Ryerson Rams (22-4 overall, 17-2 in OUA, 3-0 in post-season, 2-2 in non-conference including 2-1 vs. non-OUA teams)… For the second consecutive season, Ryerson claims #1 seed in the Final 8 coming off their second consecutive Wilson Cup championship, the first-ever win by a Ryerson program over Carleton in the Raven’s Nest in the Dave Smart coaching era. Rams skipper Roy Rana takes his team to the Nationals for the third time in 7 seasons as Head Coach (Rana took a sabbatical last season and Rams qualified under interim Head Coach Patrick Tatham) – Rams have participated in the past three straight Final 8’s.
Ryerson’s stable of high-end athletes include at least two legitimate All-Canadian candidates in 6’3″ Adika Peter-McNeilly and 6’5″ Ammanuel Diressa, the catalysts for a disruptive turnover-creating pressure defense and the ability to score in transition with the three ball, which remain the staples of Rams success. Ryerson shot 40% from three point land (26 for 65) this past weekend in knocking off both Ottawa teams on back-to-back nights – Rams averaged over 30 three point attempts per game during the regular season but, as importantly, were second in the OUA in opponent’s field goal percentage at 37.7% and created an average of almost 19 turnovers per game. After a dramatic overtime victory as the #1 seed over UBC in the Final 8 last season in Vancouver, Rams were upset by Calgary in the semi-final, still the deepest Ryerson has ever advanced. Rana and Co. have a focused eye on playing on Sunday in the championship this season.
While Peter-McNeilly led the way in the Wilson Cup win with 29 points and 12 rebounds and clearly is Rams most experienced leader in his fifth and final season, the elusive Diressa may be Rams most important player at both ends. Diressa had all 24 of his points in the second half, including 15 in the fourth quarter, in the Wilson Cup clinching victory and in the two games against Carleton, the Ravens simply have not had anyone capable of controlling the dynamic wing off the dribble. Defensively, Diressa is long and quick and made life difficult for 6’4″ Connor Wood among others. Peter-McNeilly and Diressa are arguably the most difficult pair of match-ups in the tournament.
Steady 6’6″ Juwon Grannum has evolved into a leader on this team with his rebounding, defending and, more importantly, has become a legitimate offensive threat who is consistent from beyond the arc – the newest wrinkle in the forward’s game. Also up front, 6’8″ Adam Voll is back from a mid-season leg injury that sidelined the impact center for 8 OUA games but his return brings rim protection and physicality around the paint – Voll can also knock down the open three if left alone.
Arguably the future of the program, Rams got a career effort in a big spot from 6’6″ Keevon Small in the Final 8 clinching win over Ottawa with 18 points including 3-6 from downtown. Another long, lanky athlete ideal for the type of tempo Rams want to set, Small’s minutes have gone up down the stretch as a valuable defender and scorer off the bench.
In 6’0″ Waterloo transfer Myles Charvis and 6’o” Queen’s transfer Roshane Roberts, Rams have a pair of quicker point guards who pressure the ball defensively and are ideal for trapping when Rams push up the pressure into the front court. Both are able scorers with Charvis especially making numerous momentum-changing shots in big games vs. Ottawa and Carleton down the stretch.
Somewhat underrated is 6’7″ Filip Vujadinovic, the lefty wing forward who shone in Rams quarter-final playoff win over Nipissing with 20 points on 4-8 from three. Vujadinovic adds size and perimeter shooting. 6’3″ sophomore Chase Vassell is capable of knocking down threes and usually gets between 5-10 minutes per game at this point in his young career.
Pre-tournament recap: While the focus of many was Rams Wilson Cup victory, just two weeks earlier Ryerson was within one possession of the Ravens also in Ottawa and over 80 minutes of play against the six time defending champions have dispelled the notion of Carleton dominance. Ryerson also won twice over Ottawa including an OT road win in the regular season. Rams did struggle shooting it in an arena setting during their mid-February loss to Brock at the Meridian Center in St.Catharines, their second setback of the season against the Badgers. Back in October, Ryerson also was defeated by Dalhousie Tigers at the Mattamy Center putting Rams at 1-2 vs. teams in this season’s Final 8.
Usual Starters: 6’0″ Myles Charvis (3rd Year), 6’3″ Adika Peter-McNeilly (5th Year), 6’5″ Ammanuel Diressa (4th Year), 6’6″ Juwon Grannum (5th Year), 6’8″ Adam Voll (4th Year).
First guard off the bench: 6’0″ Roshane Roberts (4th Year); 6’3″ Chase Vassell also sees some time as an off-guard.
First two wings off the bench: 6’6″ Keevon Small (Freshman), 6’7″ Filip Vujadinovic (3rd Year).
Rams clearly have focused their recruiting efforts on the GTA and Southern Ontario with Diressa (Eastern Commerce) and McNeilly (Mother Teresa) products of high schools with long pedigrees of success. Grannum (Mississauga), Roberts (Vaughan), Vujadinovic (Burlington Nelson) and Vassell (Pickering) are also from studded high school programs. Both Voll (Kitchener) and Charvis (Mississauga via Waterloo) are Southern Ontario bred while Rana ventured to Montreal for another foundation piece in Small, the second-ever Quebec native recruited to Ryerson during this era (Bjorn Michelson headlined Rana’s first-ever recruiting class).