By Gavin Mackenzie
The CIAU wild card selection process is seriously flawed and should be overhauled to better reflect the quality of opponents a team has played throughout the season.
Wild card selection is based on 10 objective criteria including overall record, number of weeks as a top-10 team and record versus other conferences. This format does not allow for the quality of a team’s opponents to be properly considered.
If two teams of equal strength apply for a wild card berth, the team with the weaker schedule will obviously have a better record to boast to the selection committee.
Instead of following a mechanical process, the selection committee should pick the teams that have performed best under the toughest circumstances.
Although Ryerson had three more losses than Western, the quality of their opponents was superior. If Ryerson had played Western’s schedule they could very well have gone undefeated.
Western has one of the largest athletic budgets in Canada. They could have easily boarded a plane on any weekend and competed against the country’s elite teams. Instead, they manipulated the system and scheduled tournament and exhibition matches against inferior teams.
On the other hand, Ryerson went out of its way to schedule games against the country’s finest teams such as McMaster and Alberta and fared well. In the end, they were not rewarded for this.
If the wild card selection criteria isn’t drastically altered soon a disturbing trend will develop. Teams will no longer go out of the way to schedule quality opponents because the risks will be too high. Instead, they will take a page out of Western’s book and stomp all over the country’s worst teams. The overall quality of CIAU basketball is sure to suffer.
But the finger of blame for the abrupt end to Ryerson’s season should be pointed at the team itself. The team self-destructed down the stretch, putting themselves at the mercy of the wild card committee and squandering the best regular season in team history.
Ryerson had one of the most talented and athletic teams in the country. It’s unfortunate they never reached their full potential.—Gavin Mackenzie has covered the Rams since January.