Bracketology: How will Carleton avoid a No. 1 seed this time, and what to maybe do about it

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.
That might be our best jumping-off point..

  • 2018: 1 seed, bronze medal
  • 2017: 2 seed, champion
  • 2016: 2 seed, champion
  • 2015: 1 seed, champion (but played an early quarterfinal)
  • 2014: 2 seed, champion
  • 2013: 1 seed, champion
  • 2012: 1 seed, champion
  • 2011: 2 seed, champion
  • 2010: 1 seed, semifinalist
  • 2009: 1 seed, champion
  • 2008: 1 seed, semifinalist 
  • 2007: 3 seed, champion
The reason for the 12-year sample is that the nationals were Final 10 from 2004 through '06 and that's a variable that is best memory-wiped, never mind included. (As it was, Carleton was the 3 seed as a wild card in 2006 and won.) Now, the result of the non-Carleton 1 seeds since 2007.


  • 2017, Ryerson: silver medal
  • 2016, Ryerson: bronze medal
  • 2014: Ottawa, silver medal
  • 2011: UBC, lost semifinal
  • 2007: Concordia, lost quarterfinal
There is no cause-and-effect, necessarily. But where Carleton coach Dave Smart and longtime assistant Rob Smart are Belichickian in a nice benevolent Canadian way, is that they think of every detail, and then the details of details.

Being in the 1/8/4/5 half of the draw typically means playing later on quarterfinals day, since the organizers will typically put a host school in the evening bloc for an attendance boost. On top of having a shorter turnaround, the 1 seed's potential semifinal opponent is already determined, so that team is getting a valuable viewing for game-planning purposes.

In this specific instance, the Dalhousie Tigers are already locked into playing the 8 p.m. quarterfinal on March 8, and based on their play of late, they will likely be the No. 8 seed too. But the Tigers under Rick Plato are a tough out in a one-and-done setting. In 2017 they took Ryerson to the wire in the semifinal, before losing 59-58. That's another anecdotal argument for not wanting to be the top seed.

Landing in the 2/7/3/6 half means playing early in the quarters, and possibly playing the first game on semifinal Saturday. Carleton (or Ryerson) did not create this structure, and Carleton (or Ryerson) should not apologize for figuring out something that is plausibly deniable.

The easiest fix would involve abolishing seeding and having a soccer-style Cup draw for the quarterfinal matchups. The four sport-conference champions go in Column A with the four auto berth winners, host team and wild card in Column B. Stream the random drawing on the social media platform of the moment. The lone modification would be that the two teams from the host conference cannot play in the quarterfinal. As far as scheduling, the host committee would get the ultimate say on whether to put both local-interest schools in the evening bloc, or split them between daytime and evening.

After the quarters, hold another draw for semifinal matchups. Sometimes the best game in the last four would be one of the semifinals, sure. Nothing guarantees as a good game, and like one of the Los Angeles Rams said on Sunday, "At the end of the day, we're all going to die."

If that seems like a dark segue, well, it is just a way of intimating that there is a goodly chance of OUA West being shut out of nationals, like in 2017. Is that a barbed way of saying neither of the unbeatens to the east
  1. Ryerson (OUA champion). Carleton, presuming it wins out, will already have what it wanted, which is being the highest OUA playoff seed and thus hosting the second team out of the OUA West in a play-in game.
  2. Carleton (OUA finalist). In terms of rooting for chaos, there is a good storyline with with the two semifinalists out of OUA West. Laurier has a one-game lead over Brock with four games left. Brock swept that season series, but likely needs to win out over a remaining slate that includes a trip to play two against Lakehead in Thunder Bay.

    Laurier had a one-possession defeat against Carleton and lost by 45 points at home against Ryerson. Naturally, the Golden Hawks are more likely at this point to face Ryerson in the crossover semifinal.

    The 2 and 3 seeds are pretty much interchangeable, based on whether the 7 seed is from Ontario or the west.
  3. Calgary (Canada West champion). Going with the chalk, but might we pause and just appreciate how Canada West's holistic unbalanced schedule also creates the avenues for cynicism, chaos and schadenfreude?

    To apply a Theo Epstein-ism, "we don't know shit," and the grab-bag schedule of 10 two-game series with an RPI-offs chaser amplifies that. It becomes easy to cast aspersions on an undefeated team, because it's always easier to troll from three provinces away. Not to pick on the Dinos, especially since David Kapinga is one of those only-in-Canada stories you root for, but since the calendar flipped to 2019 they have played only one team that earned a top-8 seeding in the Canada West playoffs. Alberta managed a home split at Saskatchewan and also swept UBC at home.

    So, yeah, in a one-game showdown, maybe Alberta can beat Calgary. As the second team out of Canada West, the Dinos would probably land in the 4 vs. 5 quarterfinal.
  4. Saint Mary's (AUS champion). The eastern Huskies play in the 80s and 90s on the regular, yet no one averages 15 points or 30 minutes per game, with Kemar Alleyne topping the stats with 14.3 points and 27.6 minutes. Johneil Johnson is the second-leading scorer and he does not start. That augurs well for having the depth to compete in a three-game tournament.

    Saint Mary's could be perfectly cromulent No. 3 seed if things don't work out for Calgary. The Huskies would also be high up in the wild-card queue.
  5. Alberta (Canada West finalist). That 3-1 mark over their Saskatchewan/UBC weekends suggests they're gaining momentum going into the playoffs.
  6. Concordia (RSEQ champion). Someone has to represent Quebec.
  7. Brock (wild card). The real At-Large Apocalypse would involve the committee having to pick between Calgary and Saint Mary's. As it stands, it is likely to boil down again to the third-place teams out of OUA and Canada West again, and there will be apoplexy run amuck, relatively speaking.

    Far be it that the national organization could get out in front of the problem by providing an Explainer ahead of time so people are generally aware of who is first in the wild-card queue. It will never stop people from being angry at being left out, but what is the harm in treating people like adults by letting them in on how these decisions that affect them emotionally are made?

    Just a thought. In terms of narrative, Laurier is probably the pick.

    Okay, so about that Brock pick.

    Based on the chalk dust, those third-place games could involve Brock and Laurier, and UBC and Saskatchewan. Brock, as noted, has swept Laurier. Saskatchewan split a series on UBC's floor in November. Extrapolating from there, it comes down to Brock or Saskatchewan. It will take a couple weeks to see who best meets the selection criteria for the wild-card berth.
  8. Dalhousie (host). Well, this was an easy one to slot. Dal will be a tough out on March 8.
Anyway, this is mostly drawn from recent history and a knowledge of how the seeding tends to play out. This exercise is truly double-blind since, late reveal, I haven't seen any games. Those of you who are privileged enough to have a work schedule that accommodates seeing games in the wild, please come forward with rational, reasonable explanations of why a frontrunner could get exposed in the playoffs, or if there is a darkhorse who could wrangle an auto berth. It is open season for that.

NOTE TO READERS


Long story short, in the parlance of our time, load management accounts for the lack of posting over the last three months. It probably seems as though I ghosted people after the end of OUA's football regular season, but then again, what was the point in chronicling the predictable exercise that was the Purple-Pony Paramilitary Squad marching to another Yates Cup, and the even more predictable exercise of another Vanier between the evil empires of Canada's Two Solitudes? Bâillement, Bubba.

Where to begin? The best ketchup answer comes down to changing work commitments and living with at least two mood disorders, clinical depression and social anxiety.

On the first count, the timeline of the last 3½ years have been heavy. From mid-2015 to fall 2016 I was in what I called a "self-funderemployment" phase. After a stint with a national website ran its course, fortunately there were enough empathetic people in my corner that I was able to find enough freelance work to pay the rent.

Another lifeline came in the form of an opportunity to move to Toronto and work at an editing job that was enriching, but also met the definition of precarious work. It was very much a living-to-work deal — it happens — and in time, that too ran its course. Ultimately, I landed in another copy-editing job that involved moving to Hamilton. The pay is better and the work is of a nature where one can stay engaged for eight hours per day and clock out without taking it home, A trade-off is that involves working evenings, including the Fridays and Saturdays when the bulk of the OUA schedule occurs.

That brings us to the Black Dog in the room.


Suffice to say, changing cities twice in fewer than two years is not the greatest thing for someone with a mood disorder. Loneliness and isolation are, indeed, privilege problems. But they can contribute to an automatic thought of "no one cares what I think" when it comes to wanting to write. The unrelenting burst water pipe of our digital world also makes it tough to function as a creative.

Points being, the spirit is still there to sell snake oil about university sport. The strength to commit to it is not. Coverage on the regular is best left to the people on the ground. There is still a place to provide a hater's guide to nationals seeding in basketball and hockey over the next month and suggest reforms that we know will damn well never happen.
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