Realizing that the beginning of next pre-season is about six months away and there are numerous recruiting and transfer announcements that will ensue during that time, I have nonetheless borrowed from our friends down south and provided my first, quick look at a potential Top 10 for next season – based strictly on how rosters look at this point of the calendar.
Many media outlets that closely follow NCAA Football (my USC Trojans are pre-season #3 with (unfounded) concerns at both tackle spots on the offensive line) and Men’s Basketball (list will show up a couple of days after the championship game) provide similar commentaries.
Thus, without further ado, here is our first “way-too-early” look at U Sports Men’s Basketball Top 10 for next season:
#1 Ryerson… While Rams lose 6’3″ All-Canadian Adika Peter-McNeilly and 6’6″ glue-guy Juwon Grannum, next season’s Moser Award candidate 6’4″ Ammanuel Diressa headlines a strong returning roster that will add 6’5″ York transfer Nathan Culbreath, another electric athlete who finishes above the rim and should help defensively. Next season’s team will have at least six 4th and 5th year players including solid guards – experience could be the most under-rated piece of winning and Rams are loaded with quality, senior class talent.
#2 Carleton… Heavy losses due to graduation including Moser Award winner Connor Wood and pg Kaza Kajami-Keane requires that coach Dave Smart replace 90-100 minutes of time with only 4 rising seniors on the roster. The roster is deep with talent and athleticism but experience takes a hit with the uncertainty of replacing a graduated group that took about 60% of Carleton’s shots this past post-season. Thus far, the recruiting class is deep with promise and skill however does not likely have anyone who can step in immediately for feature minutes. At this point, expect 5’9″ Emmanuel Owootaoh, 6’2″ Marcus Anderson and 6’1″ Stanley Mayambo to assume perimeter decision making roles while 6’5″ T.J. Lall is set to become Carleton’s next lock-down defender. The maturity, especially defensively, of 6’9″ Eddie Ekiyor will have a major impact on the Ravens style of play in ’17-’18.
#3 Alberta… Golden Bears come off a Canada West title with their entire rotation except for reserve 7’1″ center Brett Roughead back. Recall Alberta was arguably one late, incorrect travelling call away from stunning Dalhousie in Halifax in the first round of the Nationals. With that added hostile-environment, post-season experience under their belts, the rotation will have at least 5 players in their senior seasons – keys being 6’1″ Austin Waddoups and 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye – plus solid young talent with CW All-Star 6’7″ Brody Clarke, 6’2″ Dwan Williams and 6’2″ Andre Kelly. Bears are potentially a national championship contender.
#4 Brock… While Badgers lose four players to graduation, the foundation of their rotation returns led by 6’7″ Moser Award candidate Dani Elgadi (5th) and one of the most electric scorers in the nation in 6’5″ Johneil Simpson, who has matured into a much better offensive decision maker. Brock, which has the added incentive of being overlooked for an “at large” Final 8 bid this past season, believes they have addressed their depth at the point guard spot with touted 6’2″ recruit Kascius Small-Martin (Vaughan Prep/CIA Bounce) to join rising 3rd year guard Tyler Brown. Both 6’7″ Cassidy Ryan and 6’6″ Daniel Cayer made productive late season strides, putting Brock in a position to rule OUA West for the next several years.
#5 UBC… Certainly a team that also can carry a chip on their shoulder after being overlooked for a Final 8 “at large” bid, Thunderbirds return 7 of their top 9 rotation players including 6’9″ Moser Award candidate Conor Morgan, who suffered through a late-season ankle injury that impacted UBC’s post-season. The loss of starters 6’6″ Jordan Jensen-Whyte and 6’4″ Will Ondrik requires replacing 57 minutes and 26 points per game however the rotation will have at least five players in their senior seasons as well as the addition of high-potential impact 6’2″ Jauquin Bennett-Boire (Saskatchewan transfer). Expect more impact recruits to arrive and for T-Birds to re-emerge as Canada West favorites.
#6 McGill… Redmen finally erased an RSEQ decades-plus winless streak at the Final 8, even without injured Quebec Rookie-of-the-Year Kendrick Jolin. 6’2″ Dele Ogundokun enters his fifth season as a returning All-Canadian, RSEQ Player-of-the-Year and RSEQ Defensive Player-of-the-Year, epitomizing McGill’s emphasis of defending and rebounding. The losses of 6’5″ Michael Peterkin and 6’2″ Jenning Leung will be impactful however expect Redmen to bring in at least one plug-in starter in the back court and leverage the experience of another Final 8 appearance to improve their quality depth up front and at the guard spots.
#7 Saskatchewan… Although Huskies lose workhorse 6’6″ forward Matt Forbes and perimeter-stretching 6’6″ Trevor Severinski, Sask is another program with several returning seniors featuring 6’6″ All-Canadian Shane Osayande (5th), 6’5″ forward Jaylen Morgan and 5’10” Alex Unruh (5th). Remember that prized youngster 6’2″ Chan DeCiman missed the entire second half with a groin injury and stellar 6’2″ U.S. import guard Lawrence Moore is set to have a full summer and training camp with Huskies after joining the program in January. 6’2″ rising sophomore guard Emmanuel Akintunde should see increased time and, as per usual, expect Huskies to hit recruiting trail hard.
#8 Ottawa… While Gee-Gees remain an elite U Sports program, the ability to replace graduated stars 6’3″ Caleb Agada, 6’6″ Matt Plunkett and 6’2″ Adam Presutti – who shared much of the perimeter decision making responsibilities, will be challenging. Certainly 6’4″ Brandon Robinson (4th) and 5’10” Calvin Epistola (3rd) have shown promise but Ottawa suddenly got much younger and inexperienced at the guard/wing spots. Ottawa still has arguably the top big-man duo in the nation in 6’9″ Jean Pierre-Charles and 6’7″ Brody Maracle and the addition of Dartmouth’s 6’5″ freshman Chase Tynes, a high-end recruit who should see minutes immediately, will help. But if experience is an underlying key, Ottawa will have to see their younger guards mature rapidly to remain a top 3-5 team next season.
#9 Dalhousie… The loss of four seniors including three vital cogs in 6’2″ Kashrell Lawrence, 5’11” Ritchie Kanza Mata and 6’3″ Jarred Reid will be difficult to replace. But Tigers as long as Tigers continue to defend, rebound and get easy offense off their press, this program will remain in contention. There is solid talent returning in 6’6″ ’18 AUS POY candidate Sven Stammberger (5th), last season’s CIS ROY 6’1″ Jordan Aquino-Serjue and prized 6’5″ wing forward Alex Carson, who should be healthy after missing the entire second half with a groin injury. Don’t forget that 6’2″ third-year wing Cedric Sanogo missed the entire season due to injury and 6’10” and growing forward Sasha Kappos is likely to continue to mature, especially defensively. Coach Rick Plato has already announced a five-man recruiting class that includes 6’7″ Tyler Williams from Dallas, TX. While Dal has probably come back to the pack in the AUS, expect the system to keep them in contention.
#10 Calgary… The injury bug hit the Dinos hard at a tough time in the season – Calgary usually went at least 11 deep with quality before the losses of 6’6″ Dallas Karch (graduated), 6’5″ Jasdeep Gill (graduated), 6’6″ Lars Schlueter (4th) and 6’6″ Matt Ellis (4th) cut into their Final 8 rotation. The loss of high-volume shooting 6’5″ Thomas Cooper will hurt also but plenty of talent remains including an experienced back court with now two consecutive Final 8’s of experience including 5’11” David Kapinga (4th) and 6’0″ Jhony Verrone (5th). A strong formidable front court returns also while Dinos expect 6’8″ Jeff Rodehutskors to contribute. Dinos also bring in 6’1″ Lucas Mannes (transfer from Trinity Western) to help stretch the “d”, the Chilliwack, B.C. native lit up Calgary for 39 points including 7-13 shooting from three while with the Spartans in 15-16.
St. FX (all main starters and rotation players except 6’0″ Akil Charles are back)
Laurentian (all main rotation guys are back)
Concordia (young, talented group maturing and lose only 6’5″ Michael Fosu)
Winnipeg (strong young team)
UNB (most main contributors including 6’0″ Javon Masters returning).