Although there remain some uncertainties as to the final small handful of playoff qualifiers in Canada West (see more below), much was decided this past weekend at the top of the standings – the top 4 teams are basically set -with Alberta in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed and right to host the Canada West Final 4 in Edmonton should they qualify.
Golden Bears impressive victory on Friday night at Saskatchewan was the key to the probable #1 seed as Alberta won 80-67, primarily from a solid 13 for 27 effort from downtown including a blistering 8 for 11 in the second half alone. The trio of 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye, 6’1″ Austin Waddoups and 6’4″ Geoff Pippus combined to shoot 10 for 17 from beyond the arc and Alberta held Saskatchewan’s star 6’8″ forward Matt Forbes in check. Forbes was instrumental in Saturday’s dramatic Huskies victory, knocking down the winning free throw with 6.3 seconds remaining.
Controversy surrounded the initial foul call on Forbes and even more so when Alberta initially controlled the rebound of the second free throw, which Forbes missed. The ball was knocked around after what appeared to be a hack dislodged it and Saskatchewan retrieved it. 6’3″ Jaylen Morgan, who had a huge block late in the game, coming from nowhere to pin-up 6’2″ Lynden Annettes lay-up attempt that would have provided Alberta with the lead in the final 2 minutes, then made his first free throw with just over 1 second to play and appeared to try to miss the second on purpose – but the shot grazed the front rim and went in, giving Alberta one final opportunity. But a pass to Gueye was fumbled and Saskatchewan escaped with the split. 6’8″ Shane Osayande had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lead Huskies.
According to my inputs into Martin’s wonderful RPI “what if” tool, assuming Lethbridge and Alberta split a pair of games next weekend in Edmonton and UBC, Calgary and Saskatchewan sweep their non-playoff opponents (Trinity Western, MacEwan and UNBC respectively), Golden Bears would claim #1 seed, setting up a possible Final 4 rematch between the Bears and Huskies – assuming both get that far. UBC and Calgary would set up as the other semi-final game.
Teams on the playoff “bubble”… UVic Vikes are in some danger of missing the Canada West playoffs for the second consecutive season and, again according to my raw use of Martin’s tool, a home sweep over Winnipeg by the Vikes would ensure they qualify – one win over Winnipeg could also do it under most practical scenarios… Lethbridge , while not on the actual “playoff” bubble, is on the “home playoff series bubble” and needs Calgary to keep winning; under a Calgary sweep scenario, even if Horns are themselves swept next weekend in Edmonton, Lethbridge would gain no worse than a #7 seed thus ensuring a home playoff series… Much more should be said about the strong finish being fashioned by Brandon Bobcats, which at 9-11 and winners of six of their final 9 Canada West league games, is virtually guaranteed their first post-season spot in several seasons. Another perennial playoff team, Regina Cougars may not be so fortunate. Cougars need a home sweep over Thompson Rivers (already qualified) to have any chance – again according to my interpretation of Canada West playoff rules. Fraser Valley, winners of 4 of their last 6 games including a clutch win at Alberta three weeks ago, need to win at least one game at UBC-O to ensure they will qualify for the post-season… Perhaps some readers can correct/validate the playoff bubble/home series scenarios touched out herein.
Canada West final weekend (two game sets):
Lethbridge at Alberta
UBC at Trinity Western
Saskatchewan at UNBC
MacEwan at Calgary
Thompson Rivers at Regina
Winnipeg at Victoria
Mount Royal at Manitoba
Fraser Valley at UBC-O