Playoff Preview: Badgers poised to go deep after historic season

Photo credit: Mackenzie Gerry

Photo credit: Mackenzie Gerry

After leaving Waterloo with a pair of wins over the Warriors and the Laurier Golden Hawks this past weekend, the Badgers currently sit at 16-4 with just two games left to go in the regular season. Brock will travel to the nation’s capital this upcoming weekend to end their season with what is the toughest back-to-back in the OUA — the Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Carleton Ravens.

This year’s edition of the Gee-Gees will finish with the best record in the OUA and are currently ranked No. 2 in the country. The Ravens sit at No. 9 in the country, right behind Brock who is eighth. The Badgers have been swept by these teams in each of the last six seasons and have a point differential of -104 and -94 against Ottawa and Carleton, respectively. The last time they won was back in 2013 when they beat both teams.

Historically, this has been a lopsided affair, however the Badgers have made history of their own this season; they have already won the most regular season games since 2013, head coach Mike Rao should be a frontrunner for Coach of the Year and Melissa Tatti has a chance to complete the ‘Nate Archibald’ and lead the league in scoring and assists this year (she is just 0.1 assists shy of the lead). In her past four games, Tatti has scored 30, 30 and a career-high 34 in three of those to overtake the scoring leaderboard.

The OUA playoff format is different than in years past, as the league now consists of three divisions (each with six teams), as opposed to the two they have used for the past several years. The top-three teams in each division qualify, as do three other wild cards. Each division champion receives a first-round bye, as does the best divisional runner-up.

Brock will finish somewhere between the No. 3 and No. 5 seed in this year’s playoffs. Math-wise, they have a 66.7 per cent chance of receiving a first-round bye. Basketball-wise, however, it is most likely that Brock finishes with the fourth or fifth seed.

The OUA Central is a two-horse race between Brock and Ryerson; as of now, both teams sit at 16-4 with two games to go. As previously mentioned, Brock has two tough games against Ottawa and Carleton, while Ryerson has two gimmies against the 4-16 Nipissing Lakers and the 3-17 Laurentian Voyageurs. Additionally, Ryerson holds the tiebreaker against Brock, so the only possible way in which Brock could win the division and receive the No. 3 seed is if Ryerson manages to lose to both Nipissing and Laurentian, while Brock wins one of their final two. Still possible, but very unlikely.

Assuming Ryerson wins the division, the final first-round bye spot will be between Brock and Windsor. Both teams share an identical record of 16-4 as of now, but Windsor has an easier final two games than the Badgers. They will play the 3-17 Waterloo Warriors and the 18-3 Western Mustangs to finish off their season. The Badgers hold the tiebreaker against the Lancers, so in order to receive the first-round bye, Brock and Windsor will need to finish with identical records (at the very least). Assuming Windsor beats the 3-17 Warriors, the Badgers will need to either sweep the Ottawa-Carleton back-to-back, or win one and hope Western beats the Lancers.

The most realistic scenario is that Windsor splits their final two games and finishes with a 17-5 record. While the Badgers have beaten their fair share of nationally ranked teams this year, they have yet to face a team like the Gee-Gees, who have won 14 in a row — 11 of which have been by double-digits. If Brock wants the first-round bye, they will need to go into the Ravens’ Nest and beat Carleton to secure the No. 4 seed and hope the Mustangs beat Windsor.

No matter if Brock finishes with the fourth seed or not, a matchup with the Lancers in the playoffs is very likely — the only difference would be that the team who ends up with the fifth seed would have to go through the No. 12 seed in the first-round. That shouldn’t be a problem for either team, as the twelfth seed is the lowest seeded playoff team and will most likely be a team like 7-13 Lakehead or 6-14 Algoma. Again, the extra rest is likely to prove useful, especially for a team like the Badgers that has been so reliant on its starters.

The Badgers have already secured home-court advantage for their first playoff game — the only question remaining is what round it will be. If Brock finishes as the No. 5 seed, their first-round playoff matchup will take place on February 19 in the Bob Davis Gym (the time has yet to be announced). If they finish with the No. 4 seed and receive the bye, then their quarter-final matchup will take place on Feb. 22.

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