Not much changed from last week other than some movement at the bottom of the rankings, specifically the re-introduction of surging Manitoba which has won 5 in a row, 10 of their past 13 Canada West games and 13 of 16 overall including their dominant performance at the Wesmen Classic over the Holidays.
#1 Ryerson (16-2, 12-1) (LW #1)… Rams dominated both then-#5 Brock and Laurier at home this week to run their winning streak to 9 games and continue to display the strongest quality depth of any team in the nation. 6’5″ Aaron Best was spectacular vs. Brock while 6’7″ J.V. Mukama is emerging as the next Ram superstar with his combination of length, shooting ability, wing span defending, rebounding and ability to get to the rim. Rams host Algoma on Friday before an N.B.A. All-Star weekend-driven game at the Enercare Center in Toronto vs. U of T Varsity Blues. Note that both East and West NBA all-star teams will practice at the Enercare Centre next weekend. Ryerson then completes their regular season with 4 games on the road including a week from Friday at Lakehead. Despite their #1 ranking, in the controversial RPI system that is used by the OUA to determine playoff seeding, Rams are ranked #2 at present and could sweep their final 6 games and still not be in a position to host OUA Wilson Cup Final Four.
#2 Ottawa (22-3, 12-1) (LW #2)… Despite the continued absence of 6’3″ Caleb Agada, Gee-Gees rolled to another win over Carleton at the Capital Hoops Classic on Friday. 6’1″ Mike L’Africain had the best game of his career in the Gee-Gees/Ravens series and 6’6″ Matt Plunkett was outstanding guarding in the low post and knocking down three important 3’s in the third quarter. uOttawa now embarks on a two-game swing at #10 McMaster and at #6 Brock in which a pair of wins are likely to solidify their hold on the aforementioned #1 seed in the OUA playoffs.
#3 Carleton (15-4, 10-3) (LW #3)… Ravens generally struggled to score and match uOttawa’s emotion in Friday’s loss in the Capital Hoops Classic as perimeter shooting deserted them collectively, starting the game just 2 for 17 and finishing 6 for 25 with many makes after the game was decided. Ravens lack a go-to scorer in the low-post and really have only one creator off the dribble in 6’2″ Kaza Keene. This weekend’s games at #6 Brock and #10 McMaster are important; a pair of losses could put the Ravens in a position to have to play an OUA quarter-final game on the road.
#4 Calgary (21-6, 14-3) (LW #4)… Dinos, now winners of 8 in a row, took another step toward hosting Canada West Final Four with a pair of strong wins vs. Lethbridge this weekend and lead the Pioneer by 1 game over UBC with just 3 to play with Calgary (I think?) owning the tie-breaker. Calgary hosts their biggest promotion of the season “Pack the Jack” (Simpson Gym) Night this Thursday vs Regina and if past such events are an indicator, expect a jam packed house of over 3,000 fans. Dinos have Canada West POY candidate 6’4″ Thomas Cooper leading the way however there is plenty of depth with 6’7″ Lars Schleuter an excellent 3 pt shooting big. The supporting cast is strong with 6’1″ Aussie Josh Owen-Thomas, a pure spot-up shooter and quality off the bench with past-starters 6’6″ Dallas Karch and 6’4″ Jaspreet Gill, experienced 4th year guys who would likely start on the majority of Canada West teams. After Thursday/Friday Regina games Dinos finish the season with a single game at Alberta with Bears fighting for their playoff lives.
#5 UBC (15-5, 12-4) (LW #6)… Idle this weekend and with a pair of Calgary wins, T-Birds chances of the #1 seed in Canada West playoffs are dwindling, needing Calgary to lose at least 2 of their final 3 games while UBC wins their final four games at Brandon and home against Winnipeg. T-Birds are 6-2 after the Holidays.
#6 Brock (17-3, 10-3) (LW#5)… Badgers played hard to the end at Ryerson this past Wednesday night but at this point have not shown either the quality or the depth to play with the elite, top teams in the country. This view will be tested this coming Friday and Saturday in what is likely to be a sold-out, rockin’ Ben Davis Gym in St. Catharines as #3 Carleton and #2 Ottawa visit. Fans are circling their calendars for Badgers Wednesday, February 24th rivalry game at the Meridian Center against McMaster when Brock hopes to clinch the OUA Central division regular season crown.
#7 Thompson Rivers (15-2, 14-2) (LW: #7) WolfPack swept 5th place Mount Royal in Kamloops and have all but clinched first place in the Explorer Division, leading Fraser Valley by 4 games with 4 remaining. TRU travels to Abottsford for a pair against the second place Cascades this coming weekend and then closes their season at home against UBC-Okanagan, which in January handed the ‘Pack one of their two season losses. Anxious to see how TRU fares against some Pioneer Division teams to really support this #7 ranking.
#8 Manitoba (17-10, 13-5) (LW #HM), One of the more under-appreciated teams in the nation, especially from an athletic perspective with an emerging First-team All-Canada West wing in 6’4″ Keith Omoerah and one of the best pure shooters in the CIS in 6’0″ A.J. Basi. Bisons dominated cross-town rival Winnipeg at home on Friday and then bounced back for a character-building comeback win in overtime last night at the Duckworth Center. With a sweep of a pair of games in two weeks at last place Trinity Western, the Herd should finish no lower than third in the Pioneer and host a Canada West quarter-final playoff series for the first time in a couple of decades.
#9 Dalhousie (17-6, 11-5) (LW #8) Tigers ended up with a disappointing split at Memorial after today’s loss in St. John’s. Still, after a character win on Saturday, the Tigers continue to lead the AUS standings and remain top-to-bottom the deepest and strongest defending team in the conference. On their way to try to clinch the AUS regular season crown and a first-round bye in the AUS tournament, Tigers host Cape Breton on Friday in a four-point game.
#10 McMaster (13-5, 9-4) (LW #10)… Idle this past weekend but ranked only 9th at present in the OUA playoff seeding, McMaster will have to play their way in to a chance for an OUA quarter-final home game and it will be anything except easy. In their final 6 games, Marauders play three top 10 teams (home to #2 Ottawa Friday and #3 Carleton Saturday then at #6 Brock) and then finish their season on the road at Guelph which is likely to be battling for their playoff lives.
Honorable Mention: McGill (16-5, 8-4) (LW #9), UPEI (18-11, 10-6).