Men's basketball bracketology: Nightmare Scenarios edition

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.

Rather than write a bracket — I cannot state with certainty who will win the RSEQ and receive the No. 6 seed and neither can you — it seems better to go through the current Top 10 and list the best/worst case for each team, and the commensurate effect on the rest of the bracket.
  1. Carleton (OUA East). Carleton has not lost an auto-berth game since 2006 (and they still won the national championship as a wild card). However, these Ravens' two lowest offensive outputs have both come against the Ottawa Gee-Gees and big man Marlon Kordrostami. The city rivals are on a collision course to meet again in the OUA semifinal at the Ravens'  Nest on Feb. 26.

    Suppose Ottawa wins. Carleton would have to host a bronze-medal game as a play-in to the Final 8, but their overall strong season would have to be balanced against the reality of being the de facto second qualifier out of OUA.
  2. Dalhousie (AUS). Could move into the No. 1 seed by winning out down east while Carleton takes on water in the OUA playoffs.

    Of course, the Atlantic is the lone conference across the country that requires its best and brightest to play in two neutral-floor, big-stage tournaments. Any of the things could happen. Dalhousie is ahead of Alberta in most at-large criteria, if it comes to that. They would merit a higher seeding than the RSEQ champion. But two smaller-sized eastern conferences both have to be in the top six, so yes, Dalhousie has as much chance to be a No. 1 seed as a No. 7.
  3. Alberta (Canada West). Canada West has not had its champion draw a No. 3 seed since 2014, when the very same Golden Bears were placed there behind Ottawa and Carleton.

    Alberta has the straightforward scenario of winning two games to qualify, and then winning Canada West to strengthen their seeding argument. Their potential auto-berth game opponents are Manitoba and Victoria, though, and neither smacks of a gimme. If Peak Alberta is on the floor, they will be fine.
  4. Calgary (Canada West). The Dinos' path includes a potential semifinal against either UBC or Saskatchewan. The Thunderbirds have been determined to be suspect, while the Dinos already beat Saskatchewan handily twice in Saskatoon. If Calgary wins a berth, it's hard to see them not being in the top four since they have been highly ranked all season.
  5. Ottawa (OUA East / host). Ottawa unlocked the Ignore at Your Peril badge by defeating Carleton last week. Before hosting the Final 8, there's a garnet-and-grey gauntlet for Calvin Epistola and cohorts. Ottawa has lost this season to both Laurentian and Ryerson, their most likely OUA quarterfinal opponents. The first-year bracket playoff format in OUA also means facing Carleton in the semifinal. Survive that somehow, and Ottawa most likely goes on the road for the Wilson Cup, although that is no certainty.

    If Ottawa regresses or just has an off night at the worst time, they end up No. 7 or No. 8, with their seeding subject to flipping in order to avoid Carleton in the quarterfinal. There is no way the rivals will be on the same side of the draw.
  6. Laurentian (OUA East). Should we start a petition to let the Voyageurs become the sixth team in the RSEQ? They have a French team name and everything. Just the mere fact they have a name, for now at least, puts them one up on McGill.

    Laurentian grades out as the fifth-best team in OUA per the Ratings Report, where OUA East brethren Queen's also ranks ahead of McGill at No. 11.

    The Laurentian-Ryerson game on Feb. 15 will decide fifth place in OUA, but the vanquishee that night might stand to benefit. They will, in most likelihood, go to Western for the 6 vs. 3 OUA quarterfinal instead of being in the 5 vs. 4 game against Ottawa.
  7. Ryerson (OUA Central). Ryerson will need to win two road playoff games in order to get into wild-card consideration. A fifth-place Ryerson faces a route through Ottawa and Carleton. A sixth-place Ryerson will have to go through Western and Lakehead, although not necessarily in the order. 

    Explaining a scenario where both Ryerson and Manitoba's progress stopped at the conference semifinal stage requires bullet points within the listicle to determine who has priority for the wild card, based on the 10-point criteria that Martin Timmerman is tracking:

    • Regular-season conference record: Manitoba
    • Strength of schedule (from RPI): Ryerson
    • Games versus other teams under berth consideration or already qualified: Manitoba, but in pencil. The Bisons' qualifying games consist of going 1-1 against Saskatchewan. Does that still count if Saskatchewan is knocked out in the Canada West quarterfinals? Ryerson is 1-4 and that win will stand since it was against Ottawa. Even a 1-4 record rates ahead of 0-0.
    • Record in CIS non-conference games: Manitoba is 4-2 and Ryerson is 2-1, for an identical .667 win percentage
    • Average Top 10 ranking after Nov 15, 2019: Manitoba, but Ryerson is currently ranked higher
    • Conference game record versus teams with greater than .800 winning percentage: Ryerson
    • Conference game record versus teams with greater than .650 winning percentage: Manitoba, with a Sharpie
    • Conference game record versus teams with greater than .500 winning percentage: Manitoba
    • Conference game record versus teams with less than .500 winning percentage: Ryerson
    • Playoff performance: TBD

    That comes out as 5-3-1 for Manitoba, but Ryerson might be able to flip the third and fifth criteria.
  8. Lakehead (OUA Central). On Jan. 24, the Thunderwolves kept Laurentian to 59 points and 35.8 per cent effective shooting, while Voyageurs star Kadre Gray had almost as many turnovers (12) as shot attempts (13). That Lakehead team is the one which controls their destiny for finishing second in Ontario and making the southerners make a playoff trip to Thunder Bay.

    However, their Final 8 resumé is dog-eared. In their five games, Lakehead has allowed an average of 84.8 points, including 90-plus in last weekend's road defeats at Western and Windsor. Even a quarterfinal against Queen's seems perilous, typed the guy whose capacity for self-delusion has him convinced that The Gaels Are Actually Good. Has anyone noticed Queen's is 9-1 against the OUA Central and West?

  9. UBC (Canada West). The long and short of it for the the Lotuslanders is that they have no wild-card case to speak of, so it is beat-Calgary-or-bust for the Thunderbirds.

    Is it trolling to point out that the recent precedent for a team crossing the Rockies to win a Canada West semifinal in Calgary's Jack Simpson Gym was Thompson Rivers beating UBC in 2016?
  10. Manitoba (Canada West). Eighteenth nationally in both RPI and SRS while Ryerson is seventh and sixth, respectively, but hey, regionalism!
Also Receiving Votes, if humans still voted in the poll
  •  Western (OUA West). Mustangs guard Nikola Farkic leads OUA in both assists and steals and, on top of that, has a 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. None of the conference's other top 10 playmakers have a ratio above 2. He is pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good, but leaven that with the acknowledgement his team faced Guelph, Waterloo and Algoma twice apiece.

    Western still has a mathematical possibility of slipping past Lakehead to finish second in the OUA, which means avoiding Ryerson in the quarterfinal. Given that Tanor Ngom had 23 points, 23 rebounds and three blocked shots when the Rams beat Western in January, it seems incumbent that the Mustangs try to avoid that matchup problem.
Someone has to win Quebec. It's in the rules.
  •  And the RSEQ title was captured by, I do not know, McGill?
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