Bronze Baby Bracketology, Proved Me Wrong Kids edition: McMaster, Saskatchewan go in as conference champs

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.

It can never be over-reiterated that every Canadian university hoops cultist owes Martin Timmerman bottomless thanks for U Sports Hoops, which is basketball brain candy. It has made all of information-rich with knowing the true performance of teams. So before taking a half-educated guess on how the Final 8 will be seeded after the Memorial-Acadia championship game, it might be best to show where the qualified teams, AUS finalists and "one short" at-large candidates stack up in the five rankings Timmerman tabulates.

Those are, as you know.
Here is how the teams rank, top to bottom, in each category. At-large candidates have a star (*) beside them.

Elo RatingPPPDiffSRSRPITop 10
Lethbridge*Carleton*Carleton*Carleton*Cape Breton

One of my "so this is the hill you choose to die on, really, well not really" hobby-horses it would be good for the game if OUA and the RSEQ had inter-conference regular-season games. There is no political will and making that happen.

However, playing Quebec teams is a factor in SRS. Ahead of the auto-berth games and the Critelli Cup, Ottawa had a strength-of-schedule factor of 2.18 while McMaster was minus-0.86. That difference stems somewhat from non-conference scheduling: Ottawa had five games with the RSEQ and McMaster had one (against McGill, on a neutral floor in Toronto).

So one suspects Mac's dramatic win won't budge at least one ranking as much as perhaps it should. However, the tournament is still seeded by humans. Here's that back-of-the-envelope bracket, at long last. 
  1. Laval (RSEQ champion). Hard to deny a team that has beaten everyone.
  2. Saskatchewan (Canada West champion). Grade out well across the board in the analytics, have the reputation of showing well at nationals.
  3. McMaster (OUA champion). The Acadia rule is your friend, Marauders.
  4. Ottawa (OUA No. 2). Lose a conference final at home and this happens.
  5. Regina (Canada West No. 2). d
  6. Acadia (AUS champion). They have Haley McDonald, so they beat Memorial. Or not.
  7. Concordia wild card). There is no mortal lock for the wild card. The Calgary Dinos are above the the Stingers in most of the criteria. That is not what matters. First off, parse how the rule is written:
    All teams will be considered for the at-large berth and ranked in each category. If any team is the only team to lead two, three or four of these categories following the conclusion of conference playoffs, it will be awarded the at-large berth. If no team leads more categories than all other teams, the berth will be awarded to the tied team who has the highest winning percentage vs. the Top 12 teams in the final RPI.
    The four categories, with their leaders:

    • Winning percentage in all games: Cape Breton, .828
    • RPI for non-conference and league games (not playoffs): UPEI
    • Playoff advancement, how many wins away from automatic qualifier: Calgary, Concordia, Carleton, Lakehead, Lethbridge, Memorial
    • SRS rating for non-conference and league games (not playoffs): Concordia, 21.72
    • Concordia is first in a category and tied in another. By rule, that (groan) points to the Stingers getting the berth. And that's only after really re-reading how the rules are written. It's not so clear that the most deserving team will be rewarded.

      The reason the Stingers grade out highest in SRS is the Laval factor — i.e., four league games with Laval, and four league games against everyone else who had four league games with Laval. Their SoS (strength of schedule) factor is 8.07, which is by far the lowest in the five-team RSEQ, but also far higher than anyone in the rest of Canada, with Acadia a distant sixth nationally at 2.88 So, yes, Concordia should get the wild card.

      Whether this is fair is another discussion. The "Winning percentage against teams in Top 12 of RPI" tiebreaker appears to be out of play. Carleton went 4-6 and Calgary went 3-6, while Concordia was 2-6. The Stingers' quality wins were at Carleton on the first night of the Ravens' home tournament, when Carleton was breaking in four new starters, and against UPEI at home. There's a good possibility that Concordia is a fine team trying to break the surly bonds of a shallow league with a Gallic juggernaut or two. That seems to be the lot of every Stingers team, so good on them.
  8. Ryerson (host). Easily flip to 7 if it's not Concordia in the wild card..
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