Predicting the 2014-2015 RSEQ Season – Will McGill Three-peat?
If last season was disappointing in terms of level of play, 2014-2015 promises to be worth the money in the Q. None of the five teams had a particularly strong preseason (as evidenced by the CIS preseason top 10), but many headlines catch our attention: possible three-peat, a program back to prominence, the return of a former MVP on a different team…and much more. Here are my predictions ahead of what will be a tight race.
1. McGill Redmen
Ok, I know what I said. But I have no other choice than to establish the two-time defending champs as favourites heading into the 2014-2015 campaign. Last year they had nine rookies on the roster, were somewhat undersized, and still managed to win the provincial championship game by 26. They are returning, among other players, reigning RSEQ MVP Vincent Dufort, CIS all-rookie teamer and RSEQ rookie of the year Dele Ogundokun, in addition to RSEQ all-rookie teamer François Bourque.
The loss of two of their top five scorers from last year (Simon Bibeau and Nathan Joyal) will obviously hurt them, but they should find viable options to replace them.
“There will be added pressure on (fourth-year player) Ave Bross since Simon was a figure of consistency at the point guard position, but he gave us some solid minutes last year so I’m not worried”, said head coach Dave DeAveiro.
“There’s also Jawara [Pedican] and Jeremie [Casavant-Dubois] who should come in and have an impact on the perimeter”, he said of the freshmen respectively out of Vaughan and Montmorency.
As for the frontcourt, François Bourque will receive help from 6’8”, 240 big man Noah Daoust (Hotchkiss) and from 6’7”, 230 Abdul-Aziz Atta (Brebeuf).
The Redmen went 4-5 in the preseason against CIS competition and are excluded from the national top 10, which doesn’t necessarily surprise DeAveiro.
“We’ve been up and down, played some tough teams, and Dele Ogundokun just came back last week from a wrist injury”, he said. “I think we have a lot to prove.”
“The national championship is certainly attainable, but we’re not ready yet”, added McGill’s head coach. “
2. Laval Rouge et Or
I already hear people screaming “homer!” but I really think Laval gets over the hump this year. Why? Well, mainly because the last three seasons saw young studs develop into reliable veterans: Karl Demers-Bélanger (RSEQ 1st all-star team), Thibaud Dezutter (RSEQ 2nd all-star team), Antoine Beaumier (RSEQ 2nd all-star team) and Boris Hadzimuratovic, most notably. The question, as always, is: “Can individual talent translate into team success?”
Head coach Jacques Paiement Jr. says yes: “We’re past the development stage now. The talent we have and experience we gained should help us a lot.”
“With that said, we’re losing (captain) Hugues Ryan at the end of this season, but other than that, we really have a two-year window with this core”, he added.
Freshman Alexandre Leclerc could prove to be the missing piece here. The all-canadian out of Cegep de Sainte-Foy, who chose Laval over Bishop’s and Ottawa, already grabbed a spot on the all-star team at the Ottawa House Laughton tournament in the preseason.
“He is extremely versatile offensively and defensively. He should add length and depth to our team”, admitted Paiement Jr. of the 6’6’’, 210 forward.
The rest of their rookie class is mostly composed of Alma products. Charles-André Edorh is one who has already made its way into the starting lineup and could have a huge impact on defense.
“I would be disappointed if we didn’t win more games than last season”, the Rouge et Or said of their 6-10 record in 2013-2014. “We have the pieces to get back to the upper level.”
Laval is seeking a first RSEQ title since 2008.
3. Bishop’s Gaiters
Quebec finalists for the last two years, this is the last chance for Bishop’s to win with their core of big men Mike Andrews, Matt McLean and Majid Naji. If they lost assets during the offseason, the least we can say is they got luxury replacements in return.
Fifth-year player Onnex Blackwood and senior Scott Ring, two of the top five Gaiters scorers last year, have completed their degree, and as for Jeremy Leonard-Smith, he decided to take his talents to UVIC. The new guys in town go by the name of Kyle Desmarais and Karim Sy-Morrissette, in addition of returns from Patrick Kabongo and Jamil Abiad.
Desmarais, a two-time RSEQ champion with Concordia, 2011 MVP, and Sy-Morrissette, a 2012 first all-star team member in his last season at McGill, both decided to get out of retirement.
“They both wanted to finish school in a different environment and got the itch to play”, said head coach Rod Gilpin.
“We struggled in the preseason but these guys are still getting into game shape and eventually, I expect us to perform at a constant high level.”
An example of the impact Kyle and Karim can have is they will get Jona Bermillo a more favourable matchup on the floor, according to Gilpin.
Also, don’t forget about the Final Four! The brand new RSEQ playoffs setup is moving from Laval to Bishop’s this season. It is obviously an advantage as well for the Gaiters. “We’re as confortable playing on the road than playing at home, but other teams don’t like to come here”, said Gilpin, referring to the loud Lennoxville crowd.
“I think the league in general is a lot better than we’ve shown. Injuries have done that to a couple of teams, including us and McGill”, coach Gilpin said. Let’s see if they can put it together and make some noise.
4. Concordia Stingers
As it’s been the case for the last couple of seasons, Concordia has to face tough departures, this time to their three most used players. Big man Zach Brisebois, gunner Jean-Andre Moussignac and point guard Adam Chmielewski had all completed their degrees. The former is about to sign a pro contract in Poland, according to Stingers head coach John Dore.
“That’s University sport, you’ve got to deal with these kind of situations and I think we fared pretty well”, Dore said. “We’re going to be a young team but we’re also going to be very athletic.”
Headlining Concordia’s rookie class are swingman Ken Beaulieu (Edouard-Montpetit) and point guard Ricardo Monge (John Abbott). “Ken is maybe the best athlete to come out of Quebec this year and Ricardo has done very well at the point guard position, along with Frank Mpeck (Sainte-Foy)”, he added.
Of course, the main focus on offense is going to be on league-leading scorer from last year Mukiya Post. He finished the season with some strong performances to average 17.6 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. Veterans Michael Fosu and Gabriel Riche should help carry the load… but what was the last-ranked offense (tied with UQAM) in the RSEQ last season has a lot of work ahead to catch up.
“The fact that we’re young provides us with a lot of upside”, coach Dore said. “Can we improve enough to win the conference? We’ll see. But we’re going to run, that’s for sure.”
5. UQAM Citadins
Last season, the Citadins missed the playoffs for the first time in Olga Hrycak’s 11-year tenure. “Simply put, we didn’t achieve our goals”, UQAM’s head coach said. “My mentality has always been: « Get in and anything can happen. »”
Well, anything can happen, that is very true, but my guess would be that the fourth and last playoff spot will go to either Concordia or UQAM.
The Citadins lost major size in Philippe Tamba and Marvin Pierre, and also scoring in point guard Richard Addai. With these athletes, they still posted the worst defense in the RSEQ… so how is it going to get better?
The answer certainly starts with Alexandre Bernard. The first-team all-star big man has been the anchor of this team for a couple of years now, averaging 16.9 points per game last season while also grabbing 8.3 rebounds.
“Since the game against Indiana (on August 13th) he’s averaged 25 points per game”, said Hrycak. “He has been dominant but he has also been getting some help.”
One of these “helpers” would be Nicolas Audet, a third-year swingman who has been moved to the point. He will be supported by freshman Jean-Yves Kazadi. There are also newcomers Greishe Clerjuste, a rookie out of Vanier, and David Joseph, a transfer from Manitoba, who should have a huge impact on this team.
“Last year, everyone was playing us zone because we didn’t have many shooters”, Hrycak admitted. “These two guys can score. I’ve worked hard to get them and they will clearly help.”
“If we lost size, we gained a lot of the quickness that was lacking last year”, said the Citadins head coach. If two or three of these young players break out quickly enough, they could make me lie.