Monday, 9 March 2009

Nationals thoughts Halifax Chronicle-Herald

X-Men get wild card to Final 8

By GLENN MacDONALD Sports Reporter
Mon. Mar 9 - 4:46 AM
The St. Francis Xavier X-Men will be heading to the CIS men’s basketball Final 8 after all. But they’ll face a Herculean opponent in the tournament opener.

St. F.X., which lost 72-60 to the Dalhousie Tigers in the AUS conference championship Saturday at the Metro Centre, still had a legitimate shot at the wild card berth into the CIS Final 8. The X-Men needed an Ottawa win over Windsor in the OUA third-place game Saturday night to secure a spot in the Final 8. The Gee Gees won 73-59.

The X-Men received the wildcard berth into next weekend’s tournament in Ottawa following a vote from a selection committee comprised of CIS coaches Sunday.

St. F.X. will face the No. 1 ranked Carleton Ravens in Friday’s quarter-finals (9 p.m.). The Ravens captured five consecutive CIS titles before their run was halted last year when they dropped a double-overtime decision to Acadia in the semi-final round.

"It’s going to be tough playing Carleton in their home building, but that’s what nationals are all about," St. F.X. head coach Steve Konchalski said Sunday afternoon.

"If you’re going to win it, you would have to face Carleton at some point. And at the same time, beggars can’t be choosers. There are 35 other teams across the country that wish they were in our place. We had the opportunity to win our conference and had we done that, we would have been the No. 4 or 5 seed. But we didn’t take care of business like we needed to yesterday so you take what you can get.

"It’s going to be a challenge for our team, no doubt about it."

The eight-team, single elimination tournament opens Friday afternoon with the second-ranked and Canada West champion Calgary Dinos versus the No. 7 Concordia Stingers.

Dalhousie, which captured its first AUS title since 1996, will make its second appearance ever at nationals. The Tigers will take on Canada West finalists UBC Thunderbirds at 3:30 p.m (AT).

The other quarter-final pits the No. 4 Western Mustangs against fifth seed Ottawa.

The championship final is Sunday afternoon. The defending national champion Brock Badgers failed to make the OUA playoffs.

"It’s a deep tournament," said Konchalski, who has led St. F.X. to three CIS championship titles. "UBC and Calgary had great years and Western is coming on strong. Frankly, I don’t see a weak team in the bracket. It’s a strong field."

The X-Men have been without all-star forward Tyler Richards and rookies William Donkoh and Eamon Morrissy, who face assault charges stemming from an incident on Feb. 21.

Konchalski said it’s "still early" to determine if the trio will be reinstated for nationals.

"We’ll likely address that maybe tomorrow," Konchalski said Sunday.

"I’m not sure who’ll all be in on the decision. Leo (St. F.X. director of athletics Leo MacPherson) and I will meet and we’ll go from there. We’ll start with that."

Chad Lucas's Posting Up Blog

The Final 8 bracket is out. It's no surprise that St. F.X. picked up the wild card, but after that there are some interesting decisions, to say the least.


Carleton Ravens (OUA champions: 21-1 regular season, 3-0 playoffs)
Calgary Dinos (Canada West champions: 17-5 regular season, 4-0 playoffs)
UBC Thunderbirds (Canada West finalists: 21-2 regular season, 5-1 playoffs)
Western Ontario Mustangs (OUA finalists: 19-3 regular season, 2-1 playoffs)
Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA bronze medalists: 19-3 regular season, 2-1 playoffs)
Dalhousie Tigers (AUS champions: 13-7 regular season, 3-0 playoffs)
Concordia Stingers (QSSF champions: 12-4 regular season, 2-0 playoffs)
StFX X-Men (Wildcard – AUS finalists: 17-3 regular season, 1-1 playoffs)

After the women's tournament seeding gurus went out of their way to avoid matching up teams from the same conference -- to the point where they gave Cape Breton a lousy deal to save Saskatchewan from meeting Regina -- we have an all-Ontario matchup here in the 4-5 game. And the winner potentially has to go through Carleton, so there's no way we'll have an all-Ontario final. No doubt the local folks in Ottawa aren't thrilled with the draw, and while I'm certainly not in favour of protecting regional interests at the expense of tournament integrity, in this case I think it could have been avoided.

Quebec champion Concordia has a case to be unhappy too, since they've been in the top 10 all year and yet they wind up a lower seed than Dalhousie. The Tigers do have a solid track record in the past few weeks, with three wins over teams in the last top 10 (two against X and one against Cape Breton), but I'm not sure if that equals a jump over Concordia.

It's actually a decent draw for Dal considering they face UBC, a team with a history of first-round exits. The past three seasons the Thunderbirds have come in as the No. 2 seed and lost in the quarter-finals. It's a new season, of course, but stuff like that gets in a team's head after a while.

St. F.X. faces a tough road with Carleton on the first night, but they can't complain about being No. 8. Of the teams in the bracket they were ranked higher than only Dal and Concordia in the last coaches' poll, and those two both won their conferences so they deserve the higher spots.

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