CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Preview: Anybody’s Ballgame!
TRURO, NS– Eight of Canada’s top college teams have arrived to Truro, Nova Scotia to play in the CCAA Men’s National Basketball Championships. Each team is grasping at the chance to be named Canada’s top college team, with the champion to be crowned Saturday night at the Langille Athletic Center.
The action will be fierce and whoever survives the three days of action will most likely have fought for every win and will be well deserving of the title. One thing is for sure…it will not come easy.
This year’s field has some of the toughest teams in the country who have upset their opponents in conference play, and if history has taught us anything, it is that seeding is not indicative of how strong each team is. Each program has earned its way into the championship with their stellar play in their respective leagues and all teams, 1 to 8, have an equal chance at gold.
#1 seed UNBC Timberwolves come into the championship after having a very successful season in the PACWEST conference finishing with a 13-3 record. This will be their fourth straight CCAA National appearance after winning the gold medal in 2010. The Timberwolves come in riding some great success after having knocked off the number 1 nationally ranked team VIU Mariners in the PACWEST championships. UNBC is one of the more experienced teams in the tournament, 7 members of their 2010 gold medal team still remain and will look to carry that success into this year’s championships.
The Timberwolves pride themselves on being a balanced team with multiple players who can step up for them at different times. The Timberwolves are lead in scoring by second team PACWEST all-star Jose Araujo who averages 16 ppg, along with fellow second team all stars Sam Raphael and Francis Rowe in the Timberwolves line up. UNBC is a very solid team that will look to rekindle the magic that led them to a National Championship in 2010; they will be a force in Truro and have gold on their minds.
#2 seed Mount Royal Cougars enter the CCAA national championship on a great run. The Cougars won the ACAC conference title in convincing fashion and are riding a six-game winning streak. MRU finished the regular season with a 15-3 record and have been for the most part a very consistent team. The Cougars will look to reigning ACAC player of the week Steve Trinidad, a fifth year guard from Calgary, Alberta who has recently been on a tear. En route to the championships, in the Cougars semi-final and finals he eclipsed the 30 point mark and led his team to victory. During the season Trinidad averaged 20.5 ppg. Mount Royal is also led by their ACAC south conference first and second team all-stars forward Nick Loewen who averaged 14.4 ppg and guard Trent Offereins who averaged 7.64 ppg. The Cougars will try and use their superior guard play of late and strong post play to lead them to victory. They are a hot team that coming into the CCAA championships have found their stride which bodes well for them in the tournament.
#3 seed Indiens d’Ahuntsic enter the National tournament after beating powerhouse Vanier in the RESQ conference. Ahuntsic College not only beat the reigning National Champions Vanier but they dominated them in the championship game by a score of 85-66. Ahuntsic’s win served as a notice for the rest of the country that they are for real and look to continue that success into the Nationals. The Indiens are led by their trio of all stars Fred Dure, Jonathan Tshibuy and Max Joseph. The Indiens big three dominate the game with their relentless running attack. Ahuntsic College will look to get out and run on teams and make it difficult to keep up with their pace and defensive intensity.
#4 Mohawk Mountaineers come into the CCAA national championships as the representatives from the always strong OCAA. The Mountaineers defeated the national powerhouse Humber Hawks in a thriller in the OCAA championships. Mohawk comes into the nationals riding very high as they have won their last 7 games and look to ride that success into maybe the medal rounds. Mohawk is led by their dynamic back court that boasts CCAA all Canadian Amino Bello who averages a stellar 24.2 points a game and guard Manny Campbell, an ultra-quick point guard who affects the game in many different areas. Mohawk is a very hot team right now and will look to ride that success into the Nationals. However, the Hamilton contingent will go as far as their guard duo take them. Mohawk has very little National experience which might hinder their chances but if head coach Brian Jonaker who has done a tremendous job with Mohawk this year can get his team to stay hungry then their chances are looking good.
#5 seed Vanier Cheetahs are the reigning CCAA National Championships and look to make history by becoming the first Quebec team to repeat as National Champions. The task will not be easy but Vanier looks up to the challenge. The Cheetahs lost four starters from last season’s national championship team and were pegged to have a down year but after a bit of experimenting they were able to find the right match of players which lead them to a 13-3 conference record in the RSEQ. This was prior to losing in the finals to Indiens d’Ahuntsic. Nonetheless, Vanier entered Nationals based on their second place standing in the RSEQ. Vanier was led by their two first team all stars Ben Millaud-Meunier and Greishe Clerjuste. Millaud-Meunier is a third year player who led his respective conference in almost every offensive category and is a tough match up for any team. Clerjuste is the team’s second leading scorer and helps bolster an already strong line-up with his stellar play. Vanier’s line-up is very strong with a lot of talent that will be in full display this week in Truro.
#6 St Thomas Tommies will not have to travel far to play in this week’s National Championships as the Tommies who reside in Fredericton, New Brunswick will try and use the short trip to their advantage and get a leg up on the competition. STU were this year’s ACAA conference champions after knocking off five-time defending champions Mount St Vincent’s University (MSVU) in an overtime thriller. The Tommies are a grind it out team that fight on every possession and will be a tough team to knock out in this year’s Nationals. St Thomas is led by leading scorer Richie Wilkins who in his first year averaged 16 ppg and was name ACAA rookie of the year. The Tommies are also bolstered in the backcourt by second team ACAA all-star guard Nathan Mazurkiewick who in his second year averages 13 ppg and lead the team in assists. St Thomas will use there stellar guard play and gritto make a run at the gold medal.
#7 seed Mount St. Vincent University Mystics enter the CCAA championships after having a very successful season in the ACAA conference. The Mystics finished the regular season with a 21-0 record only to lose in the finals to the St. Thomas Tommies. MSVU will use that loss as motivation to try and continue their success in the hopes of getting a medal. The Mystics are led by their inside-outside presence that consist of forward Luke Reynolds and guard Kenneth Reardon. Reynolds who averaged a team best 15.1ppg, is a strong post player who looks to impose his will on opposing teams. Reardon, who averaged 13.4 ppg, does a very good job stabilizing the team from the point guard position. The Mystics are a very fundamentally sound team that rely on strong defence and playing mistake free basketball. They are a very well coached team spearheaded by, Coach Rick Plato who has been at the helm for 23 years. Coach Plato will ensure his team makes sound decisions and play within their systems; if the Mystics can run their game plans successfully then they should be a force in the tournament.
#8 seed Reed Deer College Kings who hail from Red Deer, Alberta, enter the championships on a wildcard based on their second place finish in the ACAC conference. The Kings have had a very successful season and look to show teams this weekend that regardless of their 8 seeding they will be a tough out. This is the second time in school history that Red Deer has been to the CCAA championships. The Kings are led by ACAC south division first team all stars Rob Pierce and Erin Baker. Pierce who was near the top of the CCAA in rebounding all year is a tough matchup for any team; a strong player who uses his physical strength to his advantage.
Tournament Schedule (all times AST)
Thursday March 15
Game #1 1pm – Red Deer Kings vs. UNBC Timberwolves
Game # 2 3pm – Vanier Cheetahs vs. Mohawk Mountaineers
Game # 3 6pm – MSVU Mystics vs. Mount Royal Cougars
Game # 4 8pm – St Thomas Tommies vs. Indiens d’Ahuntsic
Friday March 16
Game # 5 1pm – Losers of game 1 & 2
Game # 6 3pm – Losers of game 3 & 4
Game # 7 6pm – Winners of game 1 & 2 (semi-final)
Game # 8 8pm – Winners of game 3 & 4 (semi-final)
Saturday March 17
Game # 9 10am – Losers of game 7 & Winners of game 6
Game # 10 12pm – Losers of game 8 vs. Winners of game 5
Game # 11 2pm – Losers of game 5 & 6 (7th/8th place)
Game # 12 6pm – Winners of game 9 & 10 (Bronze Medal)
Game # 13 8pm – Winners of game 7 & 8 (Gold Medal)