Post-Nationals thoughts

Thanks to both of my readers for patience in getting some final thoughts out on the 2015-16 CIS men’s season.  I was out of the country during the Nationals and, given the poor quality of CIS TV- constant freezing – that I personally experienced, was not able to watch any games until returning to Canada.  Having had a chance to catch up via archive, my most positive impressions came from the Ryerson/UBC game which had enough drama, momentum changes, botched calls and high-quality play on both teams to signify the match as a CIS Classic.  Unfortunately, numerous empty seats dotted the sight lines for not only the feature first round game, but even more so for the other 3 games on Thursday… Carleton once again showed that the ability to defend, rebound and consistently make open shots are the underlying keys to winning basketball at virtually any level.  While tournament MVP Connor Wood continued his solid play that begin in late February, fifth-year wing 6’3″ Gavin Resch was instrumental early in Sunday’s championship game, knocking down 3 3’s to give Ravens an early comfortable lead.  Resch, who redshirted his first season at Carleton, is arguably the only CIS player in history to be part of 6 National championships.  6’5″ Guillaume Bouchard was steady in what also was his final appearance as a Raven.  Carleton made 10 of their first 21 threes, held Calgary to just 12 of 43 shooting through late in the third quarer, out-rebounded the Dinos 47-37 overall and forced 9 turnovers out of star guard 6’5″ Thomas Cooper.  Some believed there may be an emotional let down for the Ravens after uOttawa’s first round loss that squelched any chances of a fourth CU/uO game in the semi-finals.  The Ravens then squelched all those doubters with a dominating performance to once again win it all…  Random thoughts on other issues involving the Nationals:  I’ve already touched on my poor personal experience with CIS TV coverage regarding quality of the transmission.  Production was mediocre also with scoreboard showing the score only (when the play-by-play announcers decided to update it).  I found Paul Eberhardt to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic – it was great to get a proper coach’s perspective including some of the more technical aspects of the game.  The same cannot be said for the play-by-play voice of the first 4 games:  numerous mis-pronunciations and straight errors on player’s name (for example in the Dal/Ottawa game #10 Cedric Sanogo of Dalhousie was referred to as “Brandon Robinson” who happens to wear #10 for Ottawa), continual references to things unassociated with CIS basketball and numerous cliches; it was very apparent that this person was unprepared and likely had not seen a CIS basketball game this season and maybe ever.  For the games that Eberhardt was not available or maybe not asked to do, the CIS brought in Jeff Gourlay, a former reserve on the Saint Mary’s Huskies teams of the late 70’s led by Mickey Fox, Percy Davis and present Dal coach Rick Plato.  With all due respect to Gourlay, who clearly has given back to the game in positive ways by the end of games or segments, I had to reach for the mute button on numerous occasions.  It was very clear he did not know any of the players other than reading the All-Canadian announcements from the night prior – in fact he was seen more than once on camera scrambling through team media guides – and that Gourlay was put into a position behind the mike that clearly exposed him as not ready.  It is not his fault that his performance again cast the CIS in a very negative light.  There were countless present and retired coaches from across the entire country in Vancouver for the Nationals, several of which had been part of previous broadcasts and all with a clear understanding of the teams, players, strategies and who would have made for much better presentation.  Again, very disappointing for someone who has watched the better part of 100 games and was looking for a professionally-produced presentation of our games prime property… Regarding uOttawa Gee-Gees, in the end this season’s melt-down from #1 team in the CIS to wild card entry to first-round elimination was a function of Gee-Gees collective ability to guard the basketball defensively.  Teams continually were able to get to where they wanted to on the floor, with Ottawa’s perimeter ball “d” fairly described as porous – Tigers shot 50% from the floor for the game including just 5 for 12 from 3.  As well, the Gee-Gees gave up numerous important defensive 50/50 rebounds to the Tigers, leading to momentum-sustaining runs for the resilient Tigers.  Certainly the turnovers did also kill Ottawa, but this group was at their best during times when they defended and rebounded, two items that killed them against Dal.  Tigers meanwhile simply looked like they wanted it more, playing hard on virtually every possession, getting big stops and of course huge plays from their pair of GTA-bred stars in Ritchie Kanze Mata and Kashrell Lawrence.  Although I’m still wondering how the referees found two fouls in the first 2 minutes from Caleb Agada, the Tigers were arguably under more duress when Kanza Mata also sat with 2 in the first half… Intuitively one may initially believe that the Princeton offense is ill suited for a shorter, 24-second shot clock.  Recall arguably the most famous Princeton game in which the high-post entry, back-door cut offense was successful – Princeton/UCLA in the mid-90’s, possessions usually took about 45 seconds – however Thompson Rivers WolfPack seemingly showed that the Pete Carill designed offense or at least variations of it, can be used in the higher-paced FIBA game.  As pointed out by our Lethbridge correspondent and demonstrated against Carleton in the first round, the Pack’s first 5 got so proficient with their passes and back door cuts that many times passers were passing to a spot where they knew a teammate would appear and, early in the Carleton game, it looked like TRU had a chance.  And some of the finishes were world-class, with 6’10” Josh Wolfram and 6’8″ Volodymyr Iegorov finishing multiple two-handed dunks.  TRU did also make 9 of their first 12 shots of the game and then their first 5 shots (and 6 of 7) to start the third quarter including a pair of 3’s to take the lead, as some smelt an upset.  But the Ravens locked things down beginning mid-way through the third to runaway with the win… Calgary vs. McGill was probably the least entertaining game of the first 4 with the Redmen once again showing that, despite a tight defense and solid rebounding, they need a break-you-down guard who can create and have the ball in their hands at key points in the game.  McGill’s free throw shooting also let them down.  Calgary’s David Kapinga was tough through the entire tournament and the Dinos depth was outstanding.  With at least another season of eligibility remaining, 6’5″ Thomas Cooper can return to make another case for the Moser Award… In the end, congratulations to UBC for pushing Ryerson and for creating a great atmosphere for their first round game.  Hope to have more to provide soon.



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