Same Last Name, but a Different Kind of Smart – #TheCBGBunch

Welcome to the off-season of The CBG Bunch, a specialized column dedicated to the CIS season. When there are no games played, we talk about something else.

Dave Smart Continues to remain steps ahead of the competition, maintaining the Ravens stranglehold on Canadian university basketball
Dave Smart Continues to remain steps ahead of the competition, maintaining the Ravens stranglehold on Canadian university basketball

The CIS is currently on hiatus, but its return is right around the corner.

It’s true.

cbg bunchThe calendar has already turned to August and before we know it, it will be September and this will mark the end of our beloved summer and, perhaps to counterbalance the cold of winter that we will soon experience, another season of interuniversity basketball will start in Canada to warm the cockles of my heart, if not our bodies battling the bitter cold.

This is when we’ll start to catch a glimpse of what will be the most fascinating story of the 2015-2016 season: will Carleton still be Carleton?

Probably, in the sense that the Ravens will still win a ton of games, make the OUA playoffs, and will be among the favourites for the championship, etc. etc.

But the answer to that question comes in two parts. First, will Carleton still be Carleton now that Phil and Thomas Scrubb have taken their talents elsewhere? (Last I checked, the Toronto Raptors had invited Thomas to their free agent camp and named Phil to their Las Vegas summer league team. And Phil has now signed a two-year contract with AEK Athens of the Greek Basketball League.)

Mind you, this isn’t the same question as asking whether the Ravens will miss their two stars—because we all know that they will miss them: one stands as the greatest CIS player of all time and the other was merely the most complete and versatile player in the CIS.

You say that the odds are that you can’t simply reload, not this time, not when you lose two players of their stature; that in a nutshell, the loss of the two brothers simply has to mean something. You say that by definition you have to be rebuilding at some point and that next season could be head coach Dave Smart’s toughest task yet.

Except, and this is the shocker, next season will not be Dave Smart’s toughest task yet because Dave Smart has decided to take a one-year sabbatical from CIS action. Stepping in Dave’s place will be another Smart, assistant Rob.

While we have no reason to doubt Rob Smart’s pedigree and coaching acumen, it’s safe to say he isn’t Dave. This means that the Ravens will need to replace their two most important players and their head coach.

Courtesy: Fred Lum, The Globe & Mail
Courtesy: Fred Lum, The Globe & Mail

For the players, the team will preach a by-committee approach, because there is no third Scrubb brother walking through that door. But then again, the odds also say that you just don’t win five national championships in a row, and 11 in the previous 13 years. It’s just not supposed to happen, but it did and that’s why Carleton is a dynasty unlike any other.

Carleton’s system is built on an inside-and-out game that works because of their excellence from behind the three-point arc. The Ravens ramped up this formula last season, after losing anchor Tyson Hinz to graduation, hitting 46 per cent of their three-point shots.

The Scrubb brothers were the main culprits, combining to hit almost four per game on just a bit over eight attempts. (With such a proficiency at shooting the three, maybe it’s not a coincidence that the three-point-starved Memphis Grizzlies had added Phil Scrubb to their summer league in Orlando.)

But the brothers weren’t the only Ravens who excelled at this during the 2014-2015 season. Connor Wood finished last season only one three-point made behind his point guard, hitting 47.8 per cent of his shots from downtown, and he’s certainly walking through that door this season.

Above all, this is why Carleton could still be Carleton next season: the Ravens have three massive holes to fill, but the cupboard is far from bare.

To answer the question, you need to examine what Carleton has been under Smart’s watch–an unstoppable powerhouse on both offense and defense. The Ravens weren’t always perfect every season, and didn’t win every game, but they won more often than they lost the games that counted the most. This isn’t strictly because of good coaching and preparation, but a hallmark of a well-coached team is an ability to win important games.

The odds are also against a team suffering only 25 conference losses in 16 seasons, especially when nine of the losses occur in the very first year, but this is what Smart has managed at the helm of the Ravens.

If there was a reason to be bullish on the Ravens heading into the new season, it was that despite losing the Scrubbs, they still had their head coach. Smart, who had won it all, then won it all again and again (and again and…) in the CIS, is the team’s leader and greatest asset. The optimist will say that if the head coach is gone, at least the system of play that places the players always in the best possible place to excel, that this system remains.

Yet, that system failed its first test on Aug. 3, as the Ravens lost 63-59 in their Nest against the Murray State Racers, an NIT team a year ago from the NCAA and conference champ.

Typically, Carleton has more than held its own against NCAA teams, but this edition of the Ravens have to rely on a different Smart.

I personally can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG & NPH @Northpolehoops

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