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.