Can Carleton Defend The National Title?
Does the Carleton loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA Final provide a portent of things to come?
Is there a team in this field which is ready to de-throne the champions this week? Is it Ottawa in the Final? Could McMaster raise their game enough to be close in the final minutes on Friday ? Does Alberta’s experience give them a basis for confidence going into a possible semi-final meeting with the Ravens?
Here’s the run down for this weekend’s action.
Game 1 # 3 Alberta (20-2) vs # 6 Saint Marys (14-6)
The champions of Canada West and the Atlantic tee-off on each other in the opener in Ottawa. The Bears have won 3 CIS championships, all under Coach Don Horwood, with the last in 2002, while Saint Marys have 4 titles, the latest in 1999, coached by Ross Quackenbush.
Alberta are a deep, veteran team, with 4 fifth-year and 3 fourth-year players in their rotation. Coach Barnaby Craddock is in his 2nd year, after having guided Fraser Valley to the Final 8 semi-finals in 2012, and winning a silver medal with Brandon in 2007. Canada West Player of the Year, 6-7 Jordan Baker (5th), leads with 18 ppg / 8.2 rebs / 3 assists / 2 steals. Wing-men, 6-4 Joel Friesen, and 6-4 Ken Otieno, both 4th years, average 14 and 12 ppg respectively. Others to watch – guards, Sahr Saffa, Youssef Ouahrig , Czar Rowbotham, and forwards Mamadou Gueye (Canada West Rookie of the Year), Todd Bergen-Henengouwen, Rob Dewar.
Saint Marys, coached by Jonah Taussig, are anchored by Theon Reefer, a with 19 ppg, 5.6 rebs, 2 steals, 5th year forward, Harry Ezenibe, at 7.7 RPG, 9 PPG. Their top guards are Boyd Vassell, (16 ppg / 3.6 assts), and Marquis Clayton (14 ppg / 4 assists). Others – guards, Brian Rouse, and Jeremy McAvoy, forwards – Terry Taylor, Riley Halpin.
Alberta scores 83 ppg and gives up 68 ppg, while Saint Marys is among the CIS’ highest scoring teams, at 86.5 ppg, but give up 76 ppg. Alberta’s defense will have to control the speed and athleticism of the Huskies, and have their own scoring depth make an impact.
The shooting stats favour the Bears, but the arena setting can be a big equalizer, and their quest for “another shot at a national title” needs to focus on the Atlantic champs, and nothing else. CIS TV on Friday at 12:30 pm EST
Game 2 – # 2 Carleton (20-2) vs # 7 McMaster (18-4)
The Marauders lost, but were not wiped out by Carleton (83-72) in their November OUA League game. The psychology of this game is intriguing, with the Ravens losing their last game to Ottawa in the OUA Final, while McMaster pulls out a gutsy win against Windsor to grab the 3rd OUA spot. Carleton are the “CIS Champions of the New Century”, having won 9 times in the last 11 seasons under Coach Dave Smart, and the last 3 in a row.
McMaster are looking for their 1st CIS title, and Coach Amos Connelly brings them here hoping they can compete with a team that hasn’t lost to the Marauders since 2001. But, this is now; and, if Mac can rebound with the Ravens, they may have a shot. That’s a chore, however, as the Black Birds are an incredible +16 on the glass. Tyson Hinz (14 ppg, 58% Fg, 48% from 3) is a killer with his offensive tools, inside and out, and, if Phil Scrubb (19 ppg, 49% FG, 47% from 3) regains his ‘mojo’, he can take over the game. Thomas Scrubb has played all season like an all-star, and he and the other Ravens vets want to keep the string alive.
Mac were 3rd in the OUA in rebounding at +7, in scoring at 85.5 ppg, and shoot it well (45% FG), but have to stop CU from 3 point range, where they have a 44% to 35% advantage on McMaster. Leaders for the M’s are Joe Rocca and Taylor Black (each near14 ppg) Aaron Redpath (10.5 ppg). Big men, Nathan McCarthy and Leon Alexander will have to defend and get clutch hoops, if Mac is to have a chance. CIS TV Friday at 2:30 pm EST
Game 3 – # 4 Victoria (19-3) vs # 5 McGill (14-2)
No Quebec team has won a 1st round game in the CIS Nationals since Concordia advanced to the Final in 2005. McGill looks like a strong team, but UVic has to be favoured. The Vikes have been winners at Nationals a total of 8 times, with 7 in a row from 1980-86 coached by Ken Shields, and the last under the late Coach Guy Vetrie in 1997. McGill has never won this championship, but the Quebec champs will be a tough out this time around.
Both the Vikes (60 ppg against, 1st in the CIS) and the Redmen (62 ppg – 3rd) pride themselves on defense, and this figures to be a low scoring affair. Victoria has scoring and rebounding from 5th year wing man Terrell Evans (18 ppg, 7.1 rebs ) and 6-10, 4th year, Chris McLaughlin (15 ppg, 8.2 rebs), and 3rd year import point man, Marcus Tibbs, has had an increasing impact at the offensive end, while leading the team with 4.6 assists. Reiner Theill, is their defensive catalyst, while 2nd year guard Kyle Peterson (9 ppg, 40% from 3, 3 assts) contributes in many ways.
McGill have power and finesse in 3rd year wing, Vincent Dufort, 13 ppg, 6.7 rebs, 3.7 assts, 6-5 Francois Bourque, 1st year (CGEP) (10 ppg, 7.8 rebs, 52% FG) , and 6-3 rookie wing man, Dele Ogundokun (11 ppg, 5.8 rebs, 2.5 steals). Their floor leader is 4th year guard, Simon Bibeau (11.4 ppg, 3 assists), while 2nd year import, Thomas Lacy (9 ppg), hits 46% from the 3 point line.
The winner here will get things rolling on offense, win the rebounding, and keep their key guys out of foul trouble. McLaughlin’s size could be decisive, if he gets the ball inside, and clears the D-boards. CIS TV Friday at 5:30 pm EST
Game 4 – # 1 Ottawa (20-2) vs # 8 Saskatchewan (15-7)
The Gee-Gees are the talk of the country right now, after they upset the Carleton Ravens, who were previously 54-0 vs CIS teams in the past 2 seasons. It remains to be seen how the ‘Ponies’ bounce back emotionally from that amazing performance.
Saskatchewan, winners of this Final 8 in 2010 under Coach Greg Jockims, were 3-1 in Canada West playoff games, and enter the Tournament with an eye to knocking off the top seed. Neither team is bashful on offense, with the Huskies the top scoring team in Canada West at 83.5 ppg, and Ottawa 1st in the CIS at 96.4 ppg.
Ottawa Coach, James Derouin, has 4th year guard Johnny Berhanemeskel 20.5 ppg and 4.5 rebs, and 4th year transfer forward (St. FX), Terry Thomas (22.4 ppg, 5.9 rebs), leading the scoring parade. The 6-4, 2nd year, Caleb Agada (7 rebs) is tops on the boards, with help from Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue (10 ppg, 4.9 rebs), a 6-6 , 4th year CGEP grad. 3rd year point, Mike L’Africain, is the floor leader with 4.5 assts and is 46% from 3 pt range.
Saskatchewan point man, 4th year import, Stephon Lamar, is both the scoring and assists leader ( 19.7 ppg, 5.5 assts), and he looks for his big man, Matt Forbes, a 3rd year, 6-6 post (12.6 ppg, 7.2 rebs, 60% FG), and 6-6 import forward, Dadrian Collins (16 ppg, 5 rebs, 40% 3 pt). The rebounding leader in Canada West was Huskies’ guard, Ben Baker (10.2 rebs, 12.5 ppg).
The pace will be break-neck, and Saskatchewan cannot let the home crowd be a big factor for the Gee-Gees. Rebounding and turnovers may be the decisive factors, but the match-ups to watch will be fascinating – Lamar, Collins, and Baker vs Berhanemeskel, L’Africain, and Thomas. Light show ! CIS TV Friday at 8:00 pm EST
CIS Top Individual Awards Announced
Player of the Year – Phil Scrubb, Carleton (3rd straight year)
Defensive Player of the Year – Thomas Scrubb, Carleton
Rookie of the Year – Javon Masters, UNB
Ken Shields Award (Community Service, Academics, Basketball) – Harry Ezenibe, Saint Marys
Coach of the Year – Dave Smart, Carleton (4th straight), who has won this award times
Jordan Baker (Alberta /Edmonton, Alta)
Terrell Evans (Victoria / Las Vegas, Nev)
Owen Klassen (Acadia / Kingston, Ont)
Lien Phillip (Windsor/ St. Marks, Grenada)
Philip Scrubb (Carleton /Richmond, B.C)
Javon Masters, rookie all-Canadian
Johnny Berhanemeskel (Ottawa)
Vincent Dufort (McGill / Smiths Falls, ON)
Tyson Hinz (Carleton / Ottawa, ON)
Stephon Lamar (Saskatchewan / San Diego, CA)
Javon Masters (UNB / Kitchener, ON)
F Andre Arruda Manitoba 1 Winnipeg
F Dani Elgadi Brock 1 Waterloo, Ont.
F Mamadou Gueye Alberta 1 Quebec City
G Javon Masters UNB 1 Kitchener, Ont.
G Dele Ogundokun McGill 1 Hamilton, Ont.
- Carleton Coach, Dave Smart, from an outstanding article by Jordan Conn in Grantland, The Canadian College Basketball Dynasty You’ve Never Heard Of, “We have to build up the culture surrounding university sports in this country,” he says. “I think we can find a balance. In the States maybe it’s too important. Here it’s not important enough. If we give these kids full scholarships, we can convince more of them to stay here instead of going to the NCAA. And if we do that, and we can get more games on TV, then we can get more people to come to games. Then we build up alumni support, and we give people a connection to their university. Right now, that’s missing in Canada. That sense of school pride just isn’t really there.”
- The seeding for the Final 8 is just fine. Sure, Carleton has a strong case for being # 1, but they are the favourites until someone unseats them on this stage. All 8 of these teams earned their spot here, and all 8 are strong teams. At this point in the proceedings, no one is guaranteed an easy path to the next round. Win and move on.
- Bears Seniors return for a 2nd shot at a National championship, “It’s the last opportunity,” said forward Sahr Saffa, one of five fifth-year players on the team. “We’ve been waiting to have this chance to take another stab at a national title. It feels good.” From and Edmonton Journal article.
- TV games – The 2 Saturday semi-finals will be on Sportsnet 360 – those 2 games go at 6 pm and 8 pm Eastern. The Sunday Final will also be televised on Sportsnet beginning at 2 pm Eastern. All 10 games from the competition – including televised contests – will be webcast live on www.CIS-SIC.tv
- In the Alberta Colleges playoffs – Red Deer College Kings under Head Coach, Clayton Pottinger, won the ACAC championship for the 2nd straight season, with a 67 – 62 win over Concordia University (Edmonton) in the final. Pottinger, a former Golden Bears player under Don Horwood, had former U of S Huskies post man, Clint Unsworth, as an Assistant Coach . The CCAA Nationals are at Quest University, in Squamish, B.C. from March 12 – 15.
- Coach Horwood, along with the 1959-62 Lethbridge Broders Chinooks Senior Men’s Basketball team, were among the 2014 inductees into the Alberta Sprots Hall of Fame. Horwood, of course, led the Bears to 3 CIS National titles, and 6 Canada West championships in his 27 year career with the Bears. The Broders were Canadian National champions in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and competed with U.S. Senior AAU teams very successfully during that time.