Men's basketball: Final 8 tournament odds and quarterfinal previews

We'll start with the tournament odds, in the same format as, once again:

      Semi Final Champ
2 CAR  96.8   80.8   71.3 
1 OTT  84.2   64.6   13.9 
3 ALB  94.8   18.6   11.7 
4 VIC  78.9   26.2    2.6 
8 SSK  15.8    6.4    0.4
7 MAC   3.2    0.5    0.1 
5 MCG  21.1    2.8    0.1 
6 SMU   5.3    0.1    0.0 

Hard not to call this a runaway for Carleton, last Saturday's result notwithstanding. It's also almost like they designed this bracket to dispatch the bottom four teams as quickly as possible, giving the 4 seed the second-easiest opponent and all but guaranteeing us Carleton-Alberta and Ottawa-Victoria semifinals.

The rule about conference winners in the top 6 doesn't really matter in this tournament because the seedings generally don't matter as much as who's on your side of the bracket. (Picture the Elite Eight in the NCAA, and ask yourself the last time it mattered what number was next to a team's name at that point.) Suppose we swapped Carleton with McGill, something that nobody would ever do. McGill's odds of winning the tournament go from 0.1% to ... 0.1%. Odds of reaching the final go from 2.8% to 3.8%. Or how about swapping SMU and Mac? That would give Mac a better chance at a first-round win, sure, but nothing else. So someone being 6 vs. 8 or 1 vs. 2 is not hugely important here.

And as for the games themselves, here are the predicted scores and a summary for each matchup (* denotes top-50 players in our preliminary player rankings):

(3) Alberta vs. (6) Saint Mary's, 12:30pm EST
Alberta 85, SMU 72 (95%)
Alberta starters: Youssef Ouahrig, Sahr Saffa, Joel Friesen, Todd Bergen-Henengouwen, Jordan Baker*
SMU starters: Boyd Vassell*, Brian Rouse, Theon Reefer*, Riley Halpin, Harry Ezenibe

Not quite "the McMuffin Classic" game for Barnaby Craddock this time around, but a 10:30am MT tipoff seems odd, especially when the other team is coming from Halifax.

SMU averaged ten possessions more per game than Alberta did this year, easily the biggest gap in pace of play among any of the matchups here. AUS play is known for a high pace almost throughout the league, but with a likely path of Alberta and Carleton here, the east Huskies will not just run into a much more difficult opponent than they've faced, but a very different type of game as well. They're either a team who peaked late or a team that got lucky in two games (you can guess which one they think they are). Supporters will point to the close game they played with Carleton; detractors will say that they needed OT to beat Regina (33rd in SRS) and lost to Brock (44th) three weeks later.

Also look for Kenneth Otieno off the bench for the U of A; he averages 25 MPG and is the other top-50 Golden Bear in this game along with Baker.

(2) Carleton vs. (7) McMaster, 2:30pm EST
Carleton 90, McMaster 66 (97%)
Carleton starters: Philip Scrubb*, Clinton Springer-Williams*, Thomas Scrubb*, Tyson Hinz*, Kevin Churchill*
McMaster starters: Aaron Redpath*, Joe Rocca*, Rohan Boney, Taylor Black*, Nathan McCarthy

The Ravens have six of the top 50; the sixth, Victor Raso, is not unknown to his opponents.

It's the Best Carleton Team EverTM but also one that has had at least four close calls this year, and three of those teams are here. At McMaster in November, they needed to run an episode of The Phil Scrubb Show when the originally-scheduled beatdown was cancelled. If this game is half as entertaining as that game was, it'll be about the best you can expect from a Carleton quarterfinal.

(4) Victoria vs. (5) McGill, 5:30pm EST
Victoria 72, McGill 66 (79%)
Victoria starters: Marcus Tibbs, Kyle Peterson, Reiner Theil, Terrell Evans*, Chris McLaughlin*
McGill starters: Simon Bibeau, Vincent Dufort, Dele Ogundokun, Michael Peterkin, Francois Bourque

Yes, the winner in this one is predicted to score just 72 points, compared to 85, 90, and 91 in the others. No, the Redmen don't have any top-50 players (nothing against M. Bibeau). Yes, I'm also interested to see how a lineup of five players all between 6-2 and 6-5 can go up against that UVic frontcourt.

(1) Ottawa vs. (8) Saskatchewan, 8:00pm EST
Ottawa 91, Saskatchewan 75 (84%)
Ottawa starters: Mike L'Africain, Johnny Berhanemeskel*, Terry Thomas*, Caleb Agada, Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue
Saskatchewan: Stephon Lamar*, Andrew Henry, Dadrian Collins, Ben Baker, Matt Forbes

Probably the most entertaining game. Not that close, but very high-scoring: these teams are 2nd and 5th nationwide in per-possession scoring, but only 17th and 22nd in per-possession defence. The Huskies apparently "weren’t necessarily planning on going" before they got the call as the wildcard team. Barry Rawlyk likes being on the opposite side of the bracket from Carleton, Alberta, and McMaster. Wouldn't you?
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