Volume 91, Issue 91
Friday, March 20, 1998
Lynn and Tonic
Shafted by the system
It's not just a case of sour grapes. Craig Boydell and his boys got shafted again for an invitation to Halifax for this weekend's CIAU basketball championship.
After finishing the regular season in second place with a 12-2 record, a loss to Waterloo in the OUA semifinal on the Warriors home court should not have been so damaging to the Mustangs.
No other conference in Canada has such a ridiculous playoff format as the one Ontario West has adopted this season.
Steve Roth, head coach of the Saskatchewan Huskies, was in total agreement.
"In the Canada West [conference] we play a best-of-three, so you don't get a lot of upsets," he said. "You're almost guaranteed that the best team will win."
The operative word here is "best." Waterloo, who finished the season with a mediocre 7-7 record, lost to Western in both regular season meetings. They weren't ranked until after they knocked off Western and McMaster in the playoffs two teams that everyone acknowledged were more talented (though Warrior head coach Tom Kieswetter would beg to differ).
Just look at the seeding going into the tourney. McMaster, a wild-card team, is seeded fourth ahead of three conference champs. Meanwhile, Waterloo is ranked even lower than Alberta, the tourney's other wild-card team which finished second in the Canada West.
It's clear the Warriors are out of their element. They were aided by the fact they had home-court advantage throughout the Ontario West playoffs and in front of a large and partisan crowd, they upset both the Mustangs and the Marauders. The question is: why was Waterloo given the luxury to host this event?
Boydell said, they had the best facilities and McMaster was the only other school that showed interest in staging it.
I'm not a firm believer in the single game, winner-take-all format. It's much too harsh, especially in a sport like basketball where home-court advantage can prove a decisive advantage. The Atlantic Conference is the only other conference outside of Ontario that uses a single-elimination tournament format, but at least it was held at a neutral site.
Brock head coach Ken Murray said a neutral site like Copps Coliseum was not available for this season due to a scheduling conflict. Moreover, the league was not prepared to hold the event at Toronto's Varsity Arena, due to a lack of fan support which would make it a financial disaster.
As an alternative, the conference's coaches agreed to stage the tourney at Waterloo, but surely Boydell and Mac coach Joe Raso didn't know what the ramifications would be. At least Raso still made it to the big dance though.
It would have made a lot more sense financially to have staged a best of three mini-series, with the higher-ranked team getting home-court advantage. All that would be required would be an earlier start to the season.
Furthermore, by ensuring that there is always a team playing on their home court, there would be higher attendance figures for the playoffs. On top of that, the system would ensure that only the best teams made it to Halifax.
A winner-take-all system is just too harsh and unfitting for a conference where, excluding Lakehead, every team is within a three-hour driving radius. Steve Roth pointed out that Saskatchewan's closest competitor is that far away, so it shouldn't be much of a problem for the Ontario West organizers to lengthen the schedule.
In short, Western's 22-5 overall record and eighth-place national ranking amounted to nothing this season because the Mustangs weren't given a fair crack at the national title. The status quo must be changed in order to stop such a travesty from occurring again.
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