The headline of the blog references the Brandon men’s basketball team, which becomes the first team officially eliminated from consideration for this feature. After losing (expectedly) two games on the west coast to UBC and Victoria, the Bobcats have put themselves in a position that, from here on out, they won’t be mentioned in this space set aside to discuss playoff hopefuls. At 3-11 and losers of six of their last seven, the Bobcats are indeed done.
On to the movers and shakers of another week in the Canada West:
Manitoba men’s volleyball
What they did: Swept Trinity Western; moved to 10-6.
Why it’s big: No one had a better weekend in all of Canada West — heck, maybe even the CIS — than the Bisons. Wallowing in the muck of a dry spell, the Bisons rallied with their two biggest victories — and trust, they were HUGE — on the road at Trinity Western. The Spartans had their 26-match home win streak snapped the weekend before by Brandon, and Manitoba added to that misery by gutting out two five-set victories over the nation’s No. 3-ranked team. By doing so, the Bisons moved themselves back into the upper tier of the conference and better positioned themselves for a chance to host in the first round of playoffs. Had they taken a couple of defeats, they’d be tied with Winnipeg at 8-8 and in a serious fight just to make the playoffs. As it stands, there are now four teams tied at 10-6 behind conference leader Alberta and second-place TWU. It’s likely only two of those four teams will earn a hosting spot. The next three weeks are going to be interesting.
Winnipeg women’s volleyball
What they did: Swept Saskatchewan; moved to 6-10
Why it’s big: After an 0-5 start and some tumultuous moments within that, the Wesmen have quietly put together a more than respectable run back into contention by going 6-5 since. They’re still on the outside looking in for the playoff picture, but after Manitoba’s two losses at Trinity Western on the weekend, the Wesmen are quite surprisingly just a match out of the final playoff spot with three weekends to play. They close with a real toughy against Alberta, followed by another challenge against UBCO with very winnable matches against Thompson Rivers to close the season. The question is, will three wins in those final six be enough? Or do they have to hope for a couple of sweeps to stack enough Ws to get in the second season?
Manitoba men’s hockey
What they did: Split with Calgary; took three of possible four points to move to 13-5-4
Why it’s big: When taking on a team that was tied with you in points in the standings, you’re dang right you’ll gladly take three points out of four in a doubleheader weekend. With that, the Bisons moved into second place in the Canada West tied with Saskatchewan. The road is now paved nicely for the Bisons, whose final six games come against three of the four teams that make up the bottom half of the conference. U of M has earned its position, to be sure, having not lost in regulation since Nov. 16.
Winnipeg men’s volleyball
What they did: Split with Saskatchewan; now 8-8
Why it’s big: The Wesmen could have — and probably should have — been a bigger winner this weekend but blew a 2-0 lead in sets on Friday and lost a five-setter to Saskatchewan. As it was, Winnipeg regrouped nicely on Saturday and scored a win in four sets to earn a quality split over the nation’s No. 8-ranked team. The Wesmen sit in the final playoff spot with undefeated Alberta up next, but Thompson Rivers and UBC-Okanagan — a combined 8-24 this season — follow that. If they take care of what they should, they’ll be in.
Manitoba and Winnipeg men’s basketball
What they did: Both swept Mount Royal and UNBC.
Why it’s big: Should probably just keep these two together (as I did last week) for the rest of the season, because their results always seem to mirror each other. The Wesmen can count themselves fortunate for digging what looked to be a sure loss out of the fire on Saturday and avoiding an upset at Mount Royal. Trailing by 15 heading into the fourth quarter, the Wesmen outscored Mount Royal (3-11) 35-11 in the final frame to avoid a dubious defeat and improve to 11-4, good for sole possession of second place, percentage points ahead of second-place Saskatchewan. Likewise, Manitoba stayed in the win column with two road wins and distanced itself from Lethbridge for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Prairie Division. Winnipeg needed those wins — with Calgary, Saskatchewan and Alberta in succession starting this weekend — and Manitoba is gladly taking the Ws, too, what with Lethbridge, Alberta and Saskatchewan due up for them. Oh, and no one should forget the season-closing game: Winnipeg-Manitoba at IGAC. And likely with a lot on the line.
Brandon women’s volleyball
What they did: Split with Alberta; now 6-10
Why it’s big: The Bobcats could have easily been knocked off this list of teams to pay attention to with a poor showing at home this weekend, but as it was their impressive split with No. 3 Alberta kept their faint hopes of the playoffs alive. They’re in a similar situation to Winnipeg in that they’ve got one doozie weekend still left (vs No. 1 UBC), one sweep-worthy weekend (at Saskatchewan) and a toughy against UBCO. And, like the Wesmen, they have to wonder how many wins must they get out of those final six to give themselves a chance. Considering what Manitoba has left, they might very well need five. Still, the life support system remains pumping in the Wheat City.
Manitoba women’s volleyball
What they did: Swept by Trinity Western; now 7-9
Why it’s big: The spiral continues for the Bisons, who’ve now lost four in a row and six of their last seven. They’re still in sole possession of the final playoff spot but, as mentioned earlier, now there’s two teams hot on their tail whereas a week ago really there was barely one. Any worries, however, can be tempered by the fact Regina and Saskatchewan lay ahead on the schedule and those should be four automatic wins. Alberta is mixed in between, but there’s no reason why the Bisons shouldn’t be finding at least four wins in their final six.
Brandon men’s volleyball
What they did: Swept by Alberta; now 10-6
Why it’s big: This status for the Bobcats is truly not a knock on what they did, but rather just an assessment of how things shook down. With Manitoba’s big sweep and Brandon unable to take one off the No. 1 team in the nation at home, the Bobcats were thrust into that four-team logjam. With Brandon going winless, it meant Manitoba, Saskatchewan and UBC all made up ground on the Bobcats. But with Saskatchewan and UBC both on the schedule, the Bobcats have a great chance to put their foot down.
Winnipeg women’s basketball
What they did: Swept at UNBC, Mount Royal; now 5-10
Why it’s big: Losers of their last four, the Wesmen had to find a way to get one (preferably two) out of this road trip against sub-.500 teams. Instead they sit six points back of Saskatchewan for fourth in the Prairie Division and have Calgary, Alberta and the Huskies — three of the top four teams in the division — among their final seven games. The young Wesmen are about out of lives.
Manitoba women’s hockey
What they did: Swept by Calgary; now 9-10-3
Why it’s big: If you weren’t clear on this before, the Calgary Dinos are a pretty darn good team. So the fact the Bisons went 0-for this weekend against Hayley and Co. isn’t an indictment on the Bisons in anyway. In fact, keeping Wickenheiser off the scoresheet and taking a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss in which they were outshot 35-15, should be worth something. It isn’t, however, worth anything in the standings. But U of M remains comfortably in a playoff position with Lethbridge, UBC and Regina left to deal with on the schedule. With the top two seeds earning first-round byes, the Bisons have to look at getting a string of wins together here late and perhaps move into the third or fourth position for a first-round hosting honour.
Dropped out: Brandon men’s basketball
Not receiving votes: Brandon women’s basketball; Manitoba women’s basketball.