Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Joe Scanlon's CIS Top 10 thoughts

CIS Top 10
UBC
Carleton
St. FX
Calgary
Cape Breton
McMaster
Windsor
Toronto
Dalhousie
Lakehead

CIS.Hoops.ca Top 10
UBC
Carleton
St. FX
Calgary
Cape Breton
Windsor
Simon Fraser
Lakehead
Toronto
McMaster

The above are the final top 10 men’s basketball pre-Christmas rankings. The CIS and CIS.Hoops.ca agree on the first five teams – UBC, Carleton, St. FX, Calgary and Cape Breton. They disagree sharply on the placing of McMaster and CIS includes Dalhousie whereas CIS.Hoops.ca includes Simon Fraser.

I tried doing my own rankings over the past couple of weeks and what intrigued me was how little there was to go on. Doing ranking is not easy. Obviously, the best way to rate one team against other would be to see how they do when they meet. Second best would be to see how two teams did against the same team. Equally important, it seems to me – especially when most games are played within a team’s own conference – would be to compare strength of conference.

By my calculations – I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong -- there have been only five games this season involving any of the top 11 teams (I include both Dalhousie and Simon Fraser) playing each other outside of their own conferences – UBC 79-70 over Windsor, McMaster 88-52 over St. FX, Calgary 62-57 over Dalhousie, Toronto 76-68 over Cape Breton and Windsor 89-82 over Simon Fraser. Limited as they are these results seem clear: when playing against top 10 teams outside their conference, OUA teams went 3-1, Canada West teams 2-1 and AUS teams 0-3. That seems reasonable since OUA teams have won seven consecutive CIS championships.

I tried one other approach. Since the OUA has won seven consecutive CIS championships and six of those have gone to Carleton in the OUA East, I thought it would be interesting to look at top 10 teams to see – on the evidence available – how they would do if they were playing in the OUA. I used those criteria to evaluate some teams.

I started at the top – with UBC and Carleton. Those two rankings make sense. UBC were CIS finalists last season and have yet to be defeated. Granted the Thunderbirds have played only one current top 10 team, Windsor, but their string of victories is impressive. Carleton Ravens are defending CIS champions. They had an undefeated pre-season and they are 7-1 in league play. They have defeated two other top 10 teams – Windsor and McMaster – and lost to one – Lakehead. Most important they top the OUA East ahead of Ottawa (which I think should be ranked) and Toronto (which is ranked.)

Next comes St. FX, the team both rankings place at # 3. In the pre-season, St. FX played (as noted) and got hammered by McMaster a team which has now been beaten by Toronto, Ottawa and Carleton. The X-men also played and lost to Guelph now 1-5. St. FX did defeat Brock, now 3-5. That, to me, does make the X-men look like a team deserving third in the rankings. The fact they top the AUS does not make them a top 10 team. (If leading a conference was all it took Laval would be ranked.) Their record is less impressive than their ranking.

Calgary makes a little more sense. The Dinos had a decent pre-season with wins over Western, a solid OUA team, and Laval, the top team in Quebec. They handled Dalhousie which still has a top 10 CIS ranking (though one in my opinion undeserved). They are 8-2 in league play with losses to Trinity Western and Simon Fraser, a team which, in my opinion, also deserves a top 10 ranking.

What about Cape Breton? The Capers defeated a good Ottawa team in overtime and had a close game against Toronto though they lost. They have shown an ability to run up a score against some weak teams but split with St. Mary’s which had a poor pre-season.

Then comes McMaster: the Marauders did have a solid pre-season with nine consecutive wins. But the Marauders have now lost to the top three teams in the OUA East. If they were in the OUA East they would be fourth. I can see why on pre-season form they looked good but I also think the coaches who vote for the CIS rankings are being generous rating McMaster as sixth.

That brings me to Windsor a team that has beaten another top 10 team – Simon Fraser – and beaten a team I would rank top 10 – Ottawa – and lost to two top 10 teams – UBC and Carleton. Windsor is the only team for which there is substantial evidence and even then – given the losses and wins – is hard to evaluate. They are 50-50 against teams I would rate as top 10, which, to me, makes them somewhere in the top 10.

Toronto is tougher still. The Varsity Blues have some good wins – against Alberta, Acadia, Cape Breton and McMaster – but they have lost to Waterloo (twice) and, of course, lost to Lakehead and had a one point loss to Windsor. However they are trailing only Carleton and Ottawa after playing a full schedule against the OUA West.

As for Dalhousie: in the pre-season, Dalhousie played and defeated six OUA teams. That sounds impressive until a close look reveals five of those six teams – Guelph, Brock, Laurier, RMC and York – have losing records. In fact RMC and York have one win between them. Western is the only OUA team Dalhousie defeated which has more wins than loses and Western is unranked and tied for third in the OUA West. I think CIS.Hoops.ca got it right when it dropped Dalhousie from the top 10.

What about Lakehead? The Thunderwolves did not play very powerful opponents in the pre-season – they split, for example, against Brandon, now 5-5 – but they have had an impressive start to their regular season with wins over two ranked teams, Toronto and Carleton and then a loss to oncoming Ottawa. I would suggest that Lakehead’s loss to Ottawa tells more about Ottawa than it does about Lakehead a team that was understandably having trouble re-focusing one night after ending Carleton’s losing streak.

Then there’s Simon Fraser. The Clan lost to Windsor in pre-season play and has lost to Lethbridge during the regular season. Its wins were against Laval, Waterloo, Victoria, Regina and Brandon and Calgary. Laval is doing well in Quebec and both Calgary and Waterloo have winning records. Simon Fraser looks like a top 10 team.

That brings me to Ottawa U. The Gee Gees had some pre-season problems and had close losses to Brock and to Windsor (in overtime). But they have come on with wins over McMaster and previously undefeated Lakehead on consecutive nights. And – having played the same teams – they are ahead of Toronto which is ranked. Ottawa U deserves to be in the top 10.

Overall it seems to me that – despite the lack of substantial inter-conference play – one must make some judgments on the basis of past performance starting with the fact that the OUA, on the evidence available, was the strongest conference in pre-season play among top rated teams – and has had the strongest teams for some years. Second, comparing teams with how teams they have played have fared in the OUA during the season adds some insight.

On that basis, I can see some teams -- UBC, Carleton, Lakehead, Ottawa, Calgary and Simon Fraser – deservedly in the top 10 (not necessarily in that order). I can see some others worthy of consideration – Windsor, Toronto, Western, maybe Laval. What I can’t understand is how three AUS teams are ranked in the CIS top 10 and how St. FX which lost to Guelph and was hammered by McMaster the only top-ranked team it has played outside its own conference – a team that has since lost to Toronto, Ottawa and Carleton -- is ranked # 3. Where are the votes for St. FX and the other two AUS teams coming from?

Let me admit that like most observers I have not seen most ranked teams play. I have of course watched Carleton and have seen Lakehead, McMaster, Windsor (twice) and Ottawa. I have seen Fraser Valley, Bishop’s, Alberta, Victoria, Saskatchewan and UPEI. It would be nice to see how Calgary would do against Carleton, St. FX against Ottawa, Cape Breton against Lakehead.

When the women do their rankings they seem to pay a lot more attention to strength of conference. I have had the chance to see about 20 women’s teams – including Alberta, Calgary, Victoria and Memorial – play during the past two seasons as well as all (I think) women’s teams in the OUA West and East. It seems to me it is very clear that the teams from Canada West are stronger than the teams elsewhere. The rankings show exactly that – no less than six Canada West teams -- Simon Fraser, Regina, Saskatchewan, Victoria, Alberta and UBC – are ranked in the top 10. The only team from the OUA is Windsor which, at this point, in my opinion, is as it should be – since I have seen Windsor three times this season, against Victoria, Carleton and Ottawa. To twist a quote from My Fair Lady, why can’t the men be more like the women?


Joe Scanlon

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cape Breton did not beat Ottawa in overtime, they beat them by 19 in regulation.

Anonymous said...

Excellent evaluation of rankings . You can see in the cis rankings that the coaches put very little effort or thought into their votes. DAL being ranked is a glaring example of how poor this poll is. Cis poll is a little closer ;however, it still doesn't take into account wins and loses against top 10 teams. If Ottawa University had not lost to Windsor in overtime they could very easily been ranked 3rd or 4th (losing they aren't ranked ?). Both polls ranked SFX 3rd . Could anyone explain how a team in a weak league , no wins against top 10 teams and a loss to a ranked team (MAC) is ranked 3rd. Ranking them 10th would be generous (CB record is more impressive).

Logan said...

Quick correction: Calgary's losses have been to SFU and Saskatchewan, not SFU and Trinity Western.

Anonymous said...

GOOD JOB!
I like the fact someone is taking a closer look at the top ten and interest in something that I think is important to men's basketball and women,s.