Sunday, March 11, 2018

Predicting The Pools

With the McGill Redmen's convincing 5-1 victory over the cinderella Brock Badgers in last night's Queen's Cup, we now know the designation of each of the eight participants at this week's University Cup. With this we can try and predict exactly how the teams will be ranked heading into the tournament.

First, here are the eight teams:

UNB Varsity Reds (AUS Champion)
St. FX X-Men (AUS Finalist)
Acadia Axemen (AUS Bronze medal)
McGill Redmen (OUA Champion)
Brock Badgers (OUA Finalist)
Concordia Stingers (OUA Bronze medal)
Alberta Golden Bears (Canada West Champion)
Saskatchewan Huskies (Canada West Finalist)

Going step by step through section 4.2.2 (Seeding Criteria) of the U Sports men's hockey playing regulations we can attempt to put the participants in the proper order.

Here is what we think the final rankings will look like when they come out later today:

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.

By virtue of being their respective conference champions, UNB, Alberta, and McGill must be ranked in the top 3. There will be one more top ten ranking done today, but if we look at last week UNB was ranked #1, Alberta #2, and McGill #4. With both UNB and Alberta sweeping their conference final in impressive fashion, there is no reason for the committee to adjust their rankings. McGilll will slide up from #4 to #3 as required.

So the top three should look like this:
1 - UNB
2 - Alberta
3 - McGill

2. The OUA finalist (either the OUA East or OUA West divisional champion) will be seeded #4.

This one is easy. The Brock Badgers lost in the OUA Final so they will go in as #4.

This now gives us:
1 - UNB
2 - Alberta
3 - McGill
4 - Brock

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.
5. 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). 

This is where the committee can start using their own discretion a bit, though the rule saying "results of regional playoffs must be respected" means that the conference finalists (St. FX and Saskactehwan) have to be seeded ahead of conference bronze medal winners (Acadia and Concordia). This mean St. FX and Saskactehwan must be seeded #5 and #6 in some order and Concordia and Acadia must be seeded #7 and #8 in some order.

We will tackle Concordia and Acadia first as that one is easy. Due to rule 5 stating the desire to avoid first round match-ups of teams from the same conference, we can guess that Acadia will be seeded #7 to avoid having to play UNB in the first round. This means Concordia will be #8.

The case of where to seed Saskatchewan and St. FX is a little trickier, and is perhaps the most debated we have seen in quite some time. On one hand St. FX was consistently ranked higher than Saskatchewan all season - including in last week's poll - and they both got swept in their conference final so there is not really a case for Saskatchewan to move ahead of the X-Men. This would mean St. FX goes in #5 and the Huskies #6. However, on the other hand, this puts each team in the same bracket as their conference champion (St. FX with #1 UNB and Saskatchewan with #2 Alberta). 

Although the rules state that the committee can move teams around to avoid first round match-ups of teams from the same conference, we believe they will look to do the same here for potential semi-final match-ups. This would also keep the top two teams from the AUS and Canada West on opposite sides of the draw. 

It will be interesting to see how the committee deals with this situation. While we would not be completely shocked if they put St. FX at #5 and Saskatchewan at #6 our best guess is that the final seedings will be as follows:

1 - UNB
2 - Alberta
3 - McGill
4 - Brock
5 - Saskatchewan
6 - St. FX
7 - Acadia
8 - Concordia

In terms of the schedule - 

6. The Host may flip the brackets to ensure a local team plays at a preferred time to assist with ticket sales. However, the structure of the brackets must be maintained (i.e. 1 vs. 8 and 4 vs. 5 must always stay together and 2 vs. 7 and 3 vs. 6 must stay together) so that common rest times are protected and the integrity of the draw is maintained.

The host gets to choose when they want to open the tournament and we know the #1 Varsity Reds will play their first game on Thursday night against the #8 Concordia Stingers. This means #4 Brock and #5 Saskatchewan will play Thursday afternoon as those four teams, being in the same bracket, all have to play on the same day.

This leaves #2 Alberta vs. #7 Acadia and #3 McGill vs. #6 St. FX playing on Friday in rematches from last year's tournament.