New is always better, so that should be vicariously exciting for all who care about the university game. Okay, maybe not so much to the CIS Final 8 promoters since the hometown draw, UBC, is out of the top six entirely and its odds of making it to Semifinal Saturday are now that much longer.
There are deets to digest, but the WolfPack's epochal 72-69 win against the Thunderbirds turned on the team from the B.C. Interior being resolute in the interior. Aptly named forward Josh Wolfram piled up 23 points and 14 rebounds, and TRU ultimately was just a little more 'on' from outside than the traditional tournament team.
Presuming the "results of regional playoffs must be respected" guideline is invoked, Thompson Rivers rates the No. 7 seed with UBC up at No. 8. By rule, UBC must play one of the evening quarter-finals, including the 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. finale to the day.
To quote George Costanza, "Do you see what happened here?" The Carleton-Ryerson victor will surely be the No. 1 seed, but will likely play its quarter-final at a time when their minds and bodies are normally winding down for the night. Conversely, being in the 2/7/3/6 bloc involves the 4 ET/1 PT or 6 ET/3 PT Thursday tip times, and rest ahead of Semifinal Saturday.
Ryerson, which has never won any OUA basketball title, will have incentive to change that this evening. For Carleton, they do not have to show their hand much on Saturday, so it wouldn't be a shocker if they play a very vanilla game. Then they get the schedule that might work better for an Eastern Time Zone team.
Another permutation, and CIS has countless ones, is that 1/8/4/5 and 2/7/3/6 are not set in stone. They have been known to get re-sorted, by organizers' edict. There is also the matter of where to schedule the Canada West reps' games. Calgary is from farther away but has a much deeper alumni base than Thompson Rivers, which only became a university in a full in 2005 and whose graduates are all busy analyzing the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here is another shot in the dark heading into Finals Day. The Windsor-Ottawa winner should draw in as the No. 5 seed facing McGill, which hosts UQAM in the RSEQ final. A Dalhousie-Calgary quarter-final is on the offing. Ryerson-UBC and Carleton-TRU draw into the 1 vs. 8 and 2 vs. 7 slots.
- Ryerson Rams (OUA champion)* — Fun fact: the last time a Toronto-area team won the OUA Wilson Cup was 1994-95, the season before the Toronto Raptors began play. There is some 'not for nothing' to that, but I cannot unlock it at the moment.
Incidentally, and perhaps other Ontario University Athletics schools are doing this, but something that RU is doing to foster demand is to give free admission to the first 250 students. It creates a buzz, while still relaying that there is a value to attending these games.
It's long been a catch-22 with student attendance in OUA. Charge and they don't come; make it free and they think it is not worth coming.
- Carleton Ravens (OUA runner-up)* — Gritty 82-74 win against Ottawa, even though primary scorer Connor Wood played through foul trouble. The city rivals have played for 120 minutes and are tied 227-227. The weird part? Only the first game actually felt close.
- Calgary Dinos (Canada West champion)* — Hit a hundred whilst winning their way in and effectively ending Manitoba's season. I cannot wait to see Thomas Cooper play live.
- McGill Redmen (Quebec champion) — As anticipated, they had a push from Laval, but won 76-69 on the strength of a 49-point second half. Noah Daoust was man of the match with 19 in 23 off-the-bench minutes, hitting 5-of-6 triples. Of course, that's not even the best sixth-man performance since the Rams' Jean-Victor Mukama had 23 and was 5-of-5 on threes.
McGill, with the women's basketball Martlets also playing for a conference banner at home on Saturday, could have a sellout at Love Competition Hall. Only about 400 tickets are left.
- Ottawa Gee-Gees (at large, OUA bronze medal) — The first Windsor-Ottawa game was a 34-point blowout. A lot has changed, but the Gee-Gees should end their two-game funk. Caleb Agada needed only 23 minutes to record a double-double in that November game, and the fourth-year wing seemed almost possessed when Ottawa started to push back against Carleton.
- Dalhousie Tigers (AUS champion)* — Would scoot up to 5 if Thompson Rivers somehow upset Calgary.
- Thompson Rivers Wolfpack (Canada West runner-up) — Friday was a big moment for Explorer teams. Take this opportunity to snark, "No wonder UBC didn't want to play those new CIS members from the province."
- UBC Thunderbirds (host)* — They might be locked into eighth, sorry to say.