CIS Midseason – Buy or Sell?

When there are no games played, we look back at the games that have been played and draw conclusions. 

Sure, not every team has played the same number of games, but more than a few storylines have emerged over the first month+ of this 2015-16 season. Let’s run through eight of them and determine whether we think it’s likely to be a lasting trend or simply a blip on our radar.

Let’s buy or sell the eight storylines, and let’s start in Ontario.

1) The two Ottawa teams aren’t missing anyone: BUY 

Courtesy: Ottawa Citizen
Courtesy: Ottawa Citizen

Some of the faces and the jersey numbers have changed, but the results haven’t for the Carleton Ravens and the Ottawa Gee-Gees. And the two Ottawa teams have been atop the CIS Top 10 every week since the beginning of this season.

To some extent, this is surprising. Remember, the Gee-Gees were learning to adjust without their anchor in the low post in Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue and one of the better players in the program’s history in Johnny Berhanemeskel. The Ravens, meanwhile, were hoping to continue their run without Philip and Thomas Scrubb, as well as with Rob Smart behind their bench, with Dave Smart taking a sabbatical.

At the midway point, both teams are 7-0. Some things change, but never Ottawa basketball.

2) Kaza Kajami-Keane represents a new NCAA-to-CIS trend: SELL 

Courtesy: Ottawa Citizen
Courtesy: Ottawa Citizen

After two mostly inconsequential seasons in the NCAA at Illinois State, then one at Cleveland State, Canadian PG Kaza Kajami-Keane has taken his talents back to Ontario and now plays for Carleton. Among the motivation, Keane has stated in the past, was a desire to play in front of friends and family.

Surely, the ones who have made the trip from Ajax to the Ravens’ Nest in Ottawa have liked what they have seen from their beloved: so far, Keane has managed a 15.7/4.4/6.9 line with excellent efficiency and could be on his way to multiple all-star selections (just not with #TheCBGBunch).

Yet, has he started a trend? I don’t buy that, if for the only reason that players have transferred from the NCAA back to the CIS already; Kyle Desmarais, notably, jumps to mind. So no, Kaza Kajami-Keane isn’t the first to move from the NCAA to the CIS, nor will he be the last: as the league grows and is recognized by more and more as a viable alternative to a professional playing career, more and more will join in.

Keane isn’t the first, but that doesn’t make him less of a stud.

3) McGill the third best team in the country: BUY 

Oh hey look, that’s an RSEQ team, not just in the CIS Top 10, or even just the Top 5, but right smack at No. 3 of the CIS’s weekly rankings.

McGill_Redmen_LogoThat’s a notable difference from the 2014-15 season, where no RSEQ team was ever ranked in the Top 10. In a Canada-wide league and with relatively few teams at only 47, this is ludicrous.

This season is different, with the McGill Redmen having been ranked No. 3 every week since the start. But if you don’t believe in McGill, you likely rely on one of two things: that McGill has only played four games and that four games is a mighty small sample, and that the RSEQ teams, playing in a five-team league, play no one of note.

Thankfully, the preseason helps us in both instances: in eight games against OUA competition, including only two at home, the Redmen went 7-1. They lost 69-66 at Ryerson and beat Ottawa 74-70 at Montpetit Hall. For McGill, No. 3 sounds just right.

4) No AUS team in the Top 10: SELL 

AUS Bball

Is this season’s AUS simply last season’s RSEQ? Of course, the 2015-16 season is only about a month old and who’s to say that the AUS will never see a team ranked in the Top 10 at some point… But again, we could simply copy/paste whatever was above, that “in a Canada-wide league and with relatively few teams at only 47, this is ludicrous” that a league with 17 per cent of said CIS teams has no one in the Top 10.

It’s fine to think that, say, the OUA is the best conference in the CIS but it’s a thin line between that and self-fulfilling prophecies: at some point, the OUA could become so great just because we all say how great it is all the time and we don’t hold teams accountable for their losses.

This season, the UPEI Panthers, the Cape Breton Capers, the Acadia Axemen and the Dalhousie Tigers sit atop the conference rankings with 12 points each. Do Atlantic provinces teams not get any love simply because the teams are so close to one another? Is it a sort of “too many chefs, not enough cooks” situation?

Who knows, but it’s wrong. Why not just give the nod to Dalhousie, the AUS’s representative at the CIS Final 8 last season? Why not potential player of the year Tyler Scott’s UPEI?

5) Tyler Scott is the player of the year so far: BUY Tyler Scott

Speaking of the Panthers, they have themselves some kind of player in Tyler Scott, who is having himself some kind of season. It’s something we’ve known all along he could do, ever since he burst on the scene at the CIS Final 8 with the Acadia Axemen.

But in this, his fourth season, Scott has taken things to a different level. His 32.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game tell you Scott is a scorer, but that undersells his genius: he’s the only player in the country making more than 10 field goals per game, too. The man is a scoring machine but his efficiency is what sets him apart, as he’s shooting 51.6 per cent from the field, including 44.8 per cent from three-point land, and 86.7 per cent from the charity stripe.

If it feels like there’s no bad shot with Scott, it’s because there isn’t.

6) Thompson Rivers is a legitimate contender: BUY 5399_thompson_rivers_wolfpack-primary-2005

The Thompson Rivers WolfPack appear set to make this final season (before realignment) in the current Explorer division of the Canada West conference a memorable one. At 7-1, Scott Clark’s team goes into the Christmas break as one of the better teams in the CIS and ranked No. 10 in the country.

You may think it’s surprising to see Thompson Rivers where they are, only one season after finishing 11-9—but don’t. What the 2014-15 record doesn’t say is that the team was one game away from making the Canada West Final Four; TRU lost 2-1 their quarterfinal series against the Saskatchewan Huskies, who went on to win the consolation final at the 2015 CIS Final 8.

This season’s team is better: they’re middle of the pack defensively, but they can outscore most teams with the trio of Reese Pribilsky, Josh Wolfram and emerging (and midseason all-star of #TheCBGBunch!) Volodymyr Iegorov.

7) Volodymyr Iegorov is the newcomer player: SELL iegorov

The newcomer from Ukraine is also having himself some kind of season, scoring over 22 points per game in quite the efficient manner—but while Volodymyr Iegorov may be good enough to make the midseason all-star team of #TheCBGBunch, he’s not the newcomer of the season.

I’ll give that distinction to Thomas Cooper, thank you very much. Cooper, you see, is a native of Chattanooga, TN, who played for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. As of 2012-13, his career high with this Division II school had been 12 points; in his first game with the Calgary Dinos, Cooper scored 11 points and has scored at least 20 points in every game since.

Chattanooga, TN's Thomas Cooper. (PHOTO: UVic Athletics)
Chattanooga, TN’s Thomas Cooper. (PHOTO: UVic Athletics)

Cooper has played the most minutes in the country (due to the Dinos having played nine games already, but still) and made the most field goals, the ninth-most three-pointers, the most free throws, all the while ranking third for points and 17th in rebounds per game. He’s not particularly efficient, but that’s fine because his team is so dependent on him.

Thompson Rivers has many great players, including Iegorov. Cooper is the unquestioned leader of a surprising Calgary team.

8) The race to the top of the Pioneer division of Canada West: BUY Pronghorn Logo

Let’s finish this with a short one. The race to the top of the Pioneer division in the Canada West conference will be absolutely bonkers: Calgary, Manitoba and UBC have 12 points each while the only team in the division that has lost only once, the Lethbridge Pronghorns, is all the way down to fifth. Predicting who emerges with the division title is almost beside the point when so many teams are so close to one another. Just enjoy the ride.

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

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