Earlier today I posted my own bracket for how I thought the CIS men’s basketball seedings were going to play out and, when they were officially announced around dinner hour Central time, there were a few things done differently than what I had predicted.
First off, as I broke down yesterday, the biggest question mark was going to be whether the at-large berth went to Lakehead or Saskatchewan and, in the end — rightly so, the Thunderwolves got the lone wild card.
Another thing happened today that created a ripple effect and that was Acadia beating St. Francis Xavier in the AUS final, meaning you had to now figure out the merits of winning a conference for a team that wasn’t ranked all season and then what to do about X, which was a slight favourite heading into that game. In the end, Acadia’s win apparently did nothing for the Axemen, who won Sunday but still got slotted last. The AU win, however, did juggle some things in the middle of the lineup. Had St. FX won, you could have made an argument for the X-Men to move as high as No. 3 and that, in turn, would have pushed some teams down a spot.
Because of the small number of teams involved combined with a couple of CIS regulations (you can’t play in your conference in first round; when only two teams from a conference are represented, they are to be placed in opposite brackets), there isn’t a lot of flexibility with moving teams around. For instance, Ryerson is probably most deserving of the 8-seed, but with Carleton an absolute no-brainer 1-seed, the Rams can’t fall there. I have no problem with that.
The most curious decision for me, however, is vaulting Concordia to a 3-seed, which is essentially an eight-spot bump from where the Stingers were a week ago. A pretty lofty status for a team that beat only one plus-.500 team outside its conference all season (Ottawa) and finished 3-4 against teams with plus-.500 records. As you can see from the boys at The CIS Blog, neither I nor eight others had Concordia going that high.
It’s important to note that the at-large selection and the seeding as well are based on a body of work and not by something as simple as “this team lost to a better team.” If that were the case, then Saskatchewan would be dancing and the Former Nor’Westers would be finding something else to do in Thunder Bay this weekend.
The other team that won’t like its situation is Acadia, which has as its reward for winning a conference championship a date with the biggest CIS juggernaut of the 21st century. Yet, you’d be hard-pressed to make an argument for Acadia going any higher than eight, when you factor in Ryerson can’t drop and the fact that St. FX finished ahead of AU in the standings and was in the rankings all year. But if you can justify moving Concordia up seven spots to three, then the Axemen might be sitting there saying ‘why not us?’.
Concordia’s move also affected Lakehead, which I had in the three spot using a logic that, had X and LU both lost in regular season play, would the T-Wolves have dropped much more than a spot in the rankings? Maybe. Maybe not.
• • •
A quick rant, if I may.
Sources confirmed to me that not only were Lakehead and Saskatchewan the applicants for the at-large (no-brainers there), but Victoria also applied despite not winning a game at final four and finishing 2-3 in the post-season. Victoria is more than welcome to apply for the at-large berth — as are Thompson Rivers, Queen’s and Dalhousie, for all I care — but it’s similar to me applying to be the Lakers beat reporter at the L.A. Times right now. Sure, theoretically I could get it but I’m not packing my bags betting on it.
So my struggle is this: If the CIS has nine criteria that it uses to determine the at-large, why is the process every year debated and waited on? This isn’t the NCAA, where there’s plenty of teams trying to get off the bubble and it’s up to an entire committee to weigh many criteria cross-analyzed with many teams. It’s a cut and dry process that says Team A has the advantage in this many criteria and Team B has this many. A+B=C does it not? And yet the conference call features reps from each conference, plus the national coaches association president and it’s discussed and it takes more than two hours after the seedings and at-large call is complete to release the names.
When I see that there’s criteria for a selection, I question why more than one person even needs to be involved. One person can sit at their computer, crunch the numbers, add em up and tell us all who finished on top. Instead there’s this long process, discussion and secrecy all to grandly announce what anyone who looked at the criteria in the first place could have figured out.
I remember covering the Brandon Bobcats in 2008 when a similar situation took place. The Bobcats had finished 20-2 but failed to get a Canada West auto-berth and were thrown into the at-large pool with Acadia. The players and coaches convened on a Sunday afternoon at the gym and waited for the call to come through. Players sat on the gym floor and waited. The coaches holed themselves up in their office. And waited. I was there for reaction quotes, and so I waited too.
The players were on pins and needles hoping they still had more games to play and, while I empathized with the nervous times they were going through, I couldn’t help but think it was all an entirely pointless stress for them to go through. I couldn’t figure out what we were doing there. The numbers were stacked against Brandon. The math said it was Acadia’s wild card. The call eventually came, the players had to be notified that BU’s season was over and it was all based not on subjective opinion, but on indisputable, mathematical fact.
So what the hell was the point of this entire agonizing process?
Today Lakehead and Saskatchewan players all likely sat around waiting, feeling the same as the Bobcats did, and I still don’t know the answer to that question.