The great Howard Tsumura is a wonderful communicator of CIS sports and below is a link to his CIS Final 8 preview
The great Howard Tsumura is a wonderful communicator of CIS sports and below is a link to his CIS Final 8 preview
Very good video on Carleton’s Kaza Keane who is finally “learning the game at the rate he wants to learn the game… playing for the best coach in North America”.
Note that the video mistakenly refers to Kaza’s first NCAA team as Illinois when in fact Keane played his first two seasons at Illinois State before transferring to Cleveland State and ultimately to Carleton.
Teams were able to get practice time today on the Doug Mitchell Arena floor in advance of tomorrow’s first round games. Here are more thoughts on how tomorrow’s games might shape up.
1:00 PM PT/4:00 PM Eastern: #2 Carleton vs. #7 Thompson Rivers The WolfPack features three high-end players through which the majority of their offensive decision-making and execution runs, led by Canada West First team all-star 6’11” Josh Wolfram, who displays the entire package of scoring in the blocks, passing, rebounding and knocking down 3’s. Wolfram has the skill set to spot up in transition as well as have the offense run through him in the low post. Ravens typically protect the rim defensively including usually doubling down in the low post, so where they bring extras from and where they cheat i.e. who they leave open on the perimeter, will be key. Both 6’8″ Volodymyr Iegorov and 6’0″ Reese Pribilsky have proven to be able to knock shots down and 6’5″ Gerard Gore can score. Defensively, TRU needs to protect their Big 3 and have played match-up zones and straight zones for long portions of big games to do so. Given Carleton’s long-range shooting capabilities, most teams rarely even consider playing zone against the Ravens; however given the unique situation TRU encounters with a thin rotation, this may change. Expect 6’11” Cam Smythe to get time vs. Wolfram as well as Carleton going small and asking Wolfram to guard the perimeter if they ever go man. Ravens, who struggled to score in the second half in the half court against Ryerson, will want to push the tempo offensively at every opportunity to wear down the Pack and to do so will have to rebound, usually a staple of Raven basketball but defensive rebounding has frankly been inconsistent this season. Carleton will also have to guard TRU’s Princeton stuff that usually begins out of the high-post and features numerous back screens and back door cuts. This will be a very interesting contrast in styles however a Thompson Rivers win would be regarded as a major upset given how well Carleton has played in the past month or so.
3:00 PM PT/6:00 PM Eastern: #3 Ottawa vs. #6 Dalhousie Given the definitive size advantage the Gee-Gees have inside, expect the Tigers to revert to playing some zone – which they did at various points throughout the AUS season. But Dal is at their best when 5’11” Ritchie Kanza Mata is wreaking havoc in the front court making life difficult for opposition guards to bring the ball up and uOttawa, when right, is among the top 2 or 3 three point shooting teams in the nation and would likely lick their chops at facing a zone. 6’2″ Kashrell Lawrence presents an intriguing match up challenge for the Gee-Gees – make no mistake he is a key for Dal inside, if only to ensure that Tigers stable of perimeter shooters get an extra moment to see the rim. Lawrence handled most bigger checks effectively, scoring on taller, longer defenders on both Saint Mary’s and UPEI with equal success. As I have stated several times this season, 6’6″ Matt Plunkett is the most under-rated uOttawa contributor certainly for his timely three-point shooting – he made huge back-to-back 3’s as Ottawa pulled away in the second half vs. Windsor – but more importantly in this game Plunkett could be the ideal check for Lawrence in the low post given his strength and versatility, although it will be interesting to see how both 6’6″ Brody Maracle and 6’8″ Nathan McCarthy fare against Lawrence assuming either get a shot at guarding him. Without giving too much more thought to the other match-ups, 6’3″ Caleb Agada has the potentially to physically dominate 6’6″ Sven Stammberger on the perimeter, the most consistent outside threat for Dal. Dalhousie has been very good at controlling tempo against transition-oriented teams such as SMU and UPEI and Ottawa has struggled to push game tempo in the past few weeks, save for the stretch against Windsor when they started to get back to their usual game. Both teams are deep and this again will be a contrast in styles with a game in the 60’s and 70’s favoring Dal while Ottawa wants to play in the 80’s and above.
6:00 PM PT/9:00 PM Eastern: #4 Calgary vs. #5 McGill Unlike the first half of the season and the pre-season, the Redmen have struggled to put together a solid, consistent 40 minute effort in the second half of the season, relying on their defense to keep them in games until they start making shots. This was evident in both RSEQ Final 4 games when Redmen rallied from meaningful late third-quarter deficits to win. Without a true break-down guy off the dribble, McGill relies on precise offensive reads and running their stuff to perfection to find open looks or get close-outs to open up rim penetration. In contrast, Calgary is deeper and has arguably the top offensive talent in the country in 6’5″ Thomas Cooper who is a de facto break-you-down guy. Redmen will have to contain Cooper, likely with 6’2″ Dele Ogungdokun and maybe some 6’5″ Michael Peterkin or both to turn Cooper into a passer, which he is also very adept at. Dinos can play big with burly Matt Letkeman inside but can also go small with super sub Jasdeep Gill playing the 4 or even 5. Regardless, 6’0″ Aussie Josh Owen-Thomas, a fifth-year perimeter threat, must be accounted for as does 6’7″ Lars Schlueter, both of who play off Cooper’s and 6’0″ David Kapinga‘s creating very well. 6’8″ Noah Daoust rescued the Redmen vs. Laval in the second half and multiple McGill scorers got it going late vs. UQAM, illustrating how McGill can attack you offensively with multiple players. Another game in which teams have contrasting styles generally forecasting that a game in the 60’s and 70’s favors McGill and above that would cater to the Dinos explosiveness.
8:00 PM PT/11:00 PM Eastern: #1 Ryerson vs. #8 UBC Full disclosure, the T-Birds were a team I did not see very much of this season but what is known well is that 6’6″ lefty Jordan Jensen-Whyte is a high-end explosive offensive talent who can get to the rim and punch it on you, much like Rams 6’5″ Aaron Best. UBC continues to search for a true point guard who can bring the ball up and start the offense to control the tempo, something that is imperative against the high-flying, transition-oriented Rams. Expect lots of pressure by Ryerson, who has 9 guys that can play at the tempo they want to play at. UBC is probably stronger physically inside which is a nice contrast to Rams athletes such as 6’8″ Kadeem Green, who has emerged as a top flight rim protector. This is a game that will likely play in the 80’s or 90’s with Ryerson having to prove that they can bring the same type of intensity and energy away from the MAC where they were undefeated this season.
Realizing I am going a bit video mad, here is a video recap of Thompson Rivers upset win over UBC in the Canada West semi-final that allowed WolfPack to book their place in the Final 8.
Highlights include a nasty dunk in traffic by 6’6″ Jordan Jensen-Whyte plus the key moment at the end of the game when, trailing by 1 with under a minute to play, the T-Birds had two chances at lay-ups that both rolled out followed by on the very next possession a transition 3 from the top of the bowl by 6’11” Josh Wolfram, giving TRU a 4 point lead with about 30 seconds remaining and ultimately the deal-sealing shot for coach Scott Clark and team.
‘Pack faces Carleton while UBC takes on #1 Ryerson in the first round on Thursday.
Realizing this game happened in October, but as it turns out the loss was the only non-conference loss of the season for the Redmen. These teams are on the same side of the bracket so a victory by both in their first-round games against Canada West opponents (McGill takes on Canada West champion Calgary Dinos while Rye gets TRU WolfPack, runner’s up in CW), sets up a rematch of this tight pre-season game.
Excellent video from the team at North Pole Hoops capturing many of the key moments of Saturday’s Ryerson win in the OUA championship game, bringing home their first-ever Wilson Cup banner and the university’s first-ever OUA championship in any sport.
By now most should have realized how impactful to the result Ryerson’s 6’8″ Kadeem Green was, ostensibly un-nerving the Ravens inside with his spectacular rim protection. Probably the most important block of the game came with just over 3 minutes gone in the third quarter, Ravens up by 8 and the crowd losing steam. Carleton’s 6’5″ forward Guillaume Boucard burst to the rim after leaving his defender flat-footed at the top of the key – out of nowhere Green swooped in and reject Boucard’s attempt, re-igniting the sold-out crowd and turning the momentum squarely to the Rams for the first time all night. The “mo” would not turn back around to Carleton from that point onward.
Green’s key swat started an 18-8 run that gave Ryerson their first lead since early in the game, but more importantly re-instilled confidence in the listless Rams and they never really looked back. While archives of the game show many missed Carleton lay-ups down the stretch, what video doesn’t reveal are the footsteps Raven drivers subliminally heard when looking to finish. While Green still remains a somewhat-inconsistent scorer in the low post – he still does not command the double down – his progress defending the paint and running the floor makes him the most intimidating big at the CIS Final 8 this side of Thompson Rivers 6’11” star Josh Wolfram.
While the Ravens could not close in the second half on Saturday night amid the raw emotion that the wonderfully partisan crowd helped percolate, consider Carleton as “back” after many (most) had written them off in late January. 6’3″ Connor Wood is dialed-in, open looks are virtually automatic and, even amid foul trouble (more on the officiating below) 6’6″ Ryan Ejim was a factor vs. Ryerson, helping to create 9 second-chance opportunities for Carleton in the first half alone when Ravens built a 13 point halftime lead – Ejim had 10 points and 7 boards in only 12 minutes. Steady veteran Gavin Resch was not intimidated after struggling in the first game bringing up the ball and, as usual when Carleton is going well, Resch knocked down some timely 3’s (4 for 11 including 2 for 3 in the second half). Carleton was also able to give ample time to their pair of promising rookie wings in 6’3″ Marcus Anderson and 6’3″ Stanley Mayambo who were able to wet their ears in the highest-level game of the OUA season. While both had their challenges, expect these two top-end freshmen to help keep Carleton strong in years to come.
Special “toughness” award goes out to Ryerson’s 6’4″ dynamo Ammanuel Diressa who torched the Ravens for 20+ points in February. Diressa took an inadvertent shot in the mouth while jostling for a rebound and sideline observers witnessed a hockey-esque move as the first-year Ram removed whatever pieces of chicklet remained in his mouth and kept playing. Diressa later subbed off with many thinking his next stop would be the dentist’s chair. Instead, after a brief reprieve, Diressa came back to finish the game. Rams were able to win with just 6 points – 2-10 shooting – and 2 boards from their fine wing/guard.
The game unfortunately was filled with questionable decisions by the officials – by the end of the evening it was still difficult to determine what was and wasn’t a hand-check and many head-scratching whistles came on perimeter plays from referees with 4 or 5 bodies between them and the call – when most times a second referee was right on top of the play. The final foul count was 47 fouls – including a ridiculous 29 in the second half -between the 2 best teams in the conference and believe me the game was not played that way. I am relatively certain having watched numerous OUA games this season and prior that those three officials were not the best three in the conference for the showcase game of the OUA season. In contrast, the Bronze medal game – albeit an easier game to officiate – was done extremely well in my opinion by a crew that established early on what would and would not be called vis-a-vis the hand check and the players quickly adjusted, rendering the referees to the silent background, which for observers and (most) referees are usually very thankful.
Having also watched significant RSEQ action this season in which referee-induced astonishment is a nightly, multiple emotion, let’s hope that the best referees across the country arrive in Vancouver on merit alone. Last point on officiating: those of you who watched the Manitoba/Calgary affair saw arguably the most blatant display of terrible calls in this post-season late in the third and early in the fourth when Bisons were whistled for 6 fouls in the first two minutes of the fourth and Manitoba Head Coach Kirby Schepp had justifiably seen enough. After Bisons cut the lead to 3 midway through the third, Calgary took off on a 28-3 run during a 7 minute span during which Manitoba took 9 fouls against only 2 for Calgary. With Calgary now leading by 28 and Schepp having taken his “T”, Calgary got whistled for 4 fouls within the next minute of play. Ridiculous and not becoming of a product that has so much promise with coaches and players who put so much effort into making the product great.
I will attempt to limit the quantity of primarily factual data about foul counts that is alluded to on this site. But for someone who cares about our game, it is an ongoing frustration.
Ryerson did another outstanding job hosting the Wilson Cup with the championship game especially filled with drama, athleticism, shot-making and arguably the top two teams in the country at present.
Ryerson’s student newspaper the Eyeopener has video evidence from Friday’s Rams win over Windsor.
As well as a tremendous video recap of the OUA championship clinching win over Carleton on Saturday night.
With the release earlier today of the draw for the Final 8, first round match ups are complete and at a minimum the committee did their best to produce four inter-conference games.
Calgary (28-6) vs. McGill (22-5)… Excellent #4/#5 game between Canada West and RSEQ conference champions with both teams having quality depth; Dinos probably a bit more so as all 12 guys can play. Calgary features Moser candidate 6’5″ Thomas Cooper, by far the best pure scorer on either side and 6’8″ Lars Schleuter, another high-end perimeter shooter; these two represent ~45% of Dinos scoring. But there is much depth: 10 players averaged about 10 minutes per game during the regular season and during each game in the undefeated post-season, 10 guys break a sweat within the first quarter. McGill is not quite as deep (8 to 9 will play major minutes) but scoring is much more spread out. Early view is that the key to the game will be the ability of 6’2″ Dele Ogundokun and 6’5″ Michael Peterkin among others to harass Cooper and guard the ball to prevent 6’0″ Josh Owen-Thomas and Schleuter among others to get open looks. Common opponents include Ottawa (Redmen won at Ottawa; Dinos lost to Gee-Gees by double digits on a neutral floor), UNB (McGill won, Calgary lost) and Laval (Dinos won convincingly in Ste. Foy; McGill won 4 of 5 games but all were very tight down to the end).
Ottawa (29-5) vs. Dalhousie (21-8)… Gee-Gees have comparatively struggled down the stretch, squeezing past Queen’s, never really being in the game against Carleton after the first stretch and then pulling away late against Windsor. But this is an explosive group with a definite size advantage over the Tigers, who were the best defensive team in the wide-open, transition-oriented AUS. While Dal is likely to have to be creative dealing inside with 6’8″ Nathan McCarthy and 6’6″ Brody Maracle given their size disadvantage, in the end guard play will likely determine the outcome with Tigers 5’11” Ritchie Kanza-Mata and 6’1″ Jordan Aquino-Serjue, the freshman, facing off against 6’1″ Mike L’Africain and Gee-Gees comparatively deeper and more experience guards/wings. 6’1″ Medhi Tihani, in what is expected to be his final season, has struggled to find his rhythm in the post-season. Expect Gee-Gees under-rated 6’6″ Matt Plunkett to get time defending against 6’3″ inside stalward Kash Lawrence, leaving 6’3″ Caleb Agada to roam and shoot passing lanes. Tigers are as deep as Ottawa but smaller and less experienced.
Carleton (23-5) vs. Thompson Rivers (20-6)… This game features a reunion of sorts as few likely recall that interim Carleton Head Coach Rob Smart Jr. played for TRU Head Coach Scott Clark in the mid-90’s at Simon Fraser during the Clan’s NAIA tenure. Smart Jr. then transferred to Carleton and as a player led the Ravens to their first of 11 national championships. Ravens are a different team than just 4 weeks ago as 6’3″ Connor Wood is locked in and Carleton is getting fresh contributions 7’0″ Cam Smythe and a pair of freshmen in 6’3″ Stanley Mayambo and 6’3″ Marcus Anderson among others, allowing Ravens to go 9 deep. WolfPack relies on three players to get the majority of the offensive touches and virtually all of the key decisions beginning with 6’11” Josh Wolfram who will be a tough match up. Carleton’s ability to push the tempo, rebound, get TRU out of their Princeton offense while pressuring the Big 3 is likely to be the determinant here.
Ryerson (24-3) vs. UBC (22-6)… #1 seed draws the short straw and gets the T-Birds in what amounts to a home game for UBC. UBC struggled against the bigger Josh Wolfram this past Friday in the CW semi-final. 6’8″ Kadeem Green became a dominant rim protector on the weekend, singlehandidly changing the path of the Wilson Cup championship game. Ryerson is more athletic and deeper however the Birds have Jordan Jensen-Whyte and several very good wings. Teams have at least 3 common opponents: Guelph (UBC wins at home, Ryerson loses on the road), Ottawa (Rye wins at home, UBC loses at home) and Memorial (both win) – not much to made of these. Given how well Ryerson is playing, this would be a large upset.
Arguably the most exciting weekend of CIS basketball across the country – the conference championship tournaments – produced a fair share of intrigue and surprise, beginning out west as Thompson Rivers shocked many by knocking off UBC as coach Scott Clark and the Pack qualify for their first ever Final 8. TRU relies heavily on three players, led by 6’11” Josh Wolfram, who is likely the most talented big man in the country with a versatile skill set including the ability to step out and knock down 3’s – he was a legitimate Canada West all-star. 6’8″ Volodymr Iegorov, with several years of professional experience in his native Ukraine, is a 240 pound work horse who opposing coaches have described as a match-up nightmare who can play virtually every position 2 through 5, including making key decisions offensively. 6’0″ fifth-year Victoria transfer Reese Pribilsky is the point guard member of the triumvirate and rarely does a possession happen without at least 2 and usually three getting a touch. 6’5′ Gerard Gore, a native of Antigua, provides support up front and 6’1″ California native Albert Medrano gets time but beyond the first 3 very good players, the next 3 are capable and then the talent level falls off dramatically.
TRU likes to control tempo with a variation of the Princeton offense that relies on reads and back-court cuts with open 3’s resulting from over committing to rim protection. TRU hit 4 consecutive 3’s to jump out to a 12-2 lead in the Gold medal game against Calgary. Defensively, the WolfPack relies heavily on a match-up zone again to control the tempo, minimize total game possessions and keep the Big 3 out of foul trouble.
Against UBC in the Final 8 clinching win, Iegorov gave TRU the lead for good with just over 5 minutes to play, scoring 7 of his 15 late and Wolfram dominated with 23 points and 14 rebounds including 7 in the final 5 minutes. UBC had led by 9 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third. 6’4″ Will Ondrik, who started his career at Thompson Rivers before transferring, finished with just 7 points in 31 minutes while left Jordan Jensen-Whyte had 19 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.
Expect Thompson Rivers to play with any team in the Final 8, erasing any doubts across the country including mine.
The Dinos are on fire, having won 17 Canada West regular season and playoff games in a row including playoffs (Calgary did go 1-2 during Christmas at Laval, losing to UNB and uOttawa by 16) and have the highest quality depth in the conference going 12 deep. Canada West Player-of-the-Year and Moser favorite 6’5″ Thomas Cooper is the high-volume shooting offensive force but Dinos can play in any number of ways. Against Manitoba in the all-important CW semi-final, it was a three-point game with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third before Calgary exploded on a 28-3 run including 17 consecutive points during a three minute span early in the fourth. During that short stretch, Bisons were called for 8 fouls and 5 turnovers as Calgary scored 10 of their 17 points from the free throw line; the stretch culminated in technical foul that basically sealed the game. 6’6″ Lars Schleuter presents a tough match-up challenge with his ability to space the floor while underrated David Kapinga continues to make his presence felt as a game-changing defender, helping to force 22 Bison turnovers by jumping in the passing lanes for steals and deflections. Calgary can play in any number of ways given their depth and flexibility.
The Bisons stayed in the game until fairly late but could not quell Calgary’s run as their inexperience in these situations may have been apparent. Manitoba loses only 6’9″ Wyatt Anders with the rest of this athletic group that emerged as formidable challenge awaiting at least two new faces who should immediately support next season including 6’5″ Joey Nitychoruk, the Winnipeg native who is transferring back home from Lakehead for his final two seasons of eligibility – he missed this season with a severe ankle injury but should be ready to next season. Manitoba also adds a high-end recruit in 6’7″ James Wagner, another Winnipeg native who was recruited by about 30 CIS schools and made several visits across the country before settling on his home-town Bisons. This could be the most important recruit in Coach Kirby Schepp‘s tenure at Manitoba and re-affirms the program’s belief in local talent: note that Manitoba had 5 starters from Winnipeg in all games this season.
In the OUA, Neate Sager was among the only scribes to highlight the vital game-changing contribution on the defensive end of 6’8″ Kadeem Green, who completely turned the game around in the third quarter with at least 3 blocks on apparent Carleton lay-ins. Ravens had the tempo in their favor and were leading by double digits when Green’s rim protection energized the crowd and led to easy Ryerson run-outs. While 6’5″ Aaron Best had a strong offensive performance and 6’7″ J.V. Mukama continues to show off his long-range shooting, especially in transition, and his length and anticipation as a defender creating deflections and run-out-creating steals, last night Green’s contribution – at the most opportune time of the game – was the driving force behind only 28 Carleton second-half points and several missed lay-ups.
uOttawa pulled away in the second half to secure what is likely to be a wild-card spot with a win over Windsor. The Lancers spunky 5’11” lefty guard Mike Rocca, picking up from Friday’s game, was on fire early, knocking down 3’s and orchestrating what looked like a possible Windsor upset. It was a four point game midway through the third before Ottawa took over. 6’4″ Isaiah Osborne is rapidly establishing himself as a future star. The Gee-Gees depth and quality shone despite a lackluster performance all weekend from 6’1″ Mike L’Africain.
IN Quebec, McGill won as expected, bouncing back from another tough start shooting to pull ahead in the third quarter to lead by as many as 14 against an improved UQAM squad.