Windsor's Alex Campbell is making our weekend, and a few other ballers have done so as well.
For a certified hoser hoophead, the antepenultimate weekend is like what the slow build-up to the New Hampshire and Iowa primaries is for a politics junkie. It is down to a quartet vying for the two auto-berths in Canada West and Ontario University Athletics, with the Dalhousie men and Saint Mary's women reigning on Championship Sunday set down east.
Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not try to outdo Mark Wacyk for comprehensive coverage of the university men's game in this country.
The bullet points: Dalhousie is the first qualifier for the men's Final 8 after doing a hella survive-and-advance deal, with Ritchie Kanza-Mata posting 21 points, an 8/4 assist-to-turnover, and five steals during a breathless 87-85 win against UPEI on Sunday. Dal will surely be the No. 6 seed and likely get the Canada West champion in the quarter-final. Whether the Tigers will be able to get off offensively at nationals in 10 days is a question that can wait. Winning by two in the final after the one-pointer against Saint Mary's in the semifinal is stellar. It's fair to interpret the result as Dalhousie rallying after a close call.
Two other men's playoff games on Saturday were one-point games, including Mike L'Africain donning his Superman cape to save No. 2 Ottawa's season while Dalhousie had a survive-and-advance deal through Saint Mary's bricking a free throw with zeroes on the clock in the second AUS semifinal. Meantime, exalt the Explorer! Megan Wood went off for 34 points and the Grant MacEwan Griffins are going to their first Canada West Final Four.
The Cliff Notes on what happened for the few, the proud, on the Path to Point Grey and the Battle for Freddy Beach (patents pending).
AUS championship — UPEI-Dalhousie (Sunday)
Tigers go back to nationals — Dal survived a physical test from the rugged UPEI Panthers, and pulled out the narrow victory after trailing inside of the 80-second mark in regulation. Rick Plato's team had all five starters in double digits, and survived having 6-foot-2 forward Kashrell Lawrence foul out. Guards Cedric Sanago and Jarred Reid made a difference, since they combined for 23 points on a 69.2% eFG.
Dalhousie is a throwback team, with 6-5 Sven Stammberger being the only starter above 6-2. Yet they took 15 O-boards on Sunday.
OUA Final Four — Windsor-Ryerson, Carleton-Ottawa (Friday and Saturday, Ryerson)
Windsor crashes the party — Winners go to the Final 8 and the others play for bronze and a likely wild-ticket to Vancouver. A pair of one-point finishes made that possible.
Two years in a row, Campbell, et al., ended McMaster's season on its home floor. There is little more noble than a fifth-year who will not let her or his tenure end, and Campbell went for 33 on 58.7% eFG to help short-benched Windsor prevail 79-78.
The Lancers basically cut down to a six-man rotation, but let's not spoil it by wondering what the chance (slim, probably) is of that working against Ryerson at the MAC next Friday. Campbell has been superlative; he also had a 37-10-5-4 line (with 66.7% eFG) against Laurentian on Wednesday.
L'Africain rescues Ottawa — It was hardly an auspicious outcome for No. 2 Ottawa, which eked past upstart Queen's 73-72 by the margin of fifth-year point guard Mike L'Africain's layin with 1.1 seconds left.
The telltale stat: L'Africain, who scored 27 points on a 48.1% eFG and Caleb Agada, who had the 18-point, 15-rebound double-double but was 30.4% eFG, took nearly two-thirds of Ottawa's shots. This is a callback to a discomfiting pattern Ottawa had late last season when they weren't as able to share the ball successfully; it started sticking. The upshot is this game is behind them.
Queen's, by most accounts, defended well all night. It was just that on the Gee-Gees' last possession, with a midcourt inbound, the Gaels' scrappy on-ball defender Sammy Ayisi just wasn't able to deny L'Africain the ball. That allowed the fifth-year point guard to get to the cup and keep Ottawa alive.
L'Africain also hit a buzzer shot at the end of the first half. Queen's, with Sukhpreet Singh putting his team on his shounders and tallying 19, made a game of it. No doubt it hurts to come that close, but Stephan Barrie is building something promising at Queen's, which is a historic underachiever on the men's side.
It would have been Queen's biggest win since 2000, when John Purdy and Derek Richardson spurred a quarter-final upset of nationally ranked Ryerson. That was so long ago that the OUA East and OUA West didn't even play in the regular season and only came together for the Wilson Cup.
The Ravens routed Brock 90-52; the spread was 20 after a quarter and 24 by halftime. One shouldn't take the point spread as an indicator of anything. Brock was really just happy to be there and Carleton pounced on an undermanned opponent.
Canada West Final Four — Manitoba-Calgary, UBC-Thompson Rivers
Bisons lean and mean — Manitoba coach Kirby Schepp recently shared a Bisons best-of highlight video and, man, that is an athletic starting five. Quick, explosive to the hoop, able to shoot the three. Alas, since a precedent was set by concern-trolling about Windsor getting one bench point in their quarter-final win, it must be pointed out A.J. Basi (40 minutes), Keith Omoerah (40), Justus Alleyn (38) and Wyatt Anders (37) all went long in the 77-72 OT clincher against Fraser Valley. The Bisons also overcame 25 turnovers.
Top four go through — Thompson Rivers survived getting extended by Regina, coming through in the clincher through double-doubles from Volodymyr Iegorov (21 and 14 boards, 55.6% eFG) and Josh Wolfram (15 apiece, only 33.3% eFG). Thompson Rivers reduced Regina to some Costanza-ian chucking of 32.7% eFG, including 7-of-35 from downtown. Trying that many threes probably explained the 20-plus offensive rebounds allowed.
AUS championship: Saint Mary's
Huskies — Shout-out to Huskies sixth woman Jenny Lewis for hooping 29 in 34 minutes across the two playoff games, including Sunday's 63-49 win against Cape Breton.
The Capers' best inside presence, Alison Keough, was limited to three minutes of court time. Sounds like an injury deal..
OUA Final Four: Windsor-Ryerson, McMaster-Ottawa (at Ottawa, Friday and Saturday)
Lancers' reign lasts another six days at least — Chantal Vallée's charges put up 16 fewer shots than host Carleton and yet won by 15 points, pulling away in the fourth for a 63-48 victory. Low post stalwart Cheyanne Roger helped Windsor stay in the hunt while it played from behind during the first 20 minutes, and finished with 17 points, 10 boards and five blocked shots.
Ryerson likes to get out and run, and that might not be Windsor's game.
Carleton hit 27.4% on two-pointers. That is, how do you say, not good. It is impolitic to harp on this whilst discussing a a 15-point game, but the end of the first half was odd and off-putting. Carleton, up four, took possession with 15 seconds left. Instead of playing for one shot, Carleton's Elizabeth Leblanc drove for a layup with about nine seconds on the clock. The Lancers rebounded, ran the floor and got some hidden offence from two free throws. That four-point swing didn't necessarily dictate what happened in the second 20 minutes, of course.
The OUA does not have a stronger wild-card argument than Canada West.
Canada West: Alberta-Saskatchewan, Regina-MacEwan (at Saskatchewan, Friday and Saturday)
We flew 1,000 kilometres for this? — It is a small sample, granted, but the home teams went 8-0 this week. On the men's side, 8-1.
Anyone else like the notion of Canada West copying the AUS model of combining the women's and men's tournaments, except having subregionals to decide each nationals berth? It would be more cost-effective and more media-friendly, and rarely can you feed those two birds with one scone.
Again, though, after the wrangling that went into the last realignment, it's doubtful they want to go there again.
Good Griffs — Wood, of course, averaged 18.7 in regular-season play but scored more than 25 only once. The Griffin who can "shoot the ball from anywhere" carried her side as MacEwan advanced to their first Final Four.
So there is a chance of a Battle of Saskatchewan for the Canada West banner and higher Final 8 seed, and a Battle of Edmonton for bronze and the wild-card ticket for the Final 8.
Quebec's final fours are next weekend. McGill is not going to lose either.