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