Sunday, March 13, 2016

Predicting The UCup Draw

With the CIS playoffs wrapping up last night we now know all 8 participating teams at this week's University Cup, which begins on Thursday afternoon in Halifax. By examining the 8 teams who will take part in the tournament we can use the 2015-2016 CIS Men's Hockey Playing Regulations to get a very good idea how the bracket might look.

The 8 participating teams include:
Canada West Champion - Saskatchewan Huskies (22-6-0 regular season, 4-0 playoffs)
Canada West runner-up - Alberta Golden Bears (19-7-2, 2-2)
Ontario University Athletics Champion - UQTR Patriotes (24-3-1, 7-0)
Ontario University Athletics runner-up - Western Mustangs (18-10-0, 6-3)
Ontario University Athletics 3rd place - Carleton Ravens (20-7-1, 5-2)
Atlantic University Sport Champion - St. FX X-Men (18-6-4, 5-1)
Atlantic University Sport runner-up - UNB Varsity Reds (23-3-2, 3-2)
Atlantic University Sport 3rd place/host - Saint Mary's Huskies (17-8-3, 3-3)

Based on this we should be able to accurately predict how the bracket will shape up.

The first four seeds should be relatively easy to determine. According to the 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 UQTR (OUA Champion), Saskatchewan (CW Champion), and St. FX (AUS Champion) must be seeded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Those three teams were ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively in the last Top 10 poll. Although there will be one more, unpublished, top 10 poll conducted I think it is unlikely that the order of these three teams changes. Based on this it is reasonable to assume UQTR will be seeded #1, Saskatchewan #2, and St. FX #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 Western Mustangs were the OUA West 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 the seeding committee has 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 UNB was ranked #1, Alberta #5, Carleton #7, and Saint Mary's #8.

Essentially, number 4 just states that 3rd place teams from the OUA (Carleton) and AUS (Saint Mary's) can't be ranked higher than the 2nd place teams from the AUS (UNB) or Canada West (Alberta), which isn't the case anyway so it is a moot point.

So, going off of this we would have:

1 - UQTR
2 - Saskatchewan
3 - St. FX
4 - Western
5 - UNB
6 - Alberta
7 - Carleton
8 - Saint Mary's

Last year this resulted in two AUS teams playing 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). 
However, this season there are no first round match-ups that involve teams from the same conference so it is likely the above is how the final seeding will look.

According to all of the above #1 UQTR/#8 Saint Mary's and #4 Western/#5 UNB will be the quarter-final match-ups on one side of the draw and #2 Saskatchewan/#7 Carleton and #3 St. FX/#6 Alberta 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.

One drawback to this schedule is the possibility of having an all-Canada West semi-final between Saskwatchewan and Alberta on one side of the draw and either an all-AUS (UNB/Saint Mary's) or all-OUA (UQTR/Carleton) semi-final on the other side of the draw. Since the CIS is more concerned with avoiding intra-conference match-ups in the first round this is result. So while it is not ideal, it is really the only possible set-up.

In terms of the schedule, Saint Mary's has already confirmed they will be playing Friday night (again, most likely against UQTR). This means that the other game on their side of the bracket (Western/UNB) will be played on Friday afternoon. It is also highly probable the organizing committee will prefer St. FX to play their game against Alberta on Thursday night for attendance purposes, which puts the Saskatchewan/Carleton game will get the Thursday afternoon slot.

The CIS is expected to announce the official seedings and schedule this afternoon.