Men's basketball bracketology: A flipping complicated edition

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 second half of the bracket is going to be the antithesis of fun. The seeding committee will likely have to arrange host Ottawa, the RSEQ champion who by rule cannot be lower than six, the wild-card berth recipient and the second OUA representative.


The seeding rules state, "(T)eams 5 through 8 can only be flipped one spot (up or down) to try to avoid first round match-ups of teams from the same sport conference." It does not spell out whether that might extend to avoiding same-conference semifinal matchups, or namely a same-city matchup. Does that mean we cannot factor for common sense, which is that would make little practical sense to have Carleton and Ottawa both in the 1/8/4/5 half of the bracket when the tournament is in Ottawa?

If it's possible, the RSEQ champion might bump up to the 4 vs. 5 quarterfinal so Ottawa could be in the 2/7/3/6 grouping, away from presumptive No. 1 Carleton. That also creates a potential need to flip the 7 and 8 seeds with Calgary and the OUA's second qualifier, even if it ends up being Laurier.

That creates this most likely scenario:
  1. Carleton (OUA champion). The Ravens get the benefit of the doubt when they host Ottawa in a play-in game. Carleton has not lost one of those in 14 years.
  2. Dalhousie (AUS champion). Big-game experience will count for a lot at the AUS Final 6.
  3. Alberta (Canada West champion). Probably glad they do not have to see Manitoba's Rashaun Browne for a while! The UBC-Alberta Canada West final should decide seeding.
  4. UBC (Canada West automatic). Thunderbirds fifth-years Manroop Clair and Jadon Cohee weren't ready to finish their careers. The hypothetical bad news
  5. McGill (RSEQ champion). This makes sense if the flipping rules are extrapolated to cover a potential semifinal, as noted.
  6. Ottawa (host). Another brilliant bit of lawyered! in the seeding rules is section 4.2.4.5, starting in part: "The schedule will be set such that the Friday evening draw will include one of the host area teams." That might mean Ottawa can opt to play in the daytime draw and have a more restful Friday night than Carleton. 
  7. Western (OUA automatic). Laurier lost all four regular-season games that Sow was unable to play, including two close contests against the Mustangs in November. The Golden Hawks are 9-3 since the start of January, so this isn't a gimme for Western.
  8. Calgary (wild card). The flu is a momentum killer.
There are a few alternates worth pondering:

Scenario B: Ottawa defeats Carleton in the OUA semifinal and captures the Wilson Cup, while everything else goes to form. The OUA has said it will hold a special bronze-medal game if Ottawa reaches the Wilson Cup, which would give Carleton a second chance to qualify.
  1. Dalhousie
  2. Ottawa
  3. Alberta
  4. Carleton
  5. UBC
  6. RSEQ champion
  7. Calgary
  8. Western / Laurier winner
Scenario C: Someone, anyone, defeats Dalhousie in the AUS final on Sunday and Tigers get the wild card. Keeping the Tigers third would make the most sense and UBC gets into the top four ahead of an OUA semifinalist Ottawa. The Gee-Gees then have an all-time Chips on Both Shoulders quarterfinal against Alberta.
  1. Carleton
  2. Alberta
  3. Dalhousie (wild card)
  4. UBC
  5. AUS champion
  6. RSEQ champion
  7. Ottawa
  8. Western / Laurier winner
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