The lingering overthink with the bracket for the women's Final 8 is spurred by presumptive at-large team Calgary being second nationally in the Ratings Report. Canada West runner-up Alberta is eighth in the Ratings Report, and fifth among the teams likely to compete next week. But the at-large team has received a lower seed than its conference's qualifiers for the last five years, so that should inform the confidence interval with putting the Dinos below their provincial-brethren Pandas.

The avoiding-same-conference-matchups principle heavily dictates this stab at the bracket. Ryerson handled Brock in a recent regular-season game and should be a fairly heavy favourite in the Critelli Cup, with a high seed at stake. If there are no further surprises, the bracket ought to look like this.   
Sometimes a bug creates a feature. Some might also joke Western celebrating after cashing in on unearned privilege is very on-brand.

The Mustangs undeniably did the work in dramatic and difficult fashion with a 104-103 instant-classic overtime win against Laurier in their OUA semifinal game on Wednesday. The atmosphere in London, Ont., and the game's finish probably did more for the profile of basketball on those campuses than a pair of decisive Carleton and Ottawa wins would have on Wednesday. It is a net positive for the conference if one believes exciting league playoffs are a goal in a market-driven sport.

But a less visual truth is that the OUA divisional alignment and playoff format set the bar unequally. Western, as the top team in the OUA West, was seeded higher for the playoffs than Ottawa, Ryerson and Laurentian, who all either topped or matched the Mustangs' 16-6 conference record and also beat Western on the floor. One can credit the OUA for embracing the arbitrary chaos of a one-off, single-elimination tournament and also say it needs a tweak. As others have pointed out, imagine the outcry if Ottawa was not the Final 8 host team?

It is also likely to contribute to a scenario where the sixth-best team in Ontario's regular season ends up seeded No. 5 at the Final 8. Before explaining that, though, it is worth pondering how, say, alien visitors would seed five of these six basketball teams an eight-team tournament.

From U Sports Hoops' Rating Report:


One does not envy the seeding committee, clearly. They have a weird situation where the likely at-large and host teams have a better body of work than three berth winners. Does Carleton really deserve to play Calgary instead of Bishop's or UQAM? Does Dalhousie, assuming an AUS title for the Tigers, really deserve to play Ottawa instead of Western?

No and no, but that's where we are.
Carleton-Calgary at the Final 8 is going to happen two rounds earlier than we have been used to seeing recently, once all the dust settles.

The penultimate weekend of conference playoffs was choice, if you value unlikelihoods. First UBC crossed the Rockies to upset Calgary and earn a tournament ticket. Laurier and Ali Sow, the OUA's bracket buster, won two road games in a row to set up a violet clash (sorry) against Western to decide who gets to represent the part of Ontario beyond Barrhaven. Thirdly, Alberta was seconds from being thrown into the at-large berth consideration hopper on Sunday, until Brody Clarke made an overtime-forcing shot that gave the Golden Bears the overtime momentum to outlast  Manitoba on Sunday.

Alberta, UBC and host Ottawa are confirmed for nationals. Calgary, by my count, would be the first team in five out of the 10 at-large berth criteria once Carleton and Dalhousie earn berths.

The Ryerson-Ottawa play-in game on Wednesday is a do-or-done affray for both Top 5 teams, since Calgary's defeat in the Canada West playoffs has put the Dinos at the top of the at-large queue.

The wild-card criteria categories for the women's basketball Final 8 is fairly straightforward, consisting of (1) winning percentage in all games; (2) RPI for non-conference and regular-season games; (3) playoff advancement, how many wins from claiming an automatic berth and (4) Simple Ranking System score for all non-conference and regular-season games, excluding playoffs. Any team which is the only one to lead multiple categories after the conference playoffs gets the berth.

That means it would go to the Dinos, who contrived to lose to Alberta despite attempting 42 more shots from the floor than the Pandas in an 80-78 game last Friday. Calgary is first in Category 2. In Category 1, their .862 all-games winning percentage is also higher than what any of the four OUA semifinalists would have after a defeat on Wednesday.

The two big conferences are posing challenges. Out west, Calgary wrested the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs from Saskatchewan on the margin of an all-time character win on the Huskies' court on the last full weekend of January, but Saskatchewan is well, Saskatchewan, and grades out No. 1 in the ratings report.

Ottawa moved up to No. 1 nationally and has also clinched first overall in OUA, as far as I can tell. If they rate a 

So at first glance, giving Canada West the Nos. 1 and 3 slots with the OUA's berth winners going 2 and 4 makes the most sense. Ryerson and Western both have a better wild-card case than UBC, whose RPI-determined route to nationals includes a potential conference semifinal/play-in game at Saskatchewan.
At this stage, we know Carleton, Dalhousie and Alberta are sitting pretty, conference playoffs seeding-wise. Ottawa is both No. 4-ranked nationally, the fourth playoff seed in their own league and has no grounds to complain about the latter, since they are the Final 8 host team.

Far be it to point out that with three clear powers in east, west and central Canada and a competitive host team, U Sports could just borrow the Memorial Cup format and stage a 10-day tournament over the March Break to decide the national champion. It would require changing a lot of travel plans and student-athletes missing more school, but it still might be neater and tidier than debating Manitoba vs. Ryerson for the wild-card berth. And all of that will be tidier than the Iowa Caucus.

Carleton, of course, has actually lost a game, which creates a two-for-one situation: it confirms they will win another championship since Carleton, according to lore, does better when it bleeds their own blood and foments a winter-of-discontent vibe. And the cottage industry of OMG-the-Ravens-are-vulnerable narratives gets to keep the lights on for a few weeks. The fact that sixth man extraordinaire Isiah Osborne only played 24 minutes in Carleton's recent tilts with Ryerson (88-82 win on Jan. 25) and Ottawa (68-67 loss last Friday) due to injuries and foul trouble does seem like an important data point.

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