Three OUA teams on one side of the bracket, Western-Ottawa in the 4-5 game, with the winner possibly facing No. 1-seeded Carleton in a semi-final, frankly, stinks on every conceivable level.
It stinks because it might hurt attendance for the national semi-final since the Ravens, if they win Friday, will face a team they have already beaten more than once this season. The perception might be out there that it's a fait accompli for Carleton (talk to any Raven for 10 seconds and you'll be disabused of that notion). If people don't come out for semi-final Saturday, they might not return Sunday for the final. It also stinks because it seems like there was more mind paid to last season's big Ontari-ario-rama in the semi-final than to how this season has unfolded.
It stinks because there is a clear double standard. The guideline that conference foes should not meet in the first round was followed for the women's Final 8, where Cape Breton ended up seeded No. 7 when there was a strong argument they were better than No. 6 Saskatchewan. It also stinks because it smacks of the petty regionalism which has held back university sports for far, far too long.
It is understandable if there's a backlash against Carleton for being in automatically as the host team. However, visiting it upon the heads of Ottawa and Western is absolutely brutal. Coach Dave DeAveiro's Gee-Gees and Brad Campbell's Mustangs (that's right, OOLF is sticking up for Country Club U; Queen's is more like a yacht club since Kingston has better sailing) at least rate a shot at the best of the rest of Canada and a chance to succeed or fail on their own merits. Both of them are Top 5 teams. Ottawa has just four losses since November, all of them vs. the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds for the Final 8. Western has only lost four, two to the No. 1 team. Give them a shot at someone from outside their province, just as a true test.
Brock did come in with 13 losses last season, but at least it rated such a chance as the third team coming out of the OUA, since it was the 7 seed. Where teams are seeded isn't as big as having good matchups.
You know the rest of the story. The Badgers beat a team from the West Coast, Western took out one from the East Coast, Carleton beat one from the Prairies and the semi-finals ended up being a big Ontar-ari-ariorama, three teams from Upper Canada and one from the Maritimes (Acadia). Far be it to think that led to some teeth-gnashing everywhere else in between Halifax and Vancouver.
(Irony: That petty regionalism is a big reason why UBC wants to join the NCAA. The T-Birds end up with Final 8 first-timers Dalhousie instead of either Concordia, Ottawa or Western, who might be a tougher matchup. Prove this alumnus wrong, Dal.)
There is no easy out for why, for one basketball tournament, the seedings are arranged so Canada West teams don't meet in the first round, and why for the other, it's set up so it cannot be an all-Ontario final. There might be some aspect of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing;
One conference, which has produced the national championship team six years running, has three of the Top 5 teams in the country. Two of its schools can sell 10,000 tickets for a regular-season game in the dead of January in the midst of the longest transit strike in their city's history. We should be proud, as Canadians, that we have built up our collegiate basketball to such a point and instead something like this happens. With all due respect, it is hard to understand the logic behind these choices, and I'll prefer to think there is more to due with that than it running counter to our choices from last night.
Here are the seedings. For point of comparison, here
- Carleton (Host/OUA champion)
- Calgary (Canada West champion)
- UBC (Canada West silver medallist)
- Western (OUA West champion)
- Ottawa (OUA bronze medallist)
- Dalhousie (AUS champion)
- Concordia (Quebec champion)
- St. Francis Xavier (wild card)
(Cross-posted to cisblog.ca.)