CIS Final 8 seeding clear as mud, beyond Carleton Ravens as No. 1 seed

Carleton's Phil Scrubb takes a foul from Windsor's Brad Carter in the OUA Wilson Cup on Saturday (Mike Carroccetto, special to Yahoo! Canada Sports
Carleton's Phil Scrubb takes a foul from Windsor's Brad Carter in the OUA Wilson Cup on Saturday (Mike Carroccetto, special to Yahoo! Canada Sports

The Carleton Ravens, after winning another Ontario title on Saturday, will be the No. 1 seed when the CIS Final 8 seeding is announced on Sunday.

After that, the law of unintended consequences factors into how OUA runner-up Windsor Lancers, wild-card shoo-in Ottawa Gee-Gees and the host Ryerson Rams are slotted into the national championship bracket. While there's an obvious desire in certain circles to see four Ontario teams, which were all in the Top 5 of the coaches' poll nearly all season, spread throughout the draw, it's not that simple. Nor is being the 1 or 2 seed all it's cracked up to be. 

The so-called 'Acadia rule,' that dictates all four conference winners must be seeded in the top six means the 3 seed will gets a better draw than the No. 2. Quebec champion Bishop's — laden with senior leadership, but 10-15 vs. CIS foes on the year — will likely be 6. The host Rams, set to play on their home floor at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto, likely draw into the No. 7 seed after losing twice at this weekend's OUA Final Four in Ottawa.

A sub-.500 team seeded higher than Ryerson, which was ranked No. 3 in the coaches' poll nearly all season: #OnlyInCIS, indeed.

"It's not going to be Ontario and it can't be a conference winner," Carleton coach Dave Smart said, alluding to the Ravens' matchup the 1 vs. 8 quarter-final next week. "So it's going to be Canada West No. 2 [the Saskatchewan Huskies, who lost 70-67 to Victoria on Saturday]. So the third seed will have a way easier game than we'll have. But you got to play the games. And the one thing about it is with Friday off, it's not going to a quick turnaround [like with a three-day championship] and, if we win, we should be able to get our legs under us and get ready for Saturday.

"The [Top 6] rule was put in originally when it was a 10-team tournament and we didn't want conference winners to have to play on Thursday night," added Smart, whose Ravens won the OUA Wilson Cup with a 103-59 win over Windsor on Saturday night at Montpetit Hall in Ottawa. "Then we went back to eight teams and at that point, the seeding should be the seeding, but it stayed in ... now we should just rank the teams 1-8." 

'I don't think that rule necessarily supports that ideal'

Ottawa has been ranked first or second in the coaches' poll all season, but became the second Top 5 team in a week to fall at home to Windsor. Each has a case to be the 2 seed, even if they might be happier at 3. Canada West champion Victoria also slots somewhere in the 2-4 range, with Atlantic champion Dalhousie likely the 5. 

"Hopefully there's some value to our end of season and the stretch run we've gone on over our last 10 games," Windsor coach Chris Oliver said. "And, certainly the fact we've beaten three three Top 5 teams (Carleton at home on Jan. 23, McMaster in the OUA quarter-final and Ottawa in the semifinal on Friday). Beyond that, I have no idea. Carleton's one. We know that.

"I am supportive of rewarding a conference champion," Oliver added. "The problem is when there's upsets in conference tournaments in one-bid leagues. We're all in that position of saying 'we want the best teams to compete for a national championship' and I don't think that rule necessarily supports that ideal. If they match two Ontario teams, those two Ontario teams aren't going to have the advantages that they probably have earned throughout the whole season."

Ottawa coach James Derouin has "come to terms with being the 3 or 4 seed." At minimum, Ottawa got a necessary wake-up call this weekend, first by losing 85-80 to Windsor on Friday and overtaking Ryerson in the second half Saturday for a 79-66 bronze-medal game win, with Johnny Berhanemeskel going off for 39 points. 

"Those close, tough wars that we have in the OUA, it's tough to match that," Derouin said. "Our game today was an absolute war. And that is what is coming next weekend. I'm fired up. I'm glad that we responded after the physical ass-kicking we took from Windsor. I thought we looked small against Windsor. And today, same 10 guys, we looked big. We boxed out, we rebounded in traffic.

"I thought we walked through that game Friday like we were just going to win it and  Windsor just slapped us, 'no you're not.' In terms of a wake-up call, that's exactly what we needed. I don't ever want to lose but our guys have to realize we have to compete and no one's going to give you anything. Johnny got 39, I've seen that before, but I haven't seen rebounding like that. We outrebounded that [Ryerson] team 40-31, 13 offensive rebounds. I thought our physical play today was phenomenal."

Carleton had a characteristic performance on Saturday with five double-digit scorers, including fifth-years Victor Raso with 21 in 22 minutes, Phil Scrubb with 20 in 18 and Thomas Scrubb with 16 in 16. In classic Ravens fashion, they appear to be peaking at the optimal time.

"We know we didn't play our absolute best," Thomas Scrubb said. "We played well but we still have some things to fix. All of the teams here this weekend are going to step up our intensity. We have to come in with a mindset like we lost today."

The Ravens lost to Ottawa and Windsor during a three-week span in January. However, Raso missed a portion of the league schedule due to a brain injury. The Ravens, who often go with a four-guard setup with 6-5 Thomas Scrubb as a lone forward, were also gradually adapting to being a smaller team.

Saturday, Carleton had to play small ball after 6-foot-8 forward Jean-Emmanuel Pierre-Charles got two quick fouls. Yet they outrebounded Windsor 52-29, a complete reversal from six weeks ago, when the Lancers, as Smart put it, "shocked us with their intensity" and controlled the boards 50-35.

"The rebounding was a major focus," Smart said. "We were hoping to break even because they rebound so well.

"This year, we've really had to redefine how we play after losing [forwards] Kevin [Churchill] and Tyson [Hinz], because we were pretty much a low-post team," Smart added. "I'm happy with how our guys have responded, because they've bought in.

"We got a long way to go. It's going to be tough on the road. You got to go into a place where the best team in the country, Ottawa U, just came off a disappointing loss [Friday] night. The second-best team in the country [Ryerson] is going to be playing at home. We got to keep going in the same direction."

Windsor accomplished its main goal of qualifying and not having to hope for the wild card. Star swingman Rotimi Osuntola Jr., the only OUA player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in the regular season, did endure what Oliver called a "frustrating weekend." Osuntola did not score against Carleton and played just 15 minutes before coming out to rest with some minor injuries.

"I have a lot of pride, a lot of love for our guys," Oliver said. "We're going to have a chance to win the national championship. You can't complain about that. We obviously wanted to compete a lot better today, but that was Carleton at their finest. They were on us from the get-go." 

The seeding will be released at 3 p.m. on Saturday. 

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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