The path to the OUA final four could not be any easier for the Brock Badgers. The men’s basketball program enters the final 12 games of the season with a 10-2 record, four wins better than Western (who is second place in the OUA West conference). In fact, Western and their 6-6 record would be tied for seventh in the east division.
With the remaining schedule for the Badgers being against west division opponents, nothing less than a 12-0 record to close the season should be expected from the third ranked program in the country.
This upcoming weekend, the Badgers will travel to Algoma to play a program that is looking to tie its program high in wins in a season at five; Brock still has two games left against a 3-9 Guelph team, the 1-11 Lakehead Thunderwolves, a 4-8 Windsor team and the 5-7 Waterloo Warriors; and the Badgers also have one game left against 4-8 Laurier and 6-6 Western.
This past Saturday, the Badgers got the job done against the 2-10 McMaster Marauders, in which forward Trevor Thompson made his return to the Brock team. It wasn’t the prettiest game the Badgers have played, as the long break looked to play a factor. They pulled away late and held onto an 89-73 win even with McMaster making a late push.
Dani Elgadi picked up his sixth double-double of the season and third consecutive with 24 points and 12 rebounds, adding four blocks. Team leading scorer on the season, Cassidy Ryan stayed hot, scoring 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Johneil Simpson added 14 and Tyler Brown scored 10 and had seven assists.
The question that has to be asked is, will this weak remaining schedule negatively affect the Badgers when they reach the final four and have to play a potential top-10 team?
Against the OUA easts top six teams — Carleton, Laurentian, Ottawa, Ryerson and Queen’s — the Badgers impressed with a 4-2 record. Those six teams hold a record of 8-4 or better and still need to play each other at least one more time, meaning the competition for east teams will remain high during the second half of the season. However, for the Badgers, their final 12-games could see them win by 10 or more points every game. In the small sample of four games against the west, the Badgers are averaging a winning margin of 15-points.
The team itself can’t look at the remaining schedule and their early playoff run as an easy-ride to the final four, but it’s almost exactly that. Brock being in an easy division is due to the divisional realignment, which saw the OUA go from four to two divisions.
However, what this schedule doesn’t do for Brock is it doesn’t give them a spot into the National Final 8 tournament. Once reaching the OUA final four, the Badgers will have to cross-cover to play one of the top east teams — besides the 16-point victory against Laurentian this season, the Badgers only beat Queen’s by five, were taken to overtime by Ryerson and Carleton (losing to Carleton) and were outplayed by Ottawa on their own home court.
Speaking to head coach Charles Kissi and some of the players earlier in the season, the last thing the Badgers want is to leave their Final 8 chances up to the committee for a second year in a row, as last season the Badgers lost the final spot to Calgary.
This season will be an even tougher decision for the committee, especially if Brock does not earn their own spot by making it to the OUA Championship.
With only two spots in the tournament for the Canada West conference, one of Alberta, Calgary or University of British Columbia (all top-10 teams) will be in the mix for the final spot. Two of Carleton, Ottawa, Ryerson and Laurentian will be in the mix. If Concordia can beat Laval and get two more wins against McGill, there’s a chance one of McGill and Concordia will be in the conversation. All of that doesn’t even include the AUS conference, which has been all sorts of confusing this season.
So, if there’s no upsets after the conference playoffs and Brock is back in position where the committee holds their faith, the Badgers will be up against at least five other teams deserving of that final eight spot.
In their final 12 games of the season and into the early rounds of the OUA playoffs, the Badgers must treat every game like it holds their fate for the National Tournament, because anything less than a U Sports Final 8 berth will make this season a disappointment.