a downswing at the worst possible time, and will now be faced with a tough quarterfinal match up against the Alberta Golden Bears.

The Absolutely Unofficial Caldwellian Rankings (CR)

#1 Trinity Western Spartans (19-1) (SRS: 1 RPI: 1)

The Spartans lay the smack down on the slumping UBC Thunderbirds this past weekend in yet another demonstration of their strength atop the Canada West standings. With Trinity Western enjoying a bye through the first round of the conference playoffs, it's very difficult to see a situation in which the defending national champions aren't hosting the Canada West final. Fans of the Spartans will have been glad to witness a dominant weekend for Rudy Verhoeff, whose role has been somewhat diminished this season with the reintroduction of Steven Marshall to the lineup and the blossoming of Dan Janssen van Doorn.

#2 Manitoba Bisons (18-2) (SRS: 2 RPI: 3)

The Bisons are kicking ass and taking names, and look for all the world like the one team that could derail Trinity Western's bid for a second consecutive national title. Of course, we know from past experience (and horribly blown predictions) that business end of the year almost never goes according to the script. But Manitoba rolled through their final weekend against the Huskies, and they got a lot of love in this year's player rankings. I fully expect the Pischke tribe to steamroll the debutant Heat in round one and lock up their ticket to Kingston without much in the way of fuss.

#3 Alberta Golden Bears (15-5) (SRS: 3 RPI: 5)

This three-spot is a tough one, and I heard a fair amount of grief from those in the know in my neck of the woods over my decision to stubbornly hold Alberta above Laval (allegations of Francophobia may have been uttered). Who knows? Maybe I am secretly a giant bigot and all of this is one Ontarian's meaningless attempt to stick it to the Quebecois.

But I still believe that when push comes to championship-contending shove, Alberta likely has more pedigree and team-wide skill than the Rouge et Or. Mitch Irvine has proven his ability to carry the offensive load time and again, while Taylor Hunt has raised his game as a senior with the additional reps seen this season. The wildcard is Jay Olmstead, but with his versatility and experience I expect him to produce in the postseason.

#4 Laval Rouge et Or (17-0) (SRS: 4 RPI: 2)

Despite my relative lack of confidence in the Rouge et Or by comparison to the west's top teams, there's no doubting the talent possessed by Laval. Karl de Grandpre is the best pure hitter in the country, and rookie outside Tommy Belisle has proven able to play off of him effectively. The aspect of their game that may decide Laval's ability to overcome the powerhouses of Canada West is their middle attack. If Micael Girard can direct some of the defending attention away from the perimeter, the Rouge et Or could finally bring the CIS championship trophy east of Manitoba.

#5 Western Mustangs (16-2) (SRS: 5 RPI: 4)

The Mustangs continue to wait impatiently as the OUA sorts itself out around them. Despite a misstep against Queen's, there's no reason to believe that Western will lose any of the competitive edge that saw them boss the conference all season long. It will be up to the Mustangs' competitors to prove that the season closing loss was more than a flash in the pan.

#6 Brandon Bobcats (11-9) (SRS:7 RPI:14)

This spot will be another bone of contention for those few people who read this column. Both the official CIS rankings and the scarily accurate SRS have Calgary occupying this space ahead of the Bobcats. With the team's set to play each other in a Canada West quarterfinal this coming weekend, we'll soon see which team is the better candidate for a national championship berth. While I see arguments for both, I hold Brandon higher in my estimation at the moment because the Bobcats appear to be a team on the rise at the best possible time.

Playing a very tough Alberta team at home, Brandon managed to split their weekend series. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, their recent run of form wasn't enough to secure home court against the Dinos, who snag that honour on the basis of their sets won-lost differential (+5 vs. +3)

#7 Calgary Dinos (11-9) (SRS:6 RPI:13)

That last detail is my biggest cause of concern in ranking the Bobcats above the Dinos. Was this series to be played in Manitoba, I would very quickly chalk it up for Brandon. But home court advantage is a very real thing, and one that holds a particularly powerful influence in Canada West, where travel is such an arduous process. The format of the conference playoffs however - mandating best-of-three series rather than the one-offs played in the OUA - typically works to counteract those travel challenges.

Calgary showed strong form in their closing contests with Regina, but over the course of a three-match series I believe that Brandon has the tools to overcome them. It's the sort of tight match up that will probably end with pie on my face, but that's my call.

#8 UBC Thunderbirds (10-10) (SRS:8 RPI:11)

Earlier this year, UBC's hot start had myself and many other observers believing that the Thunderbirds could pose a legitimate challenge to the upper echelon in Canada West. Oh how the mighty have fallen. UBC's offensive output beyond veteran outside Robert Bennett has dried up, and the result has been a struggle to compete with the better teams in the conference. A tough final section of the schedule saw the Thunderbirds go a paltry 3-7 in their last ten matches, and their eventual finish in the sixth seed means that UBC will have to travel to Alberta and attempt to take out the Golden Bears in the quarterfinal stage.

Good luck.

#9 McMaster Marauders (15-3) (SRS:9 RPI:6)

The Marauders continue to be a bit of an enigma as the playoffs begin in the OUA (this coming from a guy who covers them on a weekly basis). At their best, the Maroon and Grey have smashed some of the toughest opposition in the conference (just ask the Lancers and Warriors how they've fared against McMaster). At their worst, the Marauders looked absolutely unable to compete with the Western Mustangs. While Saturday night's quarterfinal against the York Lions is hardly a formality, any semblance of form should see the Marauders past the Torontonians and into the Final Four.

But it is there that the Marauders' ability to learn from their mistakes will be tested. In the wake of their latest loss to Western, McMaster's players preached adaptability in the face of the Mustangs' tried-and-true tactics. Will such adaptation be enough? Only time will tell.

#10 Queen's Golden Gaels (12-6) (SRS:13 RPI:7)

The Gaels have quietly hit a red-hot patch of form at the business end of the season, and enter the OUA playoffs as the form team of the conference. The backbone of Queen's success continues to be their incredible defensive ability in the back court, feeding added repetitions to veteran hitters Joren Zeeman and Michael Amoroso. Guelph will pose a decent quarterfinal test, but the Gaels will be confident of a return to the OUA Final Four and the prospect of yet another date with the aforementioned Marauders. Can Queen's finally break what has become a bit of a McMaster curse? My partisan heart hopes not.
Reading between the lines, one gets the impression the Saint Mary's football program should be tended to by people in hazmat suits.

OK, so that is a little alarmist. But what else to think when the long-time flagship program of AUS football has yet to name a head coach and the quarterback is set to pull a Glavic by following his former coach to his new team?

As Monty Mosher reported, SMU might have lost out on hiring on highly regarded former Bishop's head coach Leroy Blugh, whom many would have loved to see "take over the AUS' Goliath" after what he did against long odds in Lennoxville. (Of course, this presumes Blugh, who coached D-line at Queen's, wants to be a head coach again in the worst way, which is a big presumption knowing what the job entails in CIS.) Meantime, both Mosher and Tim Baines are reporting that Mills is contemplating transferring to play for the expansion Carleton Ravens in 2013. Apparently, Carleton coach Steve Sumurah has already informed the appropriate people Mills is intending to transfer in.

Here's Monty:

The university denies that former Bishop’s head coach Leroy Blugh is no longer a candidate to be the new head football coach despite winning the recommendation of the hiring committee last week.

Blugh and former Saint Mary’s quarterback Perry Marchese were the two candidates to earn face-to-face interviews last Monday.

An announcement was expected before now and has led to speculation that that the hiring process hit a roadblock at the senior administration level.

Athletic director Steve Sarty did not immediately return a phone call, but said on the weekend that Blugh remained a candidate for the vacant post.

“The process is ongoing,” university spokesman Steve Proctor said Tuesday. “We haven’t hired anybody. That’s the university position. It’s a personnel matter. When we hire somebody, we’ll make an announcement.” (Halifax Chronicle-Herald)
Mills told Mosher he was "keeping all options open. I contacted Carleton, yes, but I don’t know if I can comment on that exact question at this time." However, he was a little more explicit once Baines got him on the phone. Both Carleton coach Steve Sumurah and the top members of Sooners' executive spoke like this is a fait accompli.

Here's Baines:
Mills grew up a fan of the Huskies and says it was a tough decision to leave, especially after success as a starter in his freshman season.

“I was there watching them all the time as a kid. But the face of the program to me was Coach Sumarah,” he said. “A big part of me playing for Saint Mary’s was committing to Coach Sumarah.

“I want to play for a team where the best intentions are for the football team. I gave Saint Mary’s a bit of a chance (when it announced that Sumarah wouldn’t be back more than two months ago). Maybe they had somebody in mind to coach. But, as it turns out, they had nobody lined up. It just doesn’t seem like they have a plan.” (Ottawa Sun)
Granted, another quarterback, Jack Creighton, was supposed to leave Saint Mary's last year for Guelph and ended up staying in Halifax. Mills completed less than 50 per cent of his aerials while splitting time with Creighton and had a 4:6 touchdown-interception ratio. However, any quarterback who gets extended playing time as a true freshman directly from high school obviously has huge potential.

Starting in 2013 with a quarterback who has experience starting in CIS but is still in the early stages of his eligibility would be a huge win-win for the Ravens.

Meantime, what to make of Saint Mary's? Things are never as bad (or as good) as they seem. Having difficulty landing a coach and having the hometown hotshot QB consider leaving does not look good. One wonders if there's some larger underlying message when a brand-new OUA team looks more appealing to Mills than the top AUS program.

With only two regular season games remaining and the formality of "postseason basketball" to determine a Conference and National champion, an 11-game schedule marked the final weekend of a full slate of games. The weekend in Canada West ball was highlighted by Victoria's invasion of War Memorial Gymnasium and the second half of the home-and-home series (Game 1 was two weeks ago, so I guess the home-other game-other-game-and-home series) between Fraser Valley rivals in Langley (TWU) and Abbotsford (UFV).
With the playoff picture across conferences to get clearer in the near future, a few very important games are going down this week. Here's a look at the movement inside this week's CIS top 10 (11-team edition) and what teams will have to do to lock up their optimal playoff position.

Here's this week's CIS top 10; and the RPI, SRS and other relevant metrics.

  1. Carleton Ravens (20-0 OUA, 26-0 CIS, no. 5 RPI, SRS +22.5) - NO CHANGE

    As far as I'm concerned, the Carletons had first place in the OUA East locked up in November. It will be interesting to see, however, how this team plays as the postseason gets deeper and the games they're expected to win — as always — begin to matter more and more.

  2. Lakehead Thunderwolves (18-2 OUA, 27-2 CIS, no. 6 RPI, SRS +12.0) - NO CHANGE

    The 'Wolves did exactly what they had to do to take the wild OUA West: lose only once to Laurier, Windsor and McMaster. Their three-point loss to the Golden Hawks on Jan. 14 is their only defeat in 2012, setting up the West's best record and a first-round bye even if they somehow lose twice to Guelph this weekend.

  3. Saskatchewan Huskies (15-4 CW, 20-5 CIS, no. 2 RPI, SRS +14.6) - NO CHANGE

    The Huskies can lock up the best record west of Ontario — and potentially the right to host the Canada West Final Four — with a home win over the Regina Rams this Saturday. If they somehow lose that game, well, I'll just let the Star Phoenix's Darren Zary try to explain the scenarios.

  4. UFV Cascades (13-5 CW, 17-5 CIS, no. 4 RPI, +8.1 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 5

    Another week, another program high for the UFV Cascades, who finished their regular season with a big road win at Trinity Western. We now know that the Cascades will at least host a playoff best-of-three series. A win there would be a program first, something the Cascades have made a habit of accomplishing this season.

  5. UBC Thunderbirds (13-4 CW, 19-5 CIS, no. 7 RPI, +11.8 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 7

    Kamar Burke's 17-point, 17-rebound game — something he apparently didn't know how to accomplish — couldn't have come at a better time, as the T-Birds managed to keep their first-place hopes alive with a 68-52 win over Victoria. That sets up a huge match this weekend in Victoria for all the marbles (if your definition of 'all the marbles' is winning a regular season division title)

  6. Victoria Vikes (13-4 CW, 14-6 CIS, no. 9 RPI, +9.8 SRS) - DOWN FROM NO. 4

    Interesting that the Vikes sat their starters from nearly the start of the fourth quarter in their loss to UBC. Sure, they were down by 20 and had only scored 37 points, but that's not an insurmountable deficit. Perhaps it was to send a message the starters that they're going to need more than Ryan MacKinnon's scoring to win what will their biggest regular season game in years when they face UBC for the Pacific title this weekend.

  7. Laurier Golden Hawks (16-4 OUA, 22-8 CIS, no. 13 RPI, +10.8 SRS) - DOWN FROM NO. 6

    It's probably too early to say the wheels are coming off, but two home losses to their closest pursuers (McMaster and Windsor) have certainly tightened the Hawks' collars. They've looked a little disinterested and passive on offence at times, with Kale Harrison and Max Allin not looking to attack the basket as much as in previous wins. That's of course partly due to the very physical defences of the Marauders and Lancers, but it's not an excuse. If the Hawks want to thrill their home fans with some manner of success when they host the OUA Final Four, they'll need to figure out how to bring their 'A' game against tougher competition.

    In injury news, it looks as though versatile big man Pat Donnelly suffered a concussion and is out for a little while.

  8. St. FX X-Men (12-4 AUS, 22-4 CIS, no. 1 RPI, +6.4 SRS) - NO CHANGE

    They'll probably gain some momentum from beating UPEI thanks to Tyrell Vernon's late-game heroics, but I still wonder about a team that goes 7-for-41 from downtown in a game. I mean, it's bad enough that a team can't break a zone and needs to jack up threes. But when they go 7-for-41, there's some obvious signs of trouble.

    The win ties X and UPEI atop the AUS standings with 32 points, with X having a game in hand over the Panthers. There's still plenty of hoops to be played out East, however, and with their wacky points system the playoff picture's still only as clear as a rainy morning in Antigonish.

  9. Alberta Golden Bears (14-6 CW, 16-7 CIS, no. 3 RPI, +9.7 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 10

    The Bears will enjoy a weekend off and watch as the Saskatchewan Huskies play Regina to determine the winner of the Prairie division (and the host of the CW Final Four). In other news, friend of the blog Wayne Thomas thinks Jordan Baker is the conference's Player of the Year. So, there's that. [Ed. note: Our player rankings, when they are revealed in approximately two weeks, may suggest he's the CIS player of the year. Stay tuned. -RP]

  10. (tied) Concordia Stingers (10-2 RSEQ, 17-6 CIS, no. 8 RPI, +5.0 SRS) - DOWN FROM NO. 9

    A home loss to Bishop's cuts down Concordia's division lead to 2.5 games over McGill with plenty of hoops left to be played, but it still seems unlikely that the Stingers will give up their regular season division title.

    (tied) McMaster Marauders (15-5 OUA, 17-7 CIS, no. 16 RPI, +8.1 SRS) - NOT PREVIOUSLY RANKED

    For the first time in the post-Joe Raso era, the Marauders have cracked the top-10 (well, top-11). That's because the Marauders, on the strength of a young lineup, have won six straight games in the OUA West to take control of their playoff destiny. A win over Western on Wednesday and Laurier on Saturday would give them a first-round bye and a home playoff date for the second round.

    One problem standing in the way of that plan: team captain Victor Raso, whose dependable outside shooting and rebounding have been a big part of Mac's surge, is out after getting his bell rung in a win over Western last week. It's 'likely,' according to the previous article he'll be able to return against Laurier, but no one can really be sure when it comes to concussions and head injuries.



1. Carleton: Do I really need to explain?
2. Saskatchewan: Michael Lieffers will dunk on your family.
3. Lakehead: Have kept lesser opponents around a little too long in some games.
4. UFV: They might be the best team in Canada West. That's wild!
5. UBC: One big game will say it all.
6. Victoria: See above.
7. Alberta: A week of rest could be huge while UBC and UVic duke it out.
8. St. FX: I guess.
9. McMaster: Wait, what? Yep, they're playing well right now.
10. Laurier: Now would be a good time to wake up again.


THE "SORRY, BARBEAU" LINE OF THE WEEK: Jimmy Dorsey looked at Ryan Barbeau's 46 points and said "yeah, that's okay, I guess." Then he scored 49 points and added 14 assists and 8 rebounds.

THE "GOOD TIME TO SHOW UP, GUYS" BAD LINE OF THE WEEK: The entire Victoria Vikes team deserve this award for shooting 26.2 per cent in only their most important game of the season so far.
In the second last week of the regular season there were more than a few surprises. Lakehead clinched the West, while Windsor was shocked by Waterloo one night and returned the favour to Laurier a few nights later. There was a few high scoring games and a couple of battles between heavy and lightweights. The last week of the regular season is coming up, but this past week help set some of the playoff positioning. In the CIS top 10, Lakehead will remain in second, but don’t be surprised if Laurier falls back a few spots from sixth after a 1-1 weekend.

[Ed. note: Laurier indeed fell one spot, to seventh. McMaster also became the third OUA West team in the Top 10 (or 11), tied with Concordia for tenth. -RP]

Games Recap
Windsor 85 vs. Waterloo 90
February 8, 2012

Whoa, wait, what? That was the actual score? Shocking would be a good word to describe this one. Windsor had a small shot at moving into second this weekend, but those hopes were dashed before the weekend even began. Simply put, if you’re going to challenge, you can’t lose to the worst team in your division. Even more so, you can’t lose to that team with less than four games before the playoffs. It’s unacceptable, but Windsor has to move on and hope this was a wakeup call. Lien Phillip and Rotimi Osuntola Jr. had good nights collecting 24 and 23 points, respectively. Phillip was a force in the paint grabbing 19 rebounds, but outside of those two there was little help from the rest of the Lancers. Srdjan Pejicic had 28 points in 19 minutes of playing time for Waterloo. The Warriors were far better this night when it came to shooting going 47% from field goal range compared to 42.1% by Windsor. Waterloo also went 40.6% on threes, while Windsor shot 24.1%.

Western 105 vs. Waterloo 102 (OT)
February 11, 2012

Both these teams have had a long season, but they made for an interesting weekend. And hey, sometimes it’s good to give love to the little guys at the bottom of the standings. Waterloo was fresh off their win against Windsor and both teams combined for a shootout, including a total of 37 points in 5 minutes of overtime. Western guard Ryan Barbeau is playing what could be his last few games as an OUA player and is making them count. Western is gunning hard for a playoff spot, and Barbeau will be the main reason if they get it. He had 46 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds and played all but one minute of the game and had 4 points in the last 25 seconds to lead Western to victory. How important was Barbeau? The next three highest points by Mustangs players were 15, 14 and 11. In all fairness though, what they lacked in points they made up for in rebounds. The Mustangs had three players with 10 or more rebounds to help Western with a game total of 53 compared to 35 by Waterloo. Cam McIntyre had 33 points and 3 assists, while Zack Angelini put up 28 points and 4 rebounds in a losing effort, but after beating Windsor three days before, they probably knew that was the high point of their year.

Windsor 77 vs. Laurier 69
February 11, 2012

Windsor needed this game badly after the embarrassing loss to Waterloo and it came against the second place team in the West and one that had been in the CIS top 10 for most of the year. The Lancers came to play, or more specifically, Lien Phillip came to play. He had 20 points, 15 rebounds and 4 assists. Josh Collins chipped in 19 points and 4 rebounds. All but seven of Windsor’s points came from starters, which would normally be a discouraging sign, but they managed to keep one of the best offences in the CIS to 69 points. That’s the second lowest point total they’ve had all year. The first? It came against Carleton - the top team in all of Canadian university basketball. Kale Harrison had 21 points and 8 rebounds for the Golden Hawks, while Conor Meschino had 17 points and 6 rebounds off the bench. Although the score is somewhat close, this game was out of reach by the first quarter. Windsor never let their foot off the gas and took it to Laurier, who shot 33.3% from the field and 23.3% on three’s. This was a perfect example of what can happen when a team that depends so much on its offence has an off night.

Player of the Week
Lien Phillip - Windsor Lancers

Phillip had two stellar performances this past week. And although the Lancers only went 1-1, none of that can be placed on Phillip’s shoulders. He had a combined total of 44 points, a stunning 34 rebounds and 6 assists in 74 minutes of playing time. No one came close to him in rebounds in either game and his defensive rebounding (25 over two games) stopped a ton of second chance points. The main reason they stopped Laurier was improved defence, which had let them down against Waterloo a few nights before. Phillip was unstoppable in the paint, and that’s something Windsor will look to motivate them over what they hope will be a few more weeks of games.

Upcoming Game of the Week
Laurier vs. McMaster

This is a big if, but depending on what happens this weekend, this could be the game that decides second place in the West. Laurier holds second right now, but you have to think after the way Windsor dismantled them McMaster is itching to take it to them. Either way, I expect this to be a big game as neither team wants to go into the playoffs with a loss, and those extra few days off that comes with the bye help out a ton. Both teams have had long seasons, school schedules take their toll and a few days extra rest can make all the difference.
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