Preview: ACAA championships hosted by St. Thomas, MSVU’s Plato looking for another title

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Rick Plato looking to add another ACAA title to his impressive resume.
Courtesy:MSVU Athletics

The ACAA championships will be hosted by the defending champions St. Thomas Tommies in Fredericton, N.B. this weekend. The tournament will feature six teams in a single-elimination format, with the winner heading to Sainte Anne de Bellevue, Qc., for the 2013 CCAA men’s basketball championship.

Here are the quarterfinal matchups:

(3) Crandall University Chargers vs. (6) University of King’s College Blue Devils

Mar. 1, 3 p.m.

Crandall University (14-7) swept the season series with the Blue Devils (6-15), with the average margin of victory being 24.3 points per game.

Expect this game to be a high scoring affair, as the Chargers and Blue Devils allowed more points than any other team in the ACAA championship. However, Crandall has shown they have the offensive firepower to get away with it, as they boast four players in the top 12 in ACAA scoring.

Kemoy Shaw has been strong against King’s College this season, averaging 20.7 points per game and almost nine rebounds per game in their three matchups, so he’s someone King’s College will need to focus on.

If the Blue Devils give Shaw too much attention, more space opens up for Taylor Norum, who also played King’s College strong with averages of 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

More recently, Alex MacLeod went off for 29 points against King’s College in their last matchup, so he, along with players like Nathaniel Fells, Craig MacLeod and Brandon MacInnis, will also provide a strong challenge for the Blue Devil defence.

The biggest advantage the Chargers have going into this game is their depth, as they have shown confidence in their bench from one end to the other against a short-staffed Blue Devils squad.

On the other side of the ball, the Blue Devils’ unquestioned offensive leader is Thomas Watson, who led the ACAA by scoring an average of 20.2 points per game this season. He really turned up his production after the New Year, going over 20 points in 10 consecutive games including 32- and 26-point efforts against Crandall.

After Watson, forward Mohammed Ibrahim and guard J.J. Wilson become the next primary targets. Ibrahim is the Blue Devils’ top rebounder (6.8 rebounds per game this season), and he posted season highs with 22 points and 10 rebounds against Crandall on Jan. 27. Wilson, meanwhile, has quietly become a third scoring option for King’s College, averaging 12.3 points per game in six games in February.

However, after the big three and senior guard Colin Bebbington, depth becomes the biggest question mark for King’s College, which ties into the concern of fading late in either the first or second half, as they were outscored for the season in the second and fourth quarters.

If Crandall can run the Blue Devils down with their depth, they should advance to the semifinals and a rematch with the red hot defending champion St. Thomas Tommies, who needed triple overtime to beat the Chargers in their regular season finale.

(4) Mount St. Vincent Mystics vs. (5) Mount Allison Mounties

Mar. 1, 5 p.m.

Mount St. Vincent (14-7) and Mount Allison (12-9) played each other tough this season, with Mount St. Vincent taking the season series 2-1.

The game will also feature two of the best defensive squads in the ACAA.

Despite being the fourth seed this year, the Mystics are a perennial threat in the ACAA as they won six consecutive championships before falling to St. Thomas in overtime in last year’s final.

They’ve shown signs of finding that form once again, winning six of their last eight games en route to going 10-4 since the Christmas break to reestablish themselves as threats.

Among those wins was a big 79-78 double overtime victory over Mount Allison on Jan. 27. Had it gone the other way, it would have reversed the seeds for this game based on head-to-head record.

In that game, senior small forward Todd Williams (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Kenneth Reardon (18 points, five rebounds) took over and led the way for the Mystics, so they can certainly be counted on when a game gets tough, just as the Mystics can never be counted out as long as Rick Plato mans the bench.

Reardon, Mount St. Vincent’s most consistent offensive threat, had a statement game at home against Mount Allison just two weeks ago, going off for 30 points and seven rebounds to lead the Mystics to an 84-71 win that gave them the season series.

With that being said, Mount Allison will never be out of a game as long as they have senior forward Ben Chisholm on the floor.

One of the most consistent players at either end of the floor, Chisholm was the only player in the ACAA to average a double-double per game, finishing second in points with 18.7 per game and leading in rebounds with 10.1 per game.

However, the Fall River, N.S. native has played a little bit below his season averages against Mount St. Vincent this season (15 points, 8.5 rebounds per game*), so if the Mounties hope to send the Mystics to their first quarterfinal exit in quite some time, he’s going to need some help.

Luckily, Chisholm has got it in the form of Brandon Malally, a Truro, N.S. forward who stepped up his game to complement Chisholm, posting averages of 14.5 points and 11 rebounds per game against Mount St. Vincent this season.

Malally showed in the 2012 ACAA championships that he’s not intimidated by big games, as he drained a late 3-pointer to eliminate the Holland Hurricanes in the quarterfinals before falling to Mount St. Vincent in the semifinals.

All in all, this should be the game to watch on Friday, so we’ll see if they can deliver a memorable fourth game.

For Saturday’s semifinals, the lowest remaining seed in the tournament will play the top-seeded Holland College Hurricanes (18-3) at 5:30 p.m., while the highest remaining seed will play the host and reigning ACAA champion St. Thomas Tommies (17-4) at 7:30 p.m.

 

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