A controversial new rule might have sweetened the subplots for the CIS Final 8 in Ottawa.
The possibility of the Carleton Ravens and Ottawa Gee-Gees meeting for the fourth time this season in the final next Sunday is possible, with the Ravens drawing the No. 1 seed while Ottawa is No. 3. But the draw for this country's university's men's basketball championship was shaped from the fallout from the 2012 bracket in Halifax. There was a big stink down east when the Acadia Axemen's reward for winning the AUS Final 6 was getting the eighth seed and being pitted against Carleton in the first round.
That prompted a rule that a conference champion cannot be seeded lower than sixth. So Carleton, with their backcourt brother act of Thomas and Phil Scrubb, will begin pursuit of a record ninth national title against none other than co-record holder for most championships, the Victoria Vikes, whom their father Lloyd won three national titles with in his youth. The other half of the bracket has a protégé vs. mentor matchup on the sideline since 3 seed Ottawa and third-year coach James Derouin are up against 6 seed (but unranked) McGill, guided by former Ottawa coach Dave DeAveiro.
Carleton will be the favourite, if not a prohibitive one after being played tough by Ottawa all season. Here's a quick look at the matchups.
No. 2 Cape Breton Capers vs. No. 7 Lakehead Thunderwolves (12 noon ET/ 9 a.m. PT (cis.sic.tv) — The Capers were the 2 seed when the tournament was last in Ottawa in 2010 and lost to Calgary in the first round. Fifth-year guard Jimmy Dorsey, who averaged 20 points in AUS play and went off for 30 in CBU's conference-final win Sunday, is a dynamic lead guard and the Capers averaged 86 points a night. All first-year head coach Matt Skinn has done is produce a 26-5 record in all CIS play.
Lakehead has lost in the first round three consecutive years, with their eliminator going on to win the silver medal each time. The Thunderwolves have a cadre of fifth-year leaders in lockdown defender Greg Carter, shooting guard Joseph Jones and burly forward Yoosrie Salhia, but the health of leading scorer Ryan Thomson is a big variable.
No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees vs. No. 6 McGill Redmen (2:15 p.m. ET/11:15 a.m. PT (cis.sic.tv) — The Gee-Gees should be the first not to get blinded by McGill's absence from the polls or the derision about the quality of play in Quebec's five-team subway league. McGill beat them by 21 points at its home tournament in October. The Redmen have a hard-to-handle guard in Adrian Hynes-Guery, who once started in NCAA Division I at American International.
McGill made the tournament for the first in 34 years with a comeback win Saturday that turned on their ability to shut down the Bishop's Gaiters' perimeter. Ottawa and its 1-2 scoring punch of shooting guard Johnny Berhanemeskel and small forward Warren Ward — a one-time DeAveiro recruit — shoot the three well, but they don't seem to live by it. Ward can get to the rim and forward Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue is an effective third option on offence.
It's a strange month at McGill. Both of the Montreal school's basketball teams are still playing, while both hockey teams have already finished.
No. 4 UBC Thunderbirds vs. No. 5 Acadia Axemen (6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT (cis.sic.tv) — The other matchup in the Carleton sub-bracket, so-called, includes two teams which have a history with the Ravens. The T-Birds under coach Kevin Hanson have been burned over the years by always having to travel 3-4 time zones east for the tournament; they might have a banner or two if the tournament ever came west and Carleton wasn't so good. But UBC guard Doug Plumb is a smooth distributor, they defend and rebound well more often than not and they are overdue for a breakthrough.
The T-Birds typically don't have great size in the post, where they will have to contain Acadia's 6-10 forward Owen Klassen, who's always a threat for a 20-point, 10-rebound line with a couple of emasculating blocks thrown in for garnish. But 6-6 Tommy Nixon, 6-7 San Jose State transfer Brylle Kamen and 6-9 David Wagner, who played alongside Gonzaga star Kelly Olynyk in high school in Kamloops, B.C., are all double-digit scorers who can also clear the boards.
Acadia's Carleton connection owes to more than the Axemen's double-overtime semifinal win in 2008 that ended Carleton's five-year championship run. Klassen was heavily recruited by the Ravens and their second-leading scorer, guard Anthony Ashe, is a Carleton transfer.
No. 1 Carleton Ravens vs. No. 8 Victoria Vikes (8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT (cis.sic.tv) — No teams plays quite like the Carletons, but UVic also eschews flash for fundamentals and thus doesn't always receive a lot of credit. The Vikes can win ugly if need be (“We talked before that you need to win games that you don’t necessarily play well or shoot well in," coach Craig Beaucamp said after their qualifying win over Winnipeg). They boast 6-10 centre Chris McLauglin and a dangerous swingman, Las Vegas native Terrell Evans and might have won the Canada West banner if McLaughlin had not got in a foul trouble in a loss vs. UBC. Competing with Carleton requires executing even better than they usually do, though.
This is a tough matchup for Carleton, who doesn't have a big low-post defender and could get bumped around under the basket. Their semifinal losses in 2008 and '10 both came on the heels of physical first-round matchups. Ultimately, though, the Ravens' lead quartet of the Scrubbs, forward Tyson Hinz and swingman Clinton Springer-Williams present four legitimate scoring threats who can share the wealth. Between them, they own two Final 8 MVP awards, two national rookie of the year awards and a pair of national player of the year awards. The guy who doesn't have any of those accolades, Thomas Scrubb, has been their best player across the past month.
The Score is carrying both Saturday semifinals (5:30 p.m. ET) and Sunday's final (3:30 p.m. ET).
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.