A bit more clarity became evident in the Canada West playoff picture this past weekend as the 4 impactful home-and-home series all resulted in somewhat-decisive sweeps and it appears that now 5 teams have comfortable holds on playoff spots, leaving four teams (Regina, Alberta, Victoria and Saskatchewan) battling for the final two spots.
At the top of the standings, Manitoba impressively finished their weekend sweep against Regina with a 77-63 win as 6’4″ Keith Omoerah (12 points, 18 rebounds last night) continues to flash his all-round game down the stretch and 6’6″ Jonathan Alexander, always a high potential paint-area player, starts to fulfill that promise. Inserted into the starting lineup as Manitoba played without CW rebounding leader Wyatt Anders, the athletic forward had a 12 point, 10 rebound double-double including 6 on the “o” glass and has scored in double figures in the past 3 games – all Bison victories. At 11-5 with games remaining against Winnipeg (home and home) and at last place Trinity Western, Bisons should get a first round bye and control their own destiny for the home court advantage in a CW quarter-final series. The Cougars (8-6) have an ultra-important home series with Victoria (7-9) next weekend before finishing at Calgary and home against Saskatchewan.
UBC dominated the Vikes, sending last season’s CW champions and CIS semi-final participants to their 9th loss in their past 11 league games. Vic can still make it to 11 wins by sweeping Regina next weekend and then Brandon at home in three weeks.
Winnipeg swept Saskatchewan, pulling away late yesterday afternoon behind Denzel Lynch-Blair but the Huskies remain alive – albeit barely – having to win all of their last 6 remaining games: home series against Brandon (1-13) and Alberta (7-8) followed by a pair at provincial-rival Regina to complete the regular season. If Sask can get to 10 wins, Huskies would likely have to have a favorable tie-breaker scenario. As Rocco advised Michael Corleone in Godfather Part II “difficult, but not impossible”.
Lethbridge also controls their own destiny as Jared Baker shook off what has been a tough stretch offensively to allow the Horns to pull away from the fleeting Alberta Golden Bears. Horns (9-5) hit a tough stretch, travelling to first-place Calgary next weekend followed by a trip to Winnipeg for a pair against the 9-5 Wesmen but still can reasonably get to 11 wins – which should be good enough for a playoff spot – as they finish at home with a pair against Trinity Western.
The Wesmen, also 9-5, coming off their pair of gritty home wins against Saskatchewan, have a tough finish: home-and-home vs. 11-5 Manitoba, home to Lethbridge for a pair before winding up the regular season at UBC for a pair.
It appears that 11 wins should get it done as far as making the playoffs with both Lethbridge and Winnipeg having good visibility of reaching that figure. That would leave Regina, Alberta, Victoria and Saskatchewan fighting for the final 2 spots with possibly one team with 10 wins sneaking in.
Important matchups to watch next week include: Winnipeg/Manitoba home-and-home; Vic at Regina and Lethbridge at Calgary with UBC idle.