The coaches' consensus is that the McGill Martlets of Alex Kiss-Rusk and Mariam Sylla, et al., are the best team in the land.
Ryan Thorne — apology in advance that I am bound to confuse the Martlets coach with Ryan Van Horne, the Halifax playwright, at some point — has a tough team. The five-team RSEQ can cannibalize itself with the same teams playing each other three months, and McGill keeps winning. The Martlets are 19-2 overall while handling what, according to CIS Hoops, is a higher strength of schedule. (All of the RSEQ has a high SOS, though.)
I am coming into this cold — hey, I do live in Ottawa — but here goes very little. It is damn interesting to follow, since Chantal Vallée's Windsor Lancers are not even an OUA favourite.
- McGill Martlets (RSEQ champion) — There probably are cases for 24-3 Saskatchewan to be No. 1 in the coaches' poll. The seeding committee has to follow the poll, ergo, if McGill wins their conference they will be No. 1 with a bullet. Thorne's rotation has been a moving target, but the coach has 10 players who average at least 11 minutes (RSEQ games only). Depth and defending come to the fore in a four-day tournament.
- Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West champion) — Hello there, Huskies. If you win the national championship, your fossil-fuel-fetishist premier had better acknowledge it in the Ledge. Brad Wall failed to do so after the men's basketball Huskies won it all in 2010.
Dalyce Emmerson, the pride of Prince Albert, and U of S expect a good push from UBC in their best-of-3 quarter-final. They should still get by.
- Saint Mary's Huskies (AUS champion) — They have dominated their conference for a good while. Not much more needs to be said. Scott Munro's eastern Huskies beat second-place Acadia by double digits twice in February.
It feels like an either/or with Saint Mary's or Canada West's second auto berth in the 3-spot. Chalk this up to a gut feeling there will be some effort to keep the Atlantic teams on opposite halves of the draw, especially since the host is not even an Also Receiving Votes team in the poll.
- Regina Cougars (Canada West runner-up) — So much of where Canada West's reps, plus a wild card potentially, draw in will depend on the outcome of that Victoria-Grant MacEwan best-of-3 this weekend. Talk about legacy vs. getting legitimized in that matchup. The Griffins have the lowest SoS in the country (minus-7.85).
An UVic win likely creates an Alberta-Regina go-to-nationals semifinal next weekend, assuming the other high seeds advance. Based on Regina 'having the split' from a two-game set at Savile just before the December break, they get benefit of the doubt for this slot.
- Ryerson Rams (OUA champion) — Andy Sparks' Sprites at Ottawa have small-balled their way to an 11-1 finish and top seed for the 'RPI-offs.'
The sticker is that the 'one' was such a faith-shaker, that 73-50 beatdown at the hands of Heather Lindsay and Carleton in the Capital Hoops Classic four weeks ago. Was it an neutral-floor anomaly?
Ottawa's 11 also includes a two-point defensive ball game against Queen's and overtime road wins against McMaster and Ryerson. That could flip. Ryerson also likely has a more favourable semifinal matchup. It blitzed Carleton 88-53 in January. If history repeats itself on March 11, Ryerson could be more rested for the inaugural Critelli Cup against Ottawa, McMaster or Queen's.
- Alberta Pandas (at large; Canada West bronze medal) — The Pioneer has four 20-win teams, and as such, deserves to dominate the seeding. Alberta probably should be the 5 seed, if not higher, but it seemed logical to keep the Pandas and Cougars separate for the first round. The other part to that is the committee is struck with the task of creating good matchups. A seeding is not a ranking. Canada West 2 vs. OUA 1 and Canada West 3 vs. AUS 1 could mean a good set of games.
Near as one can tell, the W-Final 8 seeding regulations don't have the 'Anyone But Carleton' rule that dictates each conference champion must be in the top six seeds. A conference champion has not been lower than sixth in the past three years, though.
- Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA runner-up) — The bracket in OUA is an upset waiting to happen.
Ottawa and Ryerson should get through. As for Saturday's other quarters: what could have more ominous tones than both of the vulnerable five-time champions having their season on the line at the same gym? Vallée's Lancers are at Carleton, before the men's basketball Carletons play their quarter-final against the Brocks.
The survivor from Queen's-McMaster should go toe-to-toe with the Ottawa women. It is hard to see the Gee-Gees not getting it done on their home floor.
- UNB Varsity Reds (host) — Perhaps UNB has a run it at the AUS Final 6 that will vault it into a higher seeding. They have beaten each of the three higher-ranked teams in the conference once, although the win against SMU was three months ago and it was a three-point win in the second leg of a home series.