Sunday, March 8, 2015

CIS Playoffs Wrap Up, Predicting UCup Draw

The CIS playoffs concluded around the country this weekend and not only do we now know all 8 participating teams at this week's University Cup, but we also have a very good idea how the bracket will look.

The #1 ranked Alberta Golden Bears claimed another Canada West Championship by virtue of a two game sweep over the Calgary Dinos. The Bears defeated the Dinos 5-2 on Thursday night and 2-1 on Friday night. Meanwhile, the OUA picture came into focus yesterday. The Guelph Gryphons, a sub 0.500 team this year, continued their storybook playoff run with a 4-0 shutout of the UQTR Patriotes to capture the Queen's Cup and OUA Championship. In the bronze medal game the Windsor Lancers tied the game with just 1:01 remaining before knocking off the McGill Redmen 2-1 in overtime, becoming the 8th and final entrant at the University Cup.

So, the 8 participating teams include:

Canada West Champion - Alberta Golden Bears (24-3-1 regular season, 4-0 playoffs)
Canada West runner-up - Calgary Dinos (20-8-0, 2-3)
Ontario University Athletics Champion - Guelph Gryphons (11-13-3, 7-2)
Ontario University Athletics runner-up - UQTR Patriotes (19-4-3, 6-1)
Ontario University Athletics 3rd place - Windsor Lancers (22-4-1, 5-3)
Atlantic University Sport Champion - UNB Varsity Reds (22-4-2, 5-2)
Atlantic University Sport runner-up - Acadia Axemen (20-5-3, 3-4)
Atlantic University Sport 3rd place/host - St. FX X-Men (17-9-2, 4-3)

Based on this we can try and predict how the bracket will shape up.

The first four seeds should be relatively easy to determine. According to the 2014-2015 Men's Ice Hockey Playing Regulations:

1. The three (3) Sport Conference champions will be seeded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd based on their respective team national ranking in the final Top Ten of the season. The last Top 10 ranking will be done after the Sport Conference playoffs are completed.
This means that Alberta (CW Champions), UNB (AUS Champions), and Guelph (OUA Champions) must be seeded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. There will be one more Top 10 poll, but given the fact Alberta has been ranked #1 all year and proceeded to win their conference playoffs it is extremely unlikely they fall out of the top spot. Moreover, UNB was ranked #2 most of the year while Guelph spent all but this past week outside of the Top 10. Based on this it is reasonable to assume Alberta will be seeded #1, UNB #2, and Guelph #3.

Next up, we can easily identify the #4 seed:
2. The OUA finalist (either the OUA East or OUA West divisional champion) will be seeded #4.
 The UQTR Patriotes were the OUA East divisional champions and OUA runner-up. Thus, they are #4.

Seeding #5 through #8 is where things can start to get a little tricky as there is a little bit more leeway in terms of slotting teams. According to the regulations:
3. The remaining 4 qualifying teams will be seeded using the final Top Ten of the season as a guiding tool.
4. Results of regional playoffs must be respected
Again, there should be one more Top 10 poll released, but if we look at last week's rankings Acadia was ranked #3, Calgary #4, St. FX #8, and Windsor #10.

Essentially, number 4 just states that 3rd place teams from the OUA (Windsor) and AUS (St. FX) can't be ranked higher than the 2nd place teams from the AUS (Acadia) or Canada West (Calgary), which isn't the case anyway so we don't have to worry about it.

So, going off of this we would have:

1 - Alberta
2 - UNB
3 - Guelph
4 - UQTR
5 - Acadia
6 - Calgary
7 - St. FX
8 - Windsor

But, under this scenario we would see two AUS teams - #2 UNB and #7 ranked St. FX - play in the opening round, and according to the regulations:

Once the seeding has been completed, teams 5 through 8 can be flipped no more than two spots (up or down) to try to avoid first round match-ups of teams from the same sport conference. (This means teams seeded 1 through 4 cannot be flipped). 
Thus, to avoid an intra-conference match-up it is likely that the two 3rd place teams - St. FX and Windsor - will be flipped. Leaving us:

1 - Alberta
2 - UNB
3 - Guelph
4 - UQTR
5 - Acadia
6 - Calgary
7 - Windsor
8 - St. FX

This would also have the added benefit of keeping the two Canada West teams on opposite sides of the draw, something the committee has always tried to do in previous years when there are two teams from the same conference in the tournament.

Of course, we could reach the same conclusion if Windsor is ranked higher than St. FX in the final Top 10 poll, which is likely given the fact Windsor has played, and beaten, McGill in the last week while St. FX sat idle. 

According to all of the above it is quite likely that #1 Alberta/#8 St. FX and #4 UQTR/#5 Acadia will be the quarter-final match-ups on one side of the draw and #2 UNB/#7 Windsor and #3 Guelph/#6 Calgary will be the quarter-final match-ups on the opposite side.

It is also important to note that teams will NOT be re-seeded after the quarter-finals, so the winner of the #1/#8 match-up will play the #4/#5 winner and the #2/#7 winner will play the #3/#6 winner regardless of what teams move on.

It doesn't sound like we will have to wait long, however, to hear the official announcement from the CIS. According to the UNB Hockey Twitter account, the seedings and schedule will be announced at 7PM this evening.