6’4″ Keith Omoerah had another big effort and Manitoba pulled away in the OT to enable Bisons to sweep their cross-town rival Winnipeg Wesmen and come to within 2 wins at last place TWU of hosting their first home playoff series in many years… Victoria Vikes playoff chances are in the hands of several other teams after last season’s CW champions lost a pair at Regina and are on the brink of elimination at 7-11. Vikes host Brandon in two weeks in games which may not mean anything… Calgary continued their quest to host Canada West Final Four by sweeping Lethbridge and Sask kept their faint playoff hopes alive with another win over Brandon – still Huskies appear to hold their own fate: winning their final 4 games: 2 at home vs. Alberta and 2 on the road at Regina would likely allow Saskatchewan to squeeze in to the playoffs at 10-10.
Canada West Pioneer Playoff Possibility Standings:
Calgary 14-3; host Regina for two; single game at Alberta
UBC 12-4; at Brandon (2); host Winnipeg (2)
Manitoba 13-5; at Trinity Western (2)
Regina 10-6; at Calgary (2), host Saskatchewan (2)
Lethbridge 9-7; at Winnipeg (2), host Trinity Western (2)
Winnipeg 9-7; host Lethbridge (2), at UBC (2)
Alberta 9-8; at Saskatchewan (2), host Calgary single game
Victoria 7-11; host Brandon (2)
Saskatchewan 6-10; host Alberta (2), at Regina (2).
Before we further explore which teams might finish where, let’s try to outline the Canada West playoff structure – as maddening as that might be for the average fan trying to follow this convoluted system. As I understand it:
- Top 3 teams in Pioneer Division and first-place team in Explorer Division advance directly to the Canada West Best-of-3 quarter-finals and each of these 4 teams enjoys home court advantage for all 3 games (…and if they lose one of those 3 home games but win the series, Top 10 voters are instructed to ignore that loss… an ongoing debate to be taken up for another day).
- The fourth place team in Pioneer Division and the 2nd place team in Explorer Division also advance directly to the Canada West Best-of-3 quarter-finals however both of these qualifiers will go on the road (4th place in Pioneer travels to 3rd place Pioneer for a quarter-final series; 2nd place in Explorer travels to 2nd place Pioneer for a quarter-final series).
- Two “play-in” series – also Best-of-3’s occur on the first weekend of the post-season – 6 teams referred to above get byes. 7th Pioneer travels to 5th Pioneer and 6th Pioneer travels to 3rd Explorer.
- The winners of the “play-in” series travel to 1st place teams as follows:
- 7th Pioneer/5th Pioneer winner at 1st Explorer
- 3rd Explorer/6th Pioneer winner at 1st Pioneer.
Now let’s overlay that simple, straightforward playoff structure onto today’s reality.
If the playoffs were to begin today: First Round “Play-in” series would be:
#7 Alberta at #5 Lethbridge
#6 Winnipeg at #3 UBC-O
And the quarter-finals would project like this:
#1 Calgary hosting Winnipeg/UBC-O winner
#1 Thompson Rivers hosting Alberta/Lethbridge winner
#2 UBC hosting #2 Fraser Valley
#3 Manitoba hosting #4 Regina.
There is much more to be determined relative to specific finishes. UVic and Saskatchewan have outside chances of finishing 7th in the Pioneer while Fraser Valley’s #2 seeding in the Explorer remains tenuous as Cascades have a pair of games with Thompson Rivers this weekend while MacEwan, presently in 4th place in the Explorer, still has a shot at the playoffs.
With a pair of wins over Winnipeg this past weekend, Manitoba (13-5) is now in a position, with only a pair of games at last place Trinity Western on their slate, to finish among the top 3 in the Pioneer thereby putting themselves in position to host a quarter-final playoff round. Expectations are high also for UBC and Calgary to host and Thompson Rivers has already clinched first place in the Explorer.
So with two weeks remaining, there is some mystery in which teams will square off. This weekend’s games are as follows:
Thursday/Friday: Regina (10-6) at Calgary (14-3)… Cougars have clinched but need wins to retain home court advantage at least in the play-in round. Dinos want to host Canada West Final Four so need to keep winning. If I understand the tie-breaker correctly, Calgary owns the tie-breaker with UBC but does not own the tie-breaker with Manitoba. No word on how a three-way tie, which is a reasonable possibility, might be solved.
Friday/Saturday: Alberta (9-8) at Saskatchewan (6-10)… Huskies must win both games to have any chance at a playoff spot. But if Sask sweeps and then wins their final two at Regina, they would own the tie-breaker against the Bears.
Lethbridge (9-7) at Winnipeg (9-7)… A split is most favorable for both teams. Either team that sweeps clinches a playoff spot.
UBC (12-4) at Brandon and Manitoba (13-5) at Trinity Western… Expect sweeps by the Birds and Herd solidifies their holds on a top 3 Pioneer Division finish.
In the Explorer Division, Thompson Rivers – clinched first – visits 2nd place Fraser Valley (10-6) and 7-9 MacEwan visits 8-8 UBC-Okanagan.
Plenty of mystery, especially for those who pain stake over the most difficult Sidoku puzzles.