Bracketology: Say Elo to Carleton at No. 1 over Calgary? Probably, and for the sake of scheduling, go Dalhousie Tigers

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
CarletonCarletonCarletonCalgaryCarleton
CalgaryRyersonRyersonCarletonCalgary
RyersonCalgaryCalgaryRyersonRyerson
UBCUBCUBCSMUUBC
SMUSMUAlberta*Alberta*SMU
Alberta*Alberta*Ottawa*UBCAlberta*
DalDalSMUDalDal
Ottawa*Ottawa*Laurier*Ottawa*Laurier*
Laurier*Laurier*ConcordiaConcordiaOttawa*
ConcordiaUNB*DalUNB*UNB*
UNB*ConcordiaUNB*Laurier*
*not qualified

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


Whether the seeding committee takes each ranking on face value or looks at other factors is up to them. (As an aside, on a societal level, it is appalling how much we increasingly seem to conditioned to take everything at face value, with a case in point being the nothing-burger that is a semantic argument between the prime minister's office and a former attorney general, with smart people siding with the latter because the media tells them that is a way to feel woke.)

For instance, Elo Rating has issues with properly accounting for margin of victory when favourites win, as FiveThirtyEight explained in 2014. In our case, Carleton's 52.1-point gain in Elo points for defeating Ryerson by 20 was much larger than the Rams' minus-25.2 penalty. But Calgary's upgrade and UBC's downgrade, 15.6 points in either direction, was the same after Calgary won by 15 points in the Canada West championship game.

The largest considerations for the seeding committee are probably whether they will want to avoid the possibility of intra-conference semifinals such as Carleton-Ryerson or UBC-Calgary. It has been known to come into play. The promoter might prefer grouping Dalhousie and Saint Mary's for the evening quarterfinals on Friday but it's not up to them.

So here's a bracket that assumes a Saint Mary's win in the AUS championship game.
  1. Carleton (OUA champion). Are they still good? Yes.
  2. Calgary (Canada West champion). There were tweets about David Kapinga being shaken up on Saturday. He still played 37 minutes.
  3. Ryerson (OUA No. 2). The Rams might be having an almost Raptors-esque pattern down the stretch. Two losses in the league, then do what needed to be done to qualify — beat Ottawa, win at Laurier — and then have a troubling outcome. 
  4. Saint Mary's (AUS champion). Is there a case for them at No. 3? Only if one makes too much out of Ryerson looking human.
  5. UBC (Canada West No. 2). The first quarterfinal on Friday is at 12 noon Atlantic, or 8 a.m. Pacific, so the T-Birds should not be in that one. 
  6. Concordia (RSEQ champion). Thank you, Acadia Rule.

    Still wincing from the combined 33.6 per cent effective shooting the Stingers and UQAM combined for in the first half on Saturday. Did they leave a gym door open?
  7. Dalhousie (host). Again, a 7-8 flip with the host and wild card. The Tigers are No. 7 in Canada, and holding off UNB in the AUS semifinal when the Varsity Reds had their season on the line seems impressive.
  8. Alberta (wild card). Top team in four of the nine categories used in the at-large selection, and tied for first in a fifth.

    Omen alert: Alberta faced Carleton in the 2008 quarterfinal. 
If Dalhousie wins against Saint Mary's, by rule the Tigers must be in the top 6. Those who have been through the corn maze that is this clusterfudge of rules on top of rules probably has, "Results of regional playoffs must be respected" and "a conference champion seeded 6 cannot be flipped to 7th" memorized.

That should create this seeding:
  1. Carleton
  2. Calgary
  3. Ryerson
  4. UBC
  5. Dalhousie (AUS champion)
  6. Concordia
  7. Saint Mary's (AUS rep)
  8. Alberta (wild card)
Noon tipoff for Concordia-Ryerson on Friday. Given the state of Canada's transportation infrastructure and the location of the Halifax airport, take a late flight on Thursday out of Montreal or Toronto. The 6 a.m. flight on Friday is too risky. For disclosure's sake, the five ratings:
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