Way back in the year 2012, I wrote about the renewed rivalry of the Winnipeg Wesmen and Manitoba Bisons in men’s basketball.
The final paragraph: “But keep in mind, this isn’t the last time they see each other this season — Feb. 13. To close out the conference season. A game that could let us declare this rivalry officially resuscitated.”
A couple of months later, and now that the teams are in their final preparations for the season-ending tilt at U of M on Wednesday, one could argue that the game looms even larger than anyone would have predicted even back then when it was clear the Bisons and Wesmen were both making cases to be playoff teams.
In fact, that is my argument.
While I was pretty sure Manitoba and Winnipeg would be playing a pretty significant game this week, I would not have guessed this much would be riding on it — for everyone.
You see, because of the scheduling quirk that has the two playing in the middle of the week, instead of a traditional Friday or Saturday night, when the final buzzer sounds Wednesday it will let everyone else in the conference know, pretty much, what they have to do to get into the post-season.
I’m no Canada West historian, but I have been covering the league for the past 10 years and I’ll just say this season will go down as providing one of the most bizarre final weekends in the history of the conference.
Consider these facts and gander to the right at the official standings as your primer:
• Six teams are still in the running for a playoff spot.
• No team has secured a spot.
• The Alberta Golden Bears could finish first — or out of the playoffs.
• The Lethbridge Pronghorns, in sixth place, are still in contention.
• The Winnipeg Wesmen, out of a playoff spot as of last Friday morning, could finish second and host a first-round series.
• The Manitoba Bisons could do the same.
• Alberta/Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Calgary could all be tied at 14-8 at the end of the weekend.
So here’s the two must-know facts if you’re heading to IGAC on Wednesday. The Wesmen must win to have a hope of getting in. The Bisons don’t need to win, but they’d be advised to. Let’s look at the possibilities for the two local teams.
Eliminated with: A loss, plus a Calgary sweep of Lethbridge.
This scenario works thusly: Calgary would pull even with Manitoba at 14-8 then win on the second tiebreaker, which is record in the division. Calgary would be 9-5, while Manitoba would be 8-6 if this scenario plays out.
In with: A win.
At 14-7, holding the same amount of wins currently as the two teams ahead of them, no one can go in the backdoor to force the Bisons out.
Best vs Worst (case): Could be in second place and hosting a series. Could be at home.
Eliminated with: A loss.
By virtue of Calgary owning the head-to-head tiebreak, even a Calgary split with Lethbridge would pull the Dinos even with Winnipeg in the event of a Wesmen loss. Similarly, a Lethbridge sweep of Calgary doesn’t help the Wesmen either, as the Horns own the head-to-head on U of W as well.
In with: A win.
A win would give the Wesmen the season series 2-0 and bump them ahead of the Bisons and put them in regardless of what Calgary and Lethbridge do.
Best vs Worst (case): Could host with a win, a Saskatchewan sweep and a Calgary/Lethbridge split. Could have their first winning record since 1994 — and still not have enough.