Why the Top 10 CIS Teams Will, and Won’t Win the National Title

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By Jordan Henry

CIS Final 8

Since the 2002-2003 CIS Basketball Season the Carleton Ravens have won 11 of the last 13 CIS National Championships and have been the perennial favourite in those seasons.

However, the 2015-2016 campaign has the most open field for a national championship since Dave Smart joined the Ravens in 1999.

Jordan Henry takes a look at the top ten teams in the country and why each of them will and won’t win the national championship in March in Vancouver.

#1 The Ryerson Rams

Courtesy: Alex D’Addese Photography

Courtesy: Alex D’Addese Photography

Ranked #1 in the country as of February 16th the Ryerson Rams have had an astounding campaign including impressive wins over Carleton, Ottawa and Brock. However, a surprise loss last Wednesday to the Guelph Gryphons would look to drop the Rams as the #1 seed in the nation.

Why They Will Win:

The depth of the Ryerson Rams is unmatched against every other school in the country. Interim head coach Patrick Tatham has made the most of his strong bench in slotting them into different looking starting fives based on matchups. The bench players such as Ammanuel Diressa, JV Mukama and Filip Vujadinovic allow the Rams to go two men deep at every position. With the impressive starters such as Aaron Best and Adika Peter-McNeilly, the Rams can challenge any team in the country with the deepest, strongest backcourt in the nation.

Why They Won’t Win:

For a team that has as many great wins as Ryerson (Ottawa, Carleton, Brock, McMaster). the Rams have a pair of bad road losses that blemishes their resume (Guelph and Windsor). In those two losses the Rams had 23 and 24 turnovers leading to a total of 63 points off turnovers. If the Rams are to lose big playoff or championship games, it will be because of turning the ball over.

 

#2 The Carleton Ravens

Courtesy: Ottawa Citizen

Courtesy: Ottawa Citizen

The Carleton Ravens are a program that are built for March basketball.

Why They Will Win:

No program had more of a facelift since last year than the Carleton Ravens, with new look faces including Kaza Kajami-Keane and the Bench presence of Mitchell Wood mixed with the experience of Guillaume Boucard and Gavin Resch. Even without Dave Smart the experience of the team and coaching staff makes Carleton the team to watch out for every year at the Final 8.

Why They Won’t Win:

In past years, Carleton had go-to scorers like Thomas and Phil Scrubb or Aaron Doornekamp. However this year’s Ravens team doesn’t have a scorer they can rely on like they relied on those three.  In Carleton’s three losses this year their leading scorer Kaza Kajami-Keane shot 21/46 from the field. Reliable scoring has been the bread and butter for Carleton over the last 13 years, in order to make it 12 championships in 14 years their best scorers have to become more reliable and efficient.

 

Courtesy: Erica Roberts

 

#3 The Ottawa Gee-Gees

Courtesy: Erica Roberts

Courtesy: Erica Roberts

For times this season Ottawa has looked like the best team in the country with the best player in the country as per the NPH Top 50 Caleb Agada. Just like every other team Ottawa has had moments at the top (Sweeping Carleton) and times looking human (Ryerson and McMaster losses)

Why They Will Win:

The loss of Caleb Agada for a month looked like a huge blow to the Ottawa Gee-Gees (going 4-1 in that stretch) and it also led to Mike L’Africain’s coming out party averaging 24.5 PPG in the 4 games without Agada. Now with Agada back, it’s a two pronged attack for the Gee-Gees mixed with the three point scoring threats of Matt Plunkett and Vikas Gill. This Gee-Gees team is lethal all over the floor and score in a number of different ways. Watch out for them in Vancouver.

Why They Won’t Win:

If you’re a Gee-Gees supporter, the ability to not finish games has to concern you. After allowing Ryerson to finish their victory over the Gee-Gees on a 7-0 Run to lead the Rams to victory and allowing a 14 point second have lead against the McMaster Marauders slip away being outscored 30-12 in the fourth quarter, allowing double digit leads to slip away with or without Caleb Agada would be the biggest reason Ottawa may let a strong team not come up victorious in March.

#4 The Calgary Dinos

Courtesy: David Moll

Courtesy: David Moll

The Calgary Dinos hold the longest current winning streak in the country at 12 games and have the probable Canada West player of the year in Thomas Cooper. The Dinos are playing their best ball at the most important time.

 

Why They Will Win:

Thomas Cooper is top ten in the Canada West in Points per game (1st) Rebounds per game (8th) and Assists per game (9th) when you mix a player like that with the best three-point shooting team (Cooper, Lars Schlueter, Dallas Karch and Josh Owen-Thomas all shooting over 40% from beyond the arc) this high tempo sharpshooting squad will be a threat in Vancouver.

Why They Won’t Win:

For a team that scores as much as the Dinos do (4th most points per game in the CIS) they allow almost 80 points per game. As dynamic and exhilarating as the deep shooting Dinos are, tightening up on defense and finding ways to score inside the arc away from Cooper are where they will be tested when they play the tough defensive matchups of the best eight teams in the country.

#5 The McMaster Marauders

Courtesy: Alistair Boulby

Courtesy: Alistair Boulby

The McMaster Marauders turned some heads after knocking off then #2 Ottawa last weekend but like every top team in the OUA, MAC has some losses that have made them look human after dropping back-to-back games at Lakehead two weeks ago.

Why They Will Win:

In the Marauders impact win over the Gee-Gees earlier this year, Troy Joseph and Leon Alexander combined for 57 points. One thing the duo does so well is get to the free throw line (2nd most attempts per game in the country) and adding a dual threat of driving to the hoop and knocking down shots from deep. Depth scoring is huge for the Marauders with five guys who average double digit points per game and on any given night you don’t know who the hero is going to be for the Marauders.

Why They Won’t Win:

Last season, four teams from the OUA were present at the Final 8 Championship with both OUA finalists, the host Rams and at-large berth Lancers. However this season at most only three teams will represent the OUA which would mean McMaster would have to make the OUA championship to secure a spot to the Final 8.

#6 The UBC Thunderbirds

Courtesy: Richard Lam

Courtesy: Richard Lam

Last season the Ryerson Rams hosted and won bronze at the CIS Final 8 Championship. This year UBC has the pleasure of hosting and has the only automatic bid in the Final 8. Ryerson used that as motivation to prove they deserve to be one of the 8 teams. UBC has a similar approach this season with a special lineup ready to show off at home.

Why They Will Win:

A team that scores almost 85 points per game and only allows 70 does so by securing defensive rebounds leading the CIS in defensive rebounds per game.  The two headed monster that is Jordan Jensen-Whyte and Conor Morgan that combines for 30 points and 12 rebounds per game between the two of them is two special players ready to show off and do some things at home.

Why They Won’t Win:

The Thunderbirds live off of effective scoring with the third highest FG% in the country. However, the combination of not taking a lot of shots and turning the ball over a ton is just waiting to bite them. The Thunderbirds will be anxious, excited and nervous to play at home and holding onto the ball and getting more out of offensive possessions will be key for them to become the first hosts to win since Carleton in 2013-2014.

#7 The Brock Badgers

dani E

When your starting five holds a CIS rookie of the year and runner up CIS rookie of the year in Johneil Simpson and Dani Elgadi you know you have one of the best starting five’s in the country. One of the biggest criticism of the Badgers has been their ability to go only seven deep, in recent games Charles Kissi has tested his squad to go deeper and will look to find more from his bench.

Why They Will Win:

Dani Elgadi is an absolute monster, plain and simple. Coupled with a potential CIS rookie of the year in Tyler Brown and 2014-2015 CIS Rookie of the Year Johneil Simpson, Brock holds one of the best starting fives in the nation. Elgadi’s ability to grab offensive rebounds makes Brock 3rd in the CIS in rebounds per game and 4th in offensive rebounds per game. With the OUA Central on the line they play their biggest game of the season this Wednesday against the McMaster Marauders.

Why They Won’t Win:

The Brock Badgers have the same issue the McMaster Marauders have in order to even make the Final 8, finding a way to rise above Ryerson, Carleton and Ottawa in the OUA playoffs. Brock had double digit losses to all three of those teams over a two week stretch in February. Finding a way to get the bench more involved outside of the starting five for Charles Kissi and company will be important if the Badgers want to make a big jump for this upstart program.

#8 The McGill Redmen

Courtesy: Derek Drummond

Courtesy: Derek Drummond

When this season began McGill looked like they were the best CIS team outside of the OUA. Topping the RSEQ was expected of this remastered McGill program but three straight losses in early January was not. Can McGill return to their early season success of defending and rebounding and use their depth to win their 4th consecutive RSEQ title and get rolling in March?

Why They Will Win:

The RSEQ has a tendency of playing great defense and as of late The Redmen are getting back to those ways. They allow the 4th fewest points per game in the CIS and have the 2nd highest rebound margin per game. The offence of Vincent Dufort with Jenning Leung and Dele Ogundokun there’s enough scoring from the starters, the depth and bench scoring is where McGill gets a real boost. The 5th year Laurentian transfer Tychon Carter-Newman who intended to transfer to Ryerson before choosing McGill, has been a beast off the bench or as a starter for the Redmen. As long as McGill continues their defensive intensity, the RSEQ showed last year at the final 8 that great defence can make any game close.

Why They Won’t Win:

In McGill’s four losses this season they have been outscored 318-264 and allowed 80 points off 82 turnovers. A defensive team that doesn’t score as high as the other teams in the Final 8, McGill will have to win the turnover battle and make the most out of possessions in order to contend with high flying teams like Ryerson, Ottawa and Calgary. Dele Ogundokun was held to single digits in three of those losses and keeping your best scorers hot. Hosting the RSEQ Final Four at home at Love Competition Hall will be a huge boost for the Redmen.

#9 The Dalhousie Tigers

Courtesy: Adrien Veczan

Courtesy: Adrien Veczan

Coming off a huge 94-81 win over the UPEI Panthers for first place in the AUS, the Tigers are just looking for one thing this March: a second chance. Last year in Toronto Dalhousie lost a late game to the UVIC Vikes in the quarterfinal round of the Final 8. With many important pieces from last season returning the Tigers are looking for revenge.

Why They Will Win:

Ritchie Kanza Mata is playing himself into AUS First-Team all star contention starting every game for the Tigers this year. Averaging 12.2 points 5.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game he truly does it all. Mixed with the scoring of Kashrell Lawrence and Sven Stammberger. Looking at a probable first round bye in the AUS playoffs Dalhousie is looking to make some noise.

Why They Won’t Win:

Leading the AUS, the weird thing about the Dalhousie Tigers is they don’t do anything particularly well. Dalhousie sits outside the top ten in every statistical category in the CIS. They lost a first round matchup in the Final 8 and if they can’t tighten up their game they may face a similar fate this year. 

#10 The Manitoba Bisons

manitoba cis

Since back to back losses to UBC and Lethbridge in early January, the Manitoba Bisons have now won seven in a row to end the season. Picking the third team to come out of Canada West is a difficult one as Thompson River boasts as impressive a record as Manitoba. However the Bisons are hot now, and everyone knows if you’re gonna get hot, February and March is the best time to do it.

Why They Will Win:

A pair of prolific scorers power the engine of the Bison’s offence–Aj Basi and Justus Alleyn. They score 33.5 points per game between the two of them, but the Bison’s offense is fuelled by their ability to pass the basketball. Mixed with the abilities of a possible Canada West First Team All star Keith Omoerah the Bisons have the weapons to get it done. All five starters average two assists or more per game giving the Bisons the 6th most assists per game in the country. Drawing defenders with Basi and Alleyn then dishing the ball gives the Bisons open looks and could cause any of the best teams in the country a problem come March.

Why They Won’t Win:

If there’s one thing you can’t let the best teams in the country do, it’s getting to the line. Manitoba commits almost 20 fouls per game, teams like Ryerson and Carleton will demolish you if you foul them that many times. Finding a way to defend without fouling will be the key for the Bisons, not only if they make the Final 8, but all through the Canada West playoffs.

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