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.