First things first, while the revolution will not be televised, our national championship game will be, on an MBN, so hurray!

And now the national ballot. Acadia is No. 4.

On (the KISS) principle, I opted to only rank the 15 teams that were extant last weekend.
A carpenter's shirt pocket, the Boston Bruins' top four defencemen and this week's ballot. What is four number twos? The choice at the top of this week's ballot was whether to double down on Montréal after some finishing issues nearly cost them in a 20-17 win against Concordia, or to elevate Western after it romped over woeful Windsor. Ultimately the Carabins still have the loudest statement win, against my No. 2, Laval, so it's a vote for them.

The next level of the pantheon involves how to sort out the hierarchy of Canada West, with Guelph and McMaster slotted in somewhere. Alberta and Guelph are posting better results than the one-loss teams, Calgary and McMaster, that they lost to at home in the first week of the season. Recency reduces the weight of those results.
  1. Montréal (5-0 RSEQ). Lack of finish nearly cost them in the three-point win against Concordia; they've had seven missed field goals on the year and the rest of the RSEQ has only biffed 10.
  2. Laval (3-1 RSEQ). Imagine what they were thinking during the fourth quarter of Montréal's game on Friday.
  3. Western (6-0 OUA). The last two defences Chris Merchant and Co. see in the regular season are ninth and third in OUA.
  4. Guelph (4-2 OUA). Better results than McMaster had against three common opponents, plus that season-opening game against the Marauders feels like so long ago.
  5. McMaster (4-1 OUA). Would be interesting if they were playing Guelph this week.
  6. Alberta (4-1 CW). On a four-win streak entering their rematch with Calgary.
  7. Saskatchewan (3-2 CW). Well, if the head-to-head result from five weeks ago counts for so little, then the Huskies' 14-point win against Calgary deserves a reward.
  8. Calgary (4-1 CW). Probably underrated; will regain their usual perch if they assert themselves authoritatively against Alberta.
  9. Waterloo (4-1 OUA). At Western, home to Laurier and at McMaster for the last three, so Tre Ford and cohorts are in tough.
  10. Acadia (5-0 AUS). Still flawless after the long trip to Lennoxville.
  11. Manitoba (3-2 CW). Just squeaked by Regina at home, suggesting they're closer to fifth in Canada West than first, even though they are only a game back.
  12. Ottawa (3-2 OUA). Offensive regression has caught up to them big-time.
  13. Saint Mary's (3-1 AUS). Got better on their bye week, apparently.
  14. Carleton (2-3 OUA). Get the nod over Laurier (also 2-3) due to a tougher schedule.
  15. McGill (2-3 RSEQ). McGill leads the RSEQ Rump Legislature Round-Robin with Concordia and Sherbrooke and also tallied a conference-most 16 sacks.
Back and forth, back and forth for a good solid hour over whether Montréal vaults to No. 1 for beating Laval, or Western goes up a notch after another clinical TKO of an OUA middleweight. At least it takes your mind off self-flagellating over why you ever talked yourself into believing in Kirk Cousins.

This is where we are information-poor due to the aversion, skittishness, fear of the unknown, that has stood in the way of having interlocking play during the regular season. Without it, there is really no way to compare conference quality between central Canada's two solititudes in September and October, when it's actually needed. Whose play to date looks more impressive, really?

The national poll went with Western No. 1, then Montréal, Laval and Calgary. Five of the top 10 slots are occupied by OUA teams, which might seem bad for optics, but there is also some vote-splitting since there is so much parity among six or seven teams in the conference.

My ballot and specious reasoning is below the jump.

Right back where we started from — Laval, Western and Calgary 1-2-3 on our ballot, in keeping with the national consensus.

It is great fun to harsh on the traditional heavyweights and over-reward teams early in the season, but the hierarchy is setting.

An adjustment to slotting 15 teams involves starting with a mini-power ranking with each conference — the top six from Ontario, best four out of Canada West, two or three from Quebec and two from down east in AUS. Here's how it would seems to shake out.

  • AUS — Acadia, Saint Mary's
  • Canada West — Calgary, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta
  • OUA — Western, McMaster, Ottawa, Guelph, Toronto, Waterloo
  • RSEQ — Laval, Montréal, McGill

That gets us to the following ballot
  1. Laval (2-0 RSEQ). Just hurry up and get to the mutually assured destruction between the Rouge et Or and Les Bleus this Saturday.
  2. Western (3-0 OUA). They still scored 34 points at McMaster, despite not having a single play go longer than 23 yards. Carleton, which has been a tough matchup for the Mustangs, is in London this week.
  3. Calgary (2-0 CW). Lone Canada West team to hit the quarter-pole at 2-0.
  4. McMaster (2-1 OUA). The only passing TD the Marauders have allowed came on a play-action pass on the first snap after a sudden change in their zone. Only a one-spot drop after they made Western earn their victory.
  5. Montréal (3-0 RSEQ). The Carabins ended a drought of 33 possessions without an offensive touchdown during their cross-town takedown of McGill. We are supposed to believe Anthony Calvillo and his quarterbacks have no language barrier. 
  6. Manitoba (1-1 CW). That win against Saskatchewan could prove to be anomalous over time, since they were plus-7 on takeaways. The Bisons and quarterback Des Catellier will need to show they can march the ball 70, 80 yards on the regular.
  7. Ottawa (1-1 OUA). Have already thrown a season's worth of interceptions — nine — in two weeks. Once they figure it out, they will be dangerous. The Gee-Gees rate higher than Guelph since their 13-point margin of defeat at McMaster was less than the Gryphons' 15-point margin when they hosted McMaster. Last year was last year; don't tell ELO, though.
  8. Saskatchewan (1-1 CW). Left the U of S on my Sept. 2 ballot despite their 24-point margin of defeat at Manitoba, since they moved the ball but had some serious stepondickitis with all the turnovers. The response was a 40-7 win against UBC, whose decline makes the Independence Pirates look like a model of stability.
  9. Guelph (2-1 OUA). The official stats do not credit Clark Barnes, Guelph's Frosh Flash, with the first of the three kickoff-return touchdowns he has torn off is as many weeks. But it happened. There was video of it on the internet.

    Guelph hosts Waterloo and Tre Ford in a playoff rematch on Saturday. Off to Costco for the popcorn!
  10. Alberta (1-1 CW). Tough call here between the gritty Golden Bears who eked out an 18-17 win at Regina, either of the OUA's fireworks shows at Waterloo and U of T, or Acadia, who has grilled 50-burgers in both of their games. Good thing we're ranking 15 teams so it's not the "all" of one 10th-place vote or nothing. I put an ineffable value on road wins, especially in Canada West, so the Golden Bears have shown they're entitled to their innings.
  11. Toronto (2-1 OUA). Our Sager-sense says the Waterloo Tres will get more voter support than the Toronto Clays due to the Warriors' narrow (33-30) head-to-head win in Week 1.

    However, from the way-too-early opener to Week 3, teams go through a development that's more rapid than that of a small child. That game was Toronto's first in a new system under offensive coordinator Tom Denison. And Toronto winning 38-34 at Laurier last week looks slightly more earned the Waterloo's similar last-minute 45-42 win at Windsor, since the Varsity Blues were facing a legitimate defence.  
  12. Waterloo (2-1 OUA). What is the soaked-in-confirmation-bias justification for saying that, Super Chief? Well, the way both of these Air Raid attacks are getting their yards raises questions. Toronto and Clay Sequiera won the game within the game in the passing phase, averaging 10.1 per attempt to Laurier's 8.0 while their defence housed an interception. They rushed sparingly.

    With Waterloo, on the other hand, more than half of their yardage came on the ground, where they rushed for 335 yards at 12.4 per clip. A lot of that could be on the quality of the defence they faced; remember Windsor allowed a Western back to set a rushing record last season while playing less than three full quarters.
  13. Acadia (2-0 AUS). The 10 through 13 slots are fairly interchangeable. Acadia gained more yards rushing than St. FX's entire offence did last Friday.
  14. Saint Mary's (2-0 AUS). Best wishes for the Maritimes as Hurricane Dorian does its thing.
  15. McGill (1-1 RSEQ). Quebec's third-best team played its second-best and lost by 30 points. Insert the Pam Beesly-Halpert "YEP" gif.
There is a format change for the football top 10 this season. Voters are now being asked to slot 15 of the 27 teams, so one can just imagine that Canadian Football Twitter will have some bun fights extraordinaire about those Nos. 8, 9 and 10 spots come about Week 6 of the regular season. The tabulated votes are weighted with the Elo Rating System that the national office has embraced for most of its team sports.

Official Top 10 before the jump, my ballot below. Here's the official one
How each team's ranking broke down along media-vote and ELO lines is easy enough to find. Laval, Western, Saskatchewan and Ottawa's tallies were 50/50. Montréal's and McMaster's were like 48/52.

Calgary and UBC did better with the human voters, while Carleton and St. Francis Xavier were elevated by ELO.

As an 11-year voter, I treat it as a cascading series of snap decisions, especially early in the season, and try to eyeball it with recent conference strength.

The case for Calgary centres on an unblemished ramble through an entire conference season; the case for Carleton is almost everything else.

The latter is what matters more, and it might have been the iceberg that yours truly was ignoring during this whole exercise. Historically, overall record does not have the heaviest sway with the Final 8 seeding committee. So, Carleton's good, and thorough, almost-in-doubt-but-never-really-close 20-point win in the Wilson Cup, the Ravens are force-feeding some crow. Whether Carleton really wants to go in as the No. 1 seed — while there is no cause-and-effect, they have done better as a 2 or a 3 — is another story.

It feels like the last two decades of university basketball were summed up in one basket in the fourth quarter. Down 18 in the fourth quarter, Ryerson gets a little careless with the inbound pass. Carleton's Munis Tutu steals and bats the ball back into court to create the extra possession. A ball screen, two dribble drives and a tight block-to-block bounce pass later, Mitch Jackson lays it in.
The invaluable U Sports Hoops site that Martin Timmerman compiles includes five rankings: the contentious Elo Rating that the university sport's branding office has embraced, Ratings Percentage Index, Simple Ranking System (through games on Feb. 23), Points Per Possession Differential and last week's Top 10 coaches' poll. (There is a longer explanation on the five at the bottom.)

Here is how the 11 teams in tournament consideration — Alberta, Laurier, New Brunswick and Ottawa are listed as candidates for the at-large berth — are rated at this writing.

Elo RatingPPPDiffSRSRPITop 10
*not qualified

The only ranking Calgary tops is the RPI, the system that greater mathematical minds most disdain.

Haley McDonald of Acadia had a conference-record 51 points, and that has some competition for Saturday's most impressive stat.

Someone, somewhere, is none too surprised by how the last 24-ish hours have played out; that is the perk of a perpetually underexposed and underappreciated strata of basketball. Put another way: I want to be wrong about which teams are in which slots; the real goal is just that people understand the regionally and politically compromised process that is nationals seeding. (On a related note, please stop making sense about just seeding everyone 1 through 8 based on quality, or SRS.)

Long story short, there was a weekend of the mild upset in the Maritimes, as McDonald turned it up to 11 — hey, Saturday was the 35th anniversary of the release of This Is Spinal Tap — to advance Acadia to an AUS final against Memorial, which was under .500 during conference play.

If it seemed odd that Ottawa had ascended to a No. 1 ranking ahead of the Laval team that it lost to twice in the fall, then McMaster has validated that skepticism by winning the Critelli Cup with a 79-75 win against the host Gee-Gees. Taking nothing away from the feat of McDonald and how her teammates facilitated it, the Marauders played a perfect game on Ottawa's floor. Sarah Gates and Hilary Hanaka each hooped at least 20 and were charged with zero turnovers, combined, geek out on that.

Rather than just do the usual back-of-an-envelope bracketing, I made a chart.
Just as sports reveal character, February sorts out the two types of people who work on a sports desk — the ones who understand the Page Playoff format in curling and the ones who need a refresher comes Scotties and Brier time. There is no literal connection between that and the lead-up to the women's basketball Final 8 — face it Sags, there isn't any connection — but one of the play-in games this week is effectively like a Page Playoff.

Carleton at McMaster, namely, is the most fraught game this week. McMaster is the first-place team in a 1 vs. 2 game with two lives, since Theresa Burns' Marauders grade out highly across the board in the criteria for the at-large berth. For Carleton, which turned over four starters from the 2018 national championship squad and stayed in the rankings, it's like a 3 vs. 4 game — win or go home. If

The projection is the same as last week, with a hunch play on Regina to win on the road in Canada West. The home team has won the Canada West final three years in a row, so a flip is due.
The first teams slotted into the OUA / RSEQ seeds are, obvious hacky reference alert, like seat-fillers at the Oscars. No one expects they will be there very long.

Ontario's remake of the Road Warrior (booooooooooooooo), starring Queen's Jared Bethune, Guelph's Scott Simmonds and Western's Luke Peressini, hastened some revising. It is not clear what should be read into the away teams going 11-1 during the second round, beyond the obvious point that the talent gets distributed very fairly across the vast majority of the conference. That makes the league basically like every division of the 1980s NHL that did not feature the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The regular season doesn't really matter.

At this writing, Alberta and Saskatchewan, shocker, have qualified out of Canada West to join host Lethbridge. New Brunswick and Saint Mary's could qualify within 24 hours, while Ontario has a two-stage process to decide its division champions and the third-place team.

Now Alberta is cheering for chalk.

Sometimes the big picture that seems so self-evident is too fuzzy and vague to become focal, so the small thinking becomes the big picture. In the long run, where the aim is to have more Canadian university basketball teams become a viable alternative for talents that might otherwise end up at a D-1 low major or some slack D-2 diploma mill, it probably is good that Laurier, with a .760 win percentage in all OUA games, is going to host, Ryerson, which has played .917 ball, in a play-in game this week.

The Rams need someone to take up the cause of them being hosed about as much as Bradley Cooper does. The Laurier Golden Hawks getting a decent crowd out for its first home semifinal game would do more to spread word-of-mouth about the strength of university basketball than it does at Ryerson, where they would be playing in front of the converted. So there is that, if you can ignore the Rams having the better record which also includes beating Laurier by 45 points in November. 

However, that segues into into the contrast between the formats of the country's two largest leagues. Canada West's unbalanced, undivided setup has contributed to the best of all possible outcomes. Calgary is undefeated in the conference and has the best case to be the No. 1 seed in two weeks' time. The series that Alberta and UBC, with the Thunderbirds ultimately prevailing in Game 3 on Sunday night played was competitive and taut and like sealed the emotional and empirical arguments for Canada West getting the wild card, if the form holds this week.

Alberta are ahead of both Laurier and the Brock Badgers in the all-important selection criteria for an at-large berth. So really, no sugarcoating, those OUA semis on Wednesday are surely do-or-done games for the two OUA West schools. It might be a jump to conclusions to call that a creation of the two-division format. It is more likely that the OUA's growing parity has worked against having an obvious third Final 8 team.

There are some changes since that first attempt two weeks ago. Calgary, on paper, deserves the top seed, while Quebec once again seems to be an enigma.
Well that is nice — New Brunswick won a playoff round in its first season back.
Whatever fate awaits those Varsity Reds, being this competitive under coach Sarah Hilworth and an obviously rookie-filled roster is national coach-of-the-year material. It likely speaks to more than just a wrong being remedied through the courts, but also to the investment in female hockey across Western Canada, where 13 V-Reds hail from, including AUS save percentage leader Kendra Holland and team scoring leader Tamina Kehler.

The result leaves nationals host UPEI with a 24-day layoff before hosting the March 14-17 tournament.

The need-to-know is that the four conference winners get the top four seeds in order of national ranking. The four assigned berth/host teams are arranged in a way that eliminates the possibility of a same-conference semifinal matchup.

So what chaotic outcome should one root for?

Heather Lindsay left a legacy at Carleton; one, leading the Ravens to the program's first national title and two, speaking truth about the media gatekeepers at that time when a winner is more likely to be really heard, even though we all could learn to listen at all times: "There were years where we would win a game and the whole story would be about the men’s team losing — just stuff like that where it’s just not fair at all." (Ottawa magazine, Sept. 10, 2018.)

No further mansplanation necessary. 

For purpose of this exercise, Carleton and Lindsay made this easy; they were the No. 1 seed for the women's basketball Final 8 two seasons in a row.  Another bonus for the dim-bulb prognosticator is there was a reasonable equilibrium between all four sport conferences that validated the "top 6" seeding rule.

Lindsay is playing in Germany, but at least the competitive balance is mostly still there. There is schism between Elo and the eye test, a.k.a. the coaches' poll, over whether Canada West or Ontario is the deeper conference. The Atlantic cannot get anywhere in the human poll, but UPEI is getting some love from the computer rankings. So, for the dim-bulm prognosticator, this ought to be fun.

The University Cup is not so much seeded, as it is slotted.

The something-for-everyone regionalism that defines (and confines) Canada comes into play. For review, conference champions are seeded 1-2-3. The Ontario runner-up draws into the No. 4 seed. Five and six fall to finalists from down east and out west. The OUA has a third assigned berth that is part of the deal for taking in three Quebec schools. 

So be it. The reality is that the seeding is based more on your conference than how your team actually does that hockey. It might look like this:
Lethbridge (host)
The only limb to go slightly out on is whether the seeding committee would really care about Lethbridge playing the Canada West champion in the quarterfinal. After all, they're not really in the same league with Alberta or Saskatchewan.

It is quite the conundrum. At this stage of the game, Calgary has completed an undefeated regular season, but as a collective the coaches have been consistently ranking the Dinos lower than the Carleton Ravens and Ryerson Rams.

And history is wink-wink, nudge-nudged us that Carleton might be have gamed the seeding process, holding back a little in the Wilson Cup after an auto-berth is secured, so it can go into the nationals as the No. 2 seed.

Whether that demands a correction is a matter of opinion, but cynically, this is U Sports and it would take a decade to strike a committee to look into the matter, so I am not going to hold my breath. Long before load management entered the basketball lexicon, Carleton had clued into a line of thinking that a 2 seed is better than 1 seed. The latter is given the short straw from a rest-and-recovery standpoint, especially with the reversion to the 3-in-3 Friday/Saturday/Sunday schedule.

There is no hard proof of such, other than a point-form list of the Ravens' seedings across the last 12 years and their results. The Ravens have won the last six times that they have been a 2 or 3 seed, and their three non-championship appearances have all come as the 1 seed.
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