Early, initial discussions on how the 2015-16 season OUA season might play out centered on the notion of the perennial top teams that had dominated the past 5-10 years were set to pull back toward the pack and, in some cases, opinions were that the Wilson Cup and the top ranking in the CIS was more up for grabs than at any time over the past 5 or so seasons. And midway through the first-half, there was plenty of ammunition for the parity side, what with Carleton losing to Saskatchewan in early October out in Victoria, Ottawa coming from behind late to win at UBC in what was an even game with only a few minutes remaining and then later being taken down – at home, no less – against a team from the RSEQ, a conference that has not won a championship side game at the Nationals in ~15 years and Ryerson losing at Brock. The Badgers won their first 9 games and were joined in the “approaching-upper-echelon” segment with Western and Windsor. McMaster, with their experience-laden team, also showed early signs of being very competitive.
Fast forward to early December and it could easily be said that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Both Ravens and Gee-Gees have replaced their legacy featured players with a combination of returning supporting cast, younger players establishing more prominent roles and new roster additions. And, in the face of the parity discussion, their OUA dominance continues as clarified this past weekend when Windsor and Western were send packing, by Ottawa and Carleton in 4 games that were all basically over by halftime.
In the case of Carleton, it was evident to most by the end of last season that 6’4″ Connor Wood had established himself as a multi-dimensional offensive player, extending his game beyond simply a “catch-and-shoot” 3 point marksman. Wood is now a prime decision maker who can attack a close-out to score, pull-up or draw a defensive rotation to find teammates. Fellow veteran Gavin Resch remains steady albeit a streaky shooter from downtown. 6’6″ Guillaume Boucard has grabbed the mantle in the paint and is poised for an All-Conference season at a minimum. At least two newcomers, Cleveland State transfer Kasa Keene and York transfer Ryan Ejim have given interim Head Coach Rob Smart Jr. even more flexibility defensively and in terms of offensive tempo alternatives. Several very good freshmen are challenging for time and joining the Ravens next season will be at least two, veteran impact transfers in 6’4″ Joe Rocca (transfer McMaster) and 5’11” point guard Sean Stoqua (transfer Acadia and son of noted Afro trivia buff Pat Stoqua) who returns home to Ottawa continuing his relationship with Dave Smart that dates back to his early days as an Ottawa Guardsman.
The Gee-Gees have successfully evolved in the post-Johnny B era with the emergence of 6’1″ Mike L’Africain as a legitimate First Team all-conference candidate and the arrival of a pair of impact posts in 6’6″ Brody Maracle (transfer Carleton) and 6’8″ Nathan McCarthy (transfer McMaster). While UBC did give Ottawa a test in Vancouver, remember that Gee-Gees still were without McCarthy who affects the game on both ends. 6’3″ Caleb Agada has not had a dominant first half statistically but always draws the other team’s big offensive player – for the most part, he guarded Western’s Greg Morrow and Windsor’s Alex Campbell this past weekend – at least for the small portions when they were still games. 6’3″ Mehdi Tihani went off against Western going 6 for 8 from downtown and is likely to be on the floor at the end of most big games. Note also that 6’4″ Brandon Robinson, who saw limited action as a freshman has taken that next step to engrainment at/near the top of Coach James Derouin‘s rotation.
Ottawa and Carleton continue to dominate and the first-half numbers back up this dominance. Consider that Carleton and Ottawa are the only two OUA teams to:
- allow less than 60 points per game (Carleton 55.1, Ottawa 57.9) – no other team allows less than 70 ppg
- shoot over 40% from 3
- shoot 49% or better from the floor
- hold opponents to under 32% shooting from the floor (next lowest team allows opponents to shoot 38%)
- enjoy double digit rebounding margins per game (Carleton +21 per game, Ottawa +14 per game)
- average more than 46 rebounds per game
- average more than 87 ppg
Despite significant personnel losses, these two programs continue to perform at the highest end of elite CIS teams and their match-up on Saturday, January 16th at the Raven’s Nest, in the latest installment of the Canal Wars or Battle of the Nation’s Capital, promises to add to the legends that have been etched for the past 15 or so seasons.