We have reached the point where form and history are in conflict in the Power Conference. With Ryerson holding the No. 1 seed for the OUA Wilson Cup, it sets up that Ottawa will likely have to defeat Carleton for the third time in a row in order to directly qualify for the Final 8. When was the last time a team did that against Carleton?
With that in mind, one should not presume to go all What We Learned while slotting eight teams into the men's basketball CIS Final 8. The OUA has a No. 1 playoff seed that is No. 3 in the coaches' poll and was last seen running fifth-year guard Aaron Best for 40 minutes in order to secure a nine-point win against York, the worst team in the OUA playoffs. (Ryerson also needed two buzzer triples in the second half to escape with a two-point victory on Friday against Queen's, whose starting five probably consists of Sukhpreet Singh and four Commerce majors named Tanner, Taylor, Travis and Tyler from 'just outside Toronto.')
Carleton is No. 1 in the country but No. 3 for the playoffs and is also 0-3 against the Gee-Gees and Rams, but those games were three weeks ago.
The AUS, as per uje, seems like anyone's game; Dalhousie won as the underdog last season and now gets cast as the overdog after winning a very balanced conference with Rick Plato's old-school tempo-slowing style. (Per game, the Tigers took six fewer shots per game than anyone else down East, and allowed 8½ fewer points.)
By now, all of you are all familiar with Rule 4.2.4, which mandates that a conference champion cannot be seeded lower than sixth. This is also known as the, "We Won Our Conference And All We Got Was A Lesson From Carleton, And A Consolation Game" rule. You have also been around the block enough times to know that the UBC Thunderbirds will be placed in the most sales-driven seed, which likely means No. 5.
To quote the guy who taught another Plato, the only knowledge is knowing you know nothing. Then again, I bet on the Oklahoma City Thunder for a push against Stephen Curry on Saturday night. Lo and behold, three-point underdog OKC made sure that Golden State did not cover the spread. So there.
Well, here goes nothing:
- Ottawa (OUA Wilson Cup champion) — Give a good team enough chances to learn how to close out fourth quarters, and eventually they will.
- Ryerson (OUA runner-up) — The Rams have not really cemented lead-horse status going into the playoffs. The ATC should take in that stabilizing force Juwon Grannum has only played 36 minutes across the past five games due to injuries. It also means that anyone intuiting that history says it might be tough for Ottawa to beat Carleton, thrice, also has to concede the point that it would be about as tough for Ryerson to defeat Ottawa, twice in a row.
Consider this is a noncommittal attempt to split the difference. If it was a layup attempt, Ryerson's Kadeem Green would block and redirect the ball for an outlet pass.
- Calgary Dinos (Canada West champion) — Nothing has really happened to indicate it will be any different. Can't cast aspersions on the Dinos while the top six seeds await winners CW's play-in series.
P.S.: Go Griffins and Wesmen!
- McGill Redmen (RSEQ champion) — Nothing new to add other than Dave DeAveiro's crew has won four in a row and wrapped up RSEQ Final Four
- UBC Thunderbirds (host) — See what was said above UBC getting the pragmatic treatment from the organizers. The 'Birds will surely play that late quarter-final on Thursday night. That would mean the top seed out of Ontario, which already had a tantamount four-hour time zone change with the combination of Daylight Savings (March 13) and the cross-Canada trip, will play in a 9 p.m. ET quarter-final and 8:30 p.m.. ET semifinal.
The geographical bias went the other way almost exclusively for generations, so that's not a complaint. Just a consideration.
- Acadia Axemen (AUS champion) — The best conference playoffs in the country have the dominoes arranged in a fun way, as always. Javon Masters and the fourth-seeded UNB Varsity Reds are the 4 seed; if they keep their composure, they can get by Saint Mary's on Friday. Acadia winning against Cape Breton, the Power That Is Meshack Lufile notwithstanding, is the form pick in the 6 vs. 3 quarter-final since the Axemen won 3-of-4.
That would set up a great set of semifinals: AUS scoring champ Masters and the V-Reds against the tenacious, defend-all-day Dalhousie Tigers; Acadia taking on their old friends Tyler Scott and Bradley States of UPEI. I am little fixated on the fact that Acadia limited AUS foes to 32 per cent from three-point land. If they defend, they can do it.
The Panthers swept a two-game set from Acadia recently, but the fouls were 45-27 in their favour that weekend on Prince Edward Island. What happens in a mainland matchup? Anyway, one over-simplification from Upper Canada is that an Acadia/UPEI winner rides the momentum to the conference banner. This a conference that is never that simple; it is the CIS equivalent to a lovable, one-bid D1 mid-major that's much more watchable during Conference Championship Week than any Power Five conference that's thrown together for football purposes.
Dalhousie is the best defensive ball club, though, and that is why it is top seed and the default pick to go to the Left Coast.
- Carleton Ravens (at large; OUA bronze medal) — There is no road map for how the behemoth off of Bronson Ave. will react if it loses a go-to-nationals OUA semifinal and has to regroup for the OUA bronze game in fewer than 24 hours' time. Carleton has never had to play a bronze game during their entire dynasty.
The men's basketball solons were still holding out on a Final 8 bronze game when the Ravens lost national semifinals in both 2008 and '10. In 2006, they lost to Tut Ruach and the York Lions in the OUA East semifinal with Aaron Doornekamp out with a sprained ankle. After getting the wild card and a No. 3 seed, they beat UQAM, Cape Breton and Victoria by a combined margin of 21 points for National Title No. 4.
Besides, Final 8 wild-card implications mean that bronze-medal games at provincials are much different than those at nationals. Carleton beat McMaster on the road on Feb. 13, so they get a tentative benefit of the doubt.
- Manitoba Bisons (Canada West auto berth) — The great Wayne Thomas has all the Canada West playoff coverage one could ever desire. Poring over the bracket that Thomas posted, the one thought is that less is more when it comes to the student-athlete experience.
In other words, Canada West spends a lot of miles in the air and nights in a hotel on a postseason that is stacked against lower seeds and not overly media-friendly. The lower seeds have to travel a province or three to beat a team twice in three falls on its own floor, then travel again to win a go-to-nationals semifinal.
Canada West is probably sated with realignment. I also happen to like-like the whole Explorers and Pioneers idea, even if it was made at the point of the 'UBC is going to take its ball and bolt for the NCAA' gun.
Would it not make more sense, especially to a media partner such as Shaw, to just blow the dust off the GPAC and have two single-site final fours for the berths? Let each team have a banner as Canada West co-champion and week off for reading in the physiotherapy room.
Circling back, if all top four seeds go through, the CW Final Four is Manitoba-Calgary and Thompson Rivers-UBC. Kirby Schepp's Bisons rate a good chance at winning at least one game against that field.