The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Conference may as well secede from the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) at this point. It sure seems to be self-sufficient.
This seems to be the main takeaway from the midseason CIS Top 10 rankings.
In lieu of a new edition of #TheCBGBunch, also known as the most powerful CIS player recap in the history of mankind, this week I share a few of my thoughts about those rankings. Because everyone knows that the next best thing to a #badpun is a #hottake.
First, let’s look at the rankings themselves. As our student-athletes move from work on the hardwood to work in the classroom, where do we stand?
1. Carleton Ravens 8-0 (OUA North)
2. Ottawa Gee-Gees 8-0 (OUA North)
3. Ryerson Rams 6-2 (OUA East)
Losses: at Ottawa (93-64), at Carleton (91-73)
4. McMaster Marauders 6-2 (OUA Central)
Losses: at Ottawa (106-83), at Carleton (92-75)
5. Windsor Lancers 5-2 (OUA West)
Losses: at Ryerson (98-78), McMaster (84-72)
6. Victoria Vikes 6-2 (Canada West Pioneers)
Losses: at Saskatchewan (82-70), at Saskatchewan (95-70)
7. Calgary Dinos 9-2 (Canada West Pioneers)
Losses: at Regina (85-76), Manitoba (73-68)
8. UNB Varsity Reds 6-2 (AUS)
Losses: at Cape-Breton (93-89), at St. FX (82-77)
9. Fraser Valley Cascades 8-0 (Canada West Explorers)
10. Saskatchewan Huskies 4-4 (Canada West Pioneers)
Losses: at Alberta (77-63), Winnipeg (84-67), at UBC (101-94), at UBC (99-75)
Now, let’s look at four key questions as the calendar turns to 2015.
Will Cream of CIS Crop Forever Remain in Ontario?
The OUA would never secede from the CIS, of course not, but the conference sure does seem to be self-reliant. Despite the realignment, the mighty Carleton Ravens and the Wilson Cup defending champions, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, still reside in Ontario and deservedly remain perched atop the CIS rankings.
The pair has laid waste to every team it has faced so far, including two fellow top teams in the McMaster Marauders and the Ryerson Rams. The Windsor Lancers have lost twice as well but despite all these losses, the only change the OUA has experienced from the preseason is to see McMaster and Windsor switch places at No. 4 and No. 5.
The OUA remains the best conference in Canada—every OUA team’s strength of schedule gets an insane boost simply from having to play Ottawa and Carleton—but there’s more to Canada than Ontario.
Will Quebec Eventually Get Some Love?
There is Quebec, for example.
Look, we all know how this 2014-2015 season will unfold in the RSEQ—the five teams will cannibalize one another, playing so often that the season becomes a Hunger Games-like competition to see who wins the conference title with a 12-4 record, who finishes last at 4-12 and where the other three teams settle between these two extremes. In the playoffs, the team that emerges from the pack will be battle-tested and will head to the CIS Final 8 as, at best, a No. 5 seed.
The CIS remains unconvinced with the ‘Q, but who could blame them? The teams have only played four games this season, hardly enough to shake long-lasting first impressions. Just because this is the hand that the RSEQ coaches were dealt doesn’t mean that they’re getting a fair shake.
Just How Good is UFV?
There are currently three undefeated teams in the country—Ottawa’s two-headed monster, and the No. 9-ranked Fraser Valley Cascades.
UFV plays in what appears to be the weakest link division of the Canada West Conference—and perhaps of the whole country—but you can’t say that they haven’t taken advantage of it. The Cascades haven’t lost so far, and yet they’re ranked behind—count ‘em—six teams with two losses.
Sure, the team has played a soft schedule, but is that their fault? More importantly, they are far from the only team who’s played a bunch of cupcakes teams. So have the Ravens and the Gee-Gees—though not nearly to the same extent as UFV—and they have both gone undefeated as well. The Varsity Reds’ slate in the AUS has actually been even easier than UFV’s in 2014, but UNB hasn’t managed to win all its games. Yet they get the benefit of the doubt, a courtesy that isn’t extended to UFV.
Being undefeated has some value, no matter the conference you play in.
Who’s on the come-up?
By definition, I have to mention the future RSEQ champion, since 1) no ‘Q team has been ranked so far this season and 2) we know for a fact that this champion will be seen as, at worst, the eighth best team in the country by the time the CIS Final 8 happens in Toronto this March.
But who is on the come-up beyond the ‘Q champion?
For someone to be on the come-up, there has to be someone on the way down. After two losses at UBC, the No. 10 Saskatchewan Huskies could be one of these teams—I love the team as much as the next man, but U of S has a .500 record. The CIS is trying to sell us a house we don’t need if it really wants to convince us that there isn’t a better team than this one.
If the Huskies are so bad, would it be the fatal flaw in the No. 6 Victoria Vikes’ candidacy? The team sits third in the Pioneers Division in the Can West, behind No. 7-ranked Calgary Dinos and unranked Manitoba Bisons. The Vikes have won every game on their schedule, except for an ugly back-to-back against the aforementioned Huskies. Visits at the Bisons’ abode are on the schedule for when the CIS season returns on the first weekend of January—it should give us a better understanding of where Victoria really stands. And should those two games unfold poorly for the Vikes, we could insert Manitoba in Victoria’s place in the ensuing Top 10.
The AUS Conference has one team ranked in the Top 10, but is it the right one? UNB sits second in the conference, but could it be sandwiched by two more deserving teams in the Dalhousie Tigers and UPEI Panthers? Both teams have played a more difficult schedule, for one thing. And the CIS believes that the Varsity Reds remain the No. 8 team in Canada despite two ugly losses at Cape Breton and St. FX.
The schedule discrepancy will only be heightened as we head into 2015. UPEI and Dalhousie play four times against one another, while UNB plays each only twice—both of those games will be four-point games.
The Varsity Reds could be seeing red rather quickly.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG & NPH @Northpolehoops