Lack of cross-conference play in U Sports basketball makes it difficult to judge a team’s true rank. Besides the number one spot, which has belonged to Carleton all season, the number two to 10 spots in the national rankings have changed at least once.
Most recently, Brock dropped from the number two rank to three to conclude 2017 — however, they have since moved back to the number two spot in last weeks national rankings. Calgary, who held the number two spot dropped to number five after a two-loss weekend to start the new year.
The Canadian University Sports Network’s rankings, which is voted on by 13 journalists around Canada, has rotated Brock from the two and three spot for a majority of the season.
Brock’s biggest competition for the number two spot has been Alberta, who is currently the first seed in the Canada West conference. The assumption can be made that Carleton, the lone U Sports undefeated team, belongs in a tier by themselves. While Brock and Alberta are on the same level that marks them in a tier two category behind Carleton.
Ranking U Sports by tiers probably looks like the following:
Tier 1: Carleton (14-0)
Tier 2: Brock (12-2) and Alberta (13-1)
Tier 3: Calgary (11-3), UBC (11-3), Ottawa (11-3), UNB (10-1) and Dalhousie (8-2)
Tier 4: Ryerson (9-5), Laurentian (12-1), Queen’s (9-5), McGill (7-1) and Acadia (8-2)
Based off that, determining who the better team is between Brock and Alberta isn’t easy, since the two have not played each other. The facts that can be used to compare the two are similar opponents, records versus top teams, rating percentage index, offensive and defensive statistics.
Looking at similar opponents, they both have victories over Calgary and York. Brock beat Calgary in exhibition play by 12; while Alberta had two victories by 13 and 10. Then versus York, Brock won by 29 and Alberta won by 17 in an exhibition game.
The two teams have also been successful against the top teams in their conference. The Badgers are 3-2 against teams with a .500 record in the OUA. The only top Canada West team Alberta has played was Calgary, going 2-0. The Golden Bears lone loss this season came at the hands of the 8-6 Victoria Vikes.
Using the RPI on usportshoop.ca, Brock’s (0.618) RPI is 0.04 higher than Alberta (0.578). The RPI is most famously used by the NCAA when selecting teams for the March Madness tournament — rank sports teams based upon a team’s wins and losses and its strength of schedule.
Offensively, the two teams aren’t much different either. Alberta ranks seventh in the country in points per game (86.6) and 10th in field goal percentage (46.3). Brock on the other hand, ranks 14th in points per game (83.0) and 22nd in field goal percentage (43.3).
Defensively, Alberta holds their opponents to 65.2 points per game, which is second in the country. Brock is fourth, holding teams to 68.3 points per game.
If the U Sports Final 8 was to be this week, Brock and Alberta would probably be on the same side of the bracket and a predicted semi-final matchup. However, before we can begin to imagine such an elite matchup, the two teams have an easy remaining season schedule, but a tough conference playoffs ahead.
As mentioned last week, Brock should go undefeated the remainder of the season and they won’t face a tough opponent until the OUA final four. Whereas, Alberta has six games remaining against 7-7 Mount Royal, 4-10 MacEwan and 11-5 Lethbridge – the Golden Bears play each team twice.
Alberta’s conference playoffs aren’t any easier than Brock’s, as the Golden Bears are eyeing a final four matchup against either UBC or Calgary, Lethbridge or Manitoba – four teams that have shown stretches of being Final 8 worthy.
As the National and CUSN rankings continue to see drastic changes between the five and 10 spots each week, the number two spot seems to be the most unclear between Brock and Alberta.