Controversy continues about the role that RPI does – and should – play in determining playoff teams and seedings but one major item is reasonably certain: the Top 4 teams in the OUA this season are advancing to the Wilson Cup Final 4 and the semi-final seedings are very reasonable: RPI or no RPI.
All four teams rolled to relatively easy victories at home yesterday afternoon and last night, validating what the regular season standings and national rankings have reflected: all four teams are among of the top 7 or 8 teams in the country at a minimum.
I got a chance to review all 4 games while in transit and after return from business travel and all home teams won comfortably.
Brock 90, Toronto 69… 6’7″ Dani Elgadi dominated at both ends, finishing with 18 points, 15 boards, 5 assists and 4 blocks as Badgers won comfortably at home to advance to next weekend’s Wilson Cup semi-final, a playoff rematch against #1 ranked Carleton. Elgadi did a strong job making it tough for 6’5″ Devin Johnson (4 of 19 shooting; 14 points), altering shots with his length and blocking others and offensively showed off his efficient mid-range game off the face-up along the baseline. Badgers are also getting improved offensive production from 6’7″ lefty Cassidy Ryan (18 points on 8-10 shooting in just 18 minutes) who is much more assertive attacking the rim off any mismatches and finishing from 12-15 feet. Toronto hung in for much of the first half, surprising Brock with some trapping that created turnovers and a nice start from 6’5″ Manny Sahota, who unfortunately was saddled with 3 fouls, including an undisciplined frustration foul for his third late in the second quarter about 60 feet from Brock’s basket. Badgers used some double teaming of their own to take control late in the second and then grabbed an early 11 point lead in the third quarter. The Blues then made their last serious push of the game, using a mini 6-2 run to close to within 7 culminated by an “and 1″ by 6’3” Sage Usher. Unfortunately the third year guard missed the ensuing free throw and Brock pulled away using a 13-5 run keyed by 6’5″ Johneil Simpson (18 points off the bench) and the deficit never dropped below 10 thereafter. Simpson’s offensive decision making continues to mature as he is reading and attacking close-outs with much more purpose – he had 7 second quarter points including a pair of one-dribble 17 foot pull-ups that were money; his shot selection has improved meaningfully and now, with the added assets of sharing, beating closeouts and getting to the rim in his game, the early transition three – which was previously a “feast-or-famine” type shot, becomes a good look for Brock, especially when he has it going. The Blues complete their most successful season under fourth-year Head Coach John Campbell with a home playoff win and an OUA quarter-final game but need to get more in these games out of their back-court including Usher, who went just 2 for 9 from the floor for 6 points – all in the second half – and at one point was warned by the referees about arguing holds off the ball and 6’3″ Reilly Reid who did finish with 15 points and contributed early in the third when Toronto was still in the game. Toronto loses Johnson and Sahota next season as both have completed five seasons of eligibility.
Ottawa 93, Laurentian 81… The return to full form of 6’3″ All-Canadian candidate Caleb Agada was enough for the Gee-Gees to pull away early in the second quarter and defeat the Voyageurs decisively in an OUA Wilson Cup quarter-final game at Montpetit Hall. Active defensively and in the open court, Agada created several turnovers and deflections, got to the rim, knocked down an open 3 to start a perfect 6 for 6 from the field, scoring 13 of his 16 points before halftime when Ottawa opened up leads as large as 17 points by early in the second quarter. Agada added 8 rebounds and 6 assists in an all-conference type effort. Ottawa exploded to leads as large as 26 in the second half as 6’6″ Matt Plunkett, coming off a leg injury sustained last weekend, went off for a career-high 21 points, with 18 coming after halftime including three pointers on 3 consecutive possessions all table-set by 6’2″ Adam Presutti, who also appears to be working through some perimeter shooting woes that have plagued the veteran guard recently. Gee-Gees pair of bigs 6’9″ Jean Pierre-Charles and 6’7″ Brody Maracle each had solid efforts, playing 24 minutes apiece in a game that Gee-Gees generally had well in hand but the pair continue to struggle from the foul line, yesterday afternoon going a combined 4 for 10 from the free throw line. Laurentian’s exciting freshman guard 6’2″ Kadre Gray had another explosive offensive effort, culminating what is sure to be a National Freshman-of-the-Year honor with a season/career-high 39 points – 24 in the second half – for the Voyageurs, adding 9 rebounds and 6 assists but Voyageurs lack of higher quality paint-area presence and depth was too much to overcome against Ottawa. Gray will look to that next step toward full national prominence as he and the Voyageurs grow into a program that is consistently competitive in and even win games like this. More paint area presence is likely required to help make this happen. Vees lose just 6’5″ William Yengue from their improving roster that will get back another key piece in D2 transfer 5’10” Mitch Mazzuca – injured all season – and appear set to move up the OUA pecking order in the coming seasons.
Carleton 89, McMaster 50… Ravens pulled away early in the third with another patented offensive explosion, generally set-up by their suffocating “d”, in a route over the Marauders. After Carleton jumped to a 16 point halftime lead led by 6’1″ Kaza Kajami-Keane‘s fine decision-making and finishing, Ravens held McMaster to just 5 points over the final 8 minutes of the third quarter: part of a 31-7 run to lead by 39 early in the fourth. 6’10” Eddie Ekiyor was very active offensively, especially in the third quarter when he followed up a miss with a two-handed put-back slam dunk, coming seemingly out of nowhere through a crowd, a move that awoke the crowd and then shortly thereafter Ekiyor took a slick draw-and-dish feed from 6’4″ Connor Wood (game-high 17 points on 6-8 shooting) for a two-handed jam inside and the route was on. Keene was at his best early when it was still a game, controlling play with his decision making – the OUA POY award candidate played just 8 minutes in the second half after scoring 14 of his 16 and garnering 6 of his game-high 9 assists before halftime. Rapidly-maturing Ekiyor more importantly did a terrific job limiting the looks of Marauders 6’7″ forward Connor Gilmore as did the combination of 6’7″ Ryan Ejim and 6’5″ Mitch Wood for McMaster’s 6’4″ fifth-year senior Rohan Boney. The combination of Gilmore and Boney, Mac’s two leading scorers averaging a collective 34.3 points per game, each had just 4 points after three-quarters last night in a dominant Carleton defensive effort. 6’2″ David McCulloch was tough for McMaster, scoring 14 points against constant ball pressure from Ravens 6’4″ Marcus Anderson, but was just 1 for 8 from three as Marauders finished just 3 for 24 from beyond the arc and shot just 28% for the game. In fact, Mac got to the foul line 29 times as the skewed foul count: Carleton 26, McMaster 17 helped get the Marauders to 50 points scored. In fact, McMaster had just 3 field goals in the final 18 minutes of the game and their final bucket with just under 8 minutes left to play, scoring their final 10 points on the foul line. The loss ends the careers of Boney and 6’4″ Lazar Kojovic for McMaster, leaving Gilmore and McCulloch as the foundation for next season and beyond; the rest of last night’s supporting cast went just 6 for 19 for Mac. Ravens now prepare to face Brock Badgers in one Wilson Cup semi-final with the victor clinching a trip to the U-Sport Final 8 in Halifax.
Ryerson 87, Nipissing 62… Rams pulled away late in the second quarter with a 19-4 run in the final three minutes to close the half and later led by as many as 28 in bringing the Lakers most successful season in their history to an end. Nipissing led 23-19 early in the second when 6’4″ Ammanuel Diressa (game-high 22 points) led a 10-0 run with 8 points including a pair of threes. Later, Diressa and 6’5″ lefty Filip Vujadinovic (20 points including 4-8 from downtown off the bench) keyed the quarter-ending run with Vujadinovic adding a dunk during the run. Nipissing could not overcome 25 turnovers against constant Rams pressure and made just 2 of their final 22 attempts from 3, shooting just 32% overall including just 13-47 after a 7 for 15 start that helped provide them the early 4 point lead. Rams now prepare for their rematch against uOttawa Gee-Gees also in Ottawa however this time on a neutral floor at the Raven’s Nest next Friday night.