Basketball: OUA reverting to two-division format — reports

Ontario University Athletics is throwing out the RPI baby with the bathwater.

It's unofficial, of course, but an informed source has corroborated the CUSN reports from the Final 8 about another realignment being in store for basketball. What was old three years ago is new again. The conference is going back to East and West divisions with cross-over semifinals — but no single-site Final Four.

On the one hand, admitting there were unintended consequences to the 'RPI-offs' and going back to the tried-and-true is understandable. At the same time, it's not hard to read some OUA politics into a decision that would put Carleton, Ottawa and Ryerson in the same division with no mechanism for all three to be in the final four with a chance to go to nationals (as long as there's only one at-large berth, the seeding committee is probably not going to have the stones to pick a Top 5 team which was a quarter-finalist; just ask UBC. But more on that in a bit).

The switch to RPI-offs, regardless of the execution, was supposed to address that imbalance. It was also flexible since it allowed for the possibility, however theoretical, that four schools in Toronto and westward could be the class of the conference. Reverting to two divisions exhumes the inequity that occurred in both 2013 and '14, when Ryerson's men's team was a tournament-worthy team but was left out after losing to Ottawa in the East semifinal.

It's easy to get that there would be frustration among coaches that the RPI eliminated late-season scoreboard-watching. The RPI basically rewards a team for showing up.

This season also ended with only easterly teams going to each Final 8 (both Carleton teams, the Ryerson men and Queen's women). Four of the five teams that missed the men's playoffs also come under the OUA West umbrella. Three of the five left-outs from the women's playoffs are also westerly teams.

From that, one can divine which end of the conference was pushing for a change. The mantra is probably something like, this means it will be decided on the floor; no more computers deciding things, Nerd. Except it will be made more difficult for some teams to do, depending on geography, which puts the lie to that premise. Plus uneven divisions means a 75 per cent chance of a playoff appearance in one division and 66.7% in the other, as opposed to everyone getting the same 70.6.

It seems like an easy way out to just double down on the simpler but also flawed system. It is expedient to go with what one knows; indeed, most of us will do that when presented with any decision. The aim of any scheduling / playoff framework ought to be to give the conference the best chance of having its crème de la crème, provided they don't get knocked out of the playoffs early (just ask UBC again), go to the national tournament.

Another change is the the Wilson Cup and Critelli Cup would be stand-alone games. Those cross-over semifinals would all be held in the gym of the higher-seeded team. If that's a cost-effectiveness thing, so be it, especially since the OUA had a media partner for the men's event when it was created in 2010-11 and no longer does.

Indulge a bit of self-aggrandizing; adopting Simple Rating System would solve a lot of the OUA's ills, so-called. A format that factors for strength of schedule and point spread would do a lot more to keep teams engaged and motivated during the blowout games where the ultimate won-lost outcome is a foregone conclusion, That would serve the greater good.

Also see:
OUA standings with SRS, not RPI
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