OT win over Great Britain provides great start for Canada’s Commonwealth team


6’9 Conor Morgan had a huge coast-to-coast “and 1″ late in regulation and then 6’0” Munis Tutu made a couple of big plays off the ball screen in the extra session as Canada held off Great Britain 78-71 in overtime in Gold Coast, Australia, Canada’s first of two pre-tournament affairs in advance of the Commonwealth Games men’s basketball tournament which begins on April 6th.  Morgan’s clutch play gave Canada the lead before the Brits tied the game with a miracle bank three at the buzzer to send the game into the extra session.  Canada took charge in the extra frame to dig deep for the win.

Great Britain’s roster is dotted with veteran professionals primarily from the BBL (British Basketball League), the top professional league in the U.K.  Their roster includes Canadian-bred 6’7″ Michael Tuck, originally from Markham District High School where he played for Coach George Kraus and later at Loyola (MD.), an NCAA Division 1 program.  Tuck is now 35 years old with a wide array of international experience.  Great Britain is coached by Andreas Kapoulas who was recently named BBL Coach of the Year for his work with Bristol Flyers Men’s Team his debut BBL season.

Canadian Head Coach Kirby Schepp played all 12 roster members and tried various lineups during the course of the pre-tournament affair.  Schepp commented that a lineup of Tutu (Carleton), 6’3″ Justus Alleyn (Manitoba), 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye (Alberta), Morgan (UBC) and 6’9″ Jean-Pierre Charles (Ottawa) showed pretty well but received flashes of solid play from several players.  Generally Schepp felt the game was a bit sloppy as one might expect after two practices.  Overall, Schepp added “this was a great experience for our young guys.  Great Britain has some veteran pro guys”, noting also that “the big thing we are seeing here is the level of experience.  Most of these teams we think will play their FIBA window teams.  Seasoned pros”.

Canada now looks forward to a scrimmage against a to-be-named Australian NBL team this week in Cairns, their final prep before the tournament in what is expected to be a sell-out crowd against the host Australians on April 6th (this coming Friday).

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Canada’s Commonwealth Games side prepares for tournament


Coach Kirby Schepp and team completed their second day including four hours of practice in Gold Coast, Australia in preparation for the start of next week’s Commonwealth Games men’s basketball tournament.  The group has already experienced the warm, welcoming Australian hospitality, staying in the Games village –  with 6,600 athletes hosted by 15,000 volunteers, Schepp and team have been very impressed with the experience thus far.

With an all-U-Sports side, Canada will field by far the youngest team in the tournament with all other countries drawing from their professional leagues, including the host Aussies who will have basically the same all-NBL roster that played in Australia’s two FIBA “window” teams this year.  Most believe Australia is the favorite in the tournament.

Canada has a scrimmage against Great Britain scheduled for tomorrow in what is another side made up of British Basketball League (BBL – U.K. Pro league) veterans after which the group will board an airplane and travel to Cairns where their three Group A games will take place against Australia, New Zealand and Nigeria beginning next Thursday, April 5th.  (Note that Cairns is 14 hours ahead of Eastern time).

Thus, Canada will have 4-5 days of practice and prep time to work through their lineups and rotations.  Schepp is also planning to scrimmage an Australian NBL Pro team during this time for more game action.

We expect to provide as much coverage as possible from Australia including thoughts on the scrimmages including how Canada’s rotation could evolve; we wish our team the best !

Go Canada !

Skinn to return to Cape Breton


Several sources have indicated that current Calgary Dinos Lead Assistant Matt Skinn, coming off a U-Sports National Championship earlier this month with the Dinos, will be named Head Coach at Cape Breton University, a job he resigned from after the 2015-16 season to move to Calgary.  Skinn will replace David Petroziello, who had taken over for Skinn and coached the Capers for the past two seasons.  Skinn had a four-season record of 49-31 in AUS play and 69-49 which included a 27-5, 19-1 slate in his first season in Sydney (2012-13) capped by an appearance at the CIS Final 8 in Ottawa that season.

Expect an official announcement early this coming week.

U-Sports stars dot Canada’s Commonwealth Games roster


With a coaching staff – led by Manitoba’s Kirby Schepp – made up of U-Sports Head Coaches, Canada Basketball has decided to complement the staff with a group of U-Sports stars to represent Canada at the upcoming 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia that begin in a couple of weeks in early April.  Today’s official roster announcement of 12 players included what some observers could view as surprises advance of Canada’s first game on Friday, April 6th in Cairns, Australia, located on the extreme northeast coast in Queensland near the Great Barrier Reef.

Canada will be led by 6’5″ All-Canadian Manny Diressa (Ryerson) who proved earlier this month at the Final 8 that he is the most explosive scorer in U-Sports, notwithstanding exciting 6’2″ Moser Award winner Kadre Gray (Laurentian), who remains on the sidelines with a broken foot and will be unavailable for this tournament.  Joining Diressa in what is an impressive set of athletic wings are 6’6″ Mambi Diawara (Calgary) who had the National championship clinching bucket at the Final 8, 6’7″ J.V. Mukama (Ryerson) likely to be counted on as a defensive stopper, 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye (Alberta) and 6’4″ Justus Alleyn (Manitoba), who also represented Canada at last summer’s FISU Games in Taiwan where he played a supporting role off the bench.

The all-important point guard position features 5’11” Final 8 MVP David Kapinga (Calgary), another FISU games member, plus 6’0″ Munis Tutu of Carleton, the Division 1 transfer from Loyola Marymount who just completed his first season as a Raven.  Some may have thought U-Sports all-time leading scorer and graduating fifth-year senior 6’0″ Javon Masters may have warranted a spot, especially given that the AUS Player-of-the-Year was part of Canada’s 12-man FISU games roster this past summer.  But Masters struggled to earn playing time on that club and, while his numbers at the Final 8 were decent, the lefty did find the going tough with some turnovers during key stages as his Varsity Reds were soundly defeated in both games.  Acadia’s 6’3″ Ben Miller, who has prior experience representing Canada at the 2014 FIBA Americas U-18 championship where he played a supporting role off the bench, was another player some believed was worthy of roster consideration.

Up front, Canada will likely be led by 6’9″ Conor Morgan (UBC) who was arguably our country’s best forward at the FISU games last summer despite battling injuries.  The multi-skilled big man will work with FISU-teammates 6’9″ Erik Nissen (Acadia) and 6’9″ Jean Pierre-Charles (Ottawa), who also suffered through injuries during last summer’s campaign.  UBC freshman 6’10” Grant Shepherd, a key cog in Canada’s U-19 Gold Medal win this past summer in Egypt, also was named and 6’10” Mike Shoveller (Queen’s) also made the grade with a skill set that some feel is more suited to the international game, combining size with an ability to knock down threes.  Some believed that 6’7″ Dani Elgadi (Brock) would have been a strong fit for this group, especially after displaying a solid offensive package at the Final 8, stretching his perimeter shooting beyond the three point line.  6’7″ Brody Clarke (Alberta) comes off a fine All-Canadian season but was also not selected to the roster.  Carleton’s 6’9″ Eddie Ekiyor was another notable absentee from the roster however Ekiyor chose to remain home to focus on his academics.  Two other FISU team members from last summer, 6’7″ St. FX forward Kevin Bercy and 6’5″ Alexandre Leclerc (Laval), were also omitted from this roster.

Schepp will be assisted by UBC’s Kevin Hanson and McGill’s Dave DeAveiro.

Canada has been placed in Group A with Nigeria, New Zealand and host Australia, our country’s first opponent in the tournament at 5:30 PM local time on Friday, April 6th – note that Cairns is 14 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone so Canada’s first game is scheduled for 3:30 AM Eastern time on April 6th.

Canada then meets Nigeria at 2 PM local, midnight eastern on Saturday, April 7th and finishes the preliminary round at 6:30 PM local/4:30 Eastern time on Monday, April 9th against New Zealand.

In a unique set-up, Canada has been placed in Pool A in what organizers regard as the four highest ranked teams in the tournament.  From the tournament schedule:

“The top two teams from Pool A will proceed to the semi-finals.  The bottom two teams from Pool A will play the top two teams from Pool B in the qualifying finals with 3rd A vs. 2nd B and 4th A vs. 1st B.  The winners of the Qualifying finals, which will be played on Tuesday, April 10th, also in Cairns, will proceed to the semi-finals where 1st A vs. WQF2 and 2nd A vs. WQF1 will compete.  The order of these games will be determined during the competition.”

Note that Pool B includes England, Cameroon, India and Scotland.

The semi-finals are scheduled for Saturday, April 14th, giving the four teams a full four days to prepare for the championship round with Gold and Bronze Medal games going Sunday, April 15th.

All games apparently will be available via live stream/webcast (follow the embedded link)

Final 8 Thoughts


Another great show by the City and people of Halifax, always warm and welcoming – albeit hampered this year by some untimely inclement weather that kept numerous people from across the country from attending despite the best laid plans.  The tournament ended with a pair of absolute classics including the championship game and second semi-final that in my view were Sweet Sixteen-esque in terms of talent, drama, coaching and entertainment value.  Every possession was critical to the outcome of the game with a missed rotation or incorrect read offensively immediately being punished, making the two final games the highest quality at this event in recent memory.

Calgary:  Mark me down as a convert – going into the tournament, the Dinos perceived lack of depth and some questionable losses during the season had me believing that we could have three OUA teams in the Final 4.  But 6’0″ David Kapinga is so much better live than on Memorex, especially with his superior instincts defensively as he showed time and time again leaving his check to dig in and steal or tip balls from unsuspecting dribblers, jumping into passing lanes and, of course, tremendous on-the-ball defense.  And his underrated strength and ability to attack off the dribble was critical in both the championship game and semi-final as Kapinga broke down his check at key moments, getting all the way to the rim for several important finishes.  Kapinga was extremely deserving of tournament MVP.  6’6″ Mambi Diawara came up with the championship winning lay-in off a wonderful set piece off the sideline in-bounds when most (all) of the crowd was expecting a flattening out for Kapinga to win it but Diawara came off a stagger and got to the rim with his left hand in a career-defining moment.  The play was well conceived all the way to ensure a shooter (6’6″ Lars Schlueter) was stationed in the corner as an alternative for Diarawa.  Both Kapinga and Diawara have one more season of eligibility remaining for the champion Dinos who lose just 6’0″ defensive stalwart Jhony Verrone and 6’6″ impact post Connor Foreman to graduation.  Foreman was a stud in the semi-final against McGill as the Redmen organized their “d” around holding down Kapinga and Diaward, leaving Foreman to beat them and the burly, sneaky athletic post had a 15-point, 10-rebound double double including a pair of hard, two-handed dunks including a highlight-reel hammer off a Diawara ally-oop.  Other strong performances from the Dinos came from 6’6″ Lars Schlueter, who scored the first 10 points of the championship including a deep three, shaking off a pair of lackluster shooting efforts in the first two games – he made just one of eight against Brock in Thursday’s quarter-final but his one make was the difference maker late when Badgers mis-played a pick-and-pop with Kapinga.  Schlueter’s huge one-handed slam off a great feed from Diawara with just over a minute remaining in Sunday’s championship game gave Calgary a three-point lead and was another of the several highlight reel plays over the weekend.  6’1″ Lucas Mannes, the Trinity Western transfer, was clutch against Brock in the opening round with five threes and made arguably Dinos biggest shot outside of Diawara’s game-winner with a clutch three from the right wing to extend Dinos lead to six in the final minute off a sweet draw-and-kick again from Kapinga.  Antigonish, N.S. native 6’2″ Andrew Milner got valuable minutes as a freshman and flashed the solid potential of Dinos combo guard of the future.  Lastly, the preparation and in-game performance of Calgary’s coaching staff led by veteran Dan Vanhooren and aided by Lead Assistant Matt Skinn (Welland, ON) was high end, turning around many observer’s view of the pair going into the tournament – this staff showed they are among the best in the nation with a wonderful performance, especially defensively and finding match-ups offensively.  Congratulations to Calgary for a well-deserved tournament victory and respect for the coaching staff.

Ryerson:  It has been a wonderful year for Head Coach Roy Rana beginning with the Gold Medal he led Canada to in the U-19 World’s this past summer and to many it appeared his Rams would give him the double of a World and U-Sports championship after Ryerson handled Carleton in the semis.  Rana showed why he is considered a world-class coach with his defensive plan for Carleton which for the most part negated Ravens’ bigs and flashed his in-game coaching maturity with a wonderful out-of-bounds play for 6’7″ J.V. Mukama down the stretch of Sunday’s championship game when Rams were down four and needed a quick basket with 20 seconds remaining.  6’5″ Manny Diressa was clearly dealing with a debilitating shoulder injury – rumor has it that late in Saturday’s win over Carleton he had to have his left (non-shooting) shoulder popped back into place but nonetheless Diressa was instrumental in the drama with his Jordan-esque three from the top of the bowl to bring Rams back to even before Diawara’s game-winning take to the rim.  Showing he is by far the best offensive player in the country, Diressa was incredible, especially in the second half of both the semi-final and championship games, scoring off the dribble, in the post and in transition.  But it was the supporting cast that put Rams on the verge of their first-ever championship as each of 6’7″ Adam Voll, 6’5″ Filip Vujadinovic and 6’0″ Roshane Roberts had clutch moments and played as well as they have in their careers.  Voll had 7 points including a key finish to tie Sunday’s game at 65 midway through the fourth and was a solid rim protector all weekend while Vujadinovic continued his solid play in Halifax – recall he was the catalyst in Ryerson’s 2017 national semi-final victory over host Dalhousie – as a pick-and-pop finisher and willing rebounder.  6’0″ Myles Charvis struggled shooting the ball in Sunday’s final but was terrific with 9 assists and arguably was Ryerson’s MVP on Saturday in the win over Carleton, with multiple strong takes from the top of the bowl all the way to the rim.  Rams lose Diressa and Voll to graduation and look to also have a budding dominant star-in-the-making in 7’2″ Tanor Ngom who turned over his right shoulder for a spectacular two-hand dunk over a pair of Carleton Ravens in Saturday’s semi-final.

Carleton:  For any other program in North America, losing four senior starters from last season’s National champions with just one returning fifth-year senior and a roster dotted with sophomores and juniors, just getting back to the Final 8 would be regarded as a ringing success.  But this is Carleton where winning national championships have almost become a right of passage – however thankfully for our game, the rest of the country appears to be catching up.  Ravens relative youth did show in spurts as 6’3″ Marcus Anderson, a lock-down defender throughout much of the season, was solid guarding but did not shoot the ball particularly well.  Anderson remains a vital piece of Carleton’s plans going forward as a shut-down wing and scorer.  7’0″ Cam Smythe played valiantly as did 6’10” Eddie Ekiyor in spurts however certainly did not dominate Ryerson’s front line in the semi-final.  6’1″ Yasiin Joseph continues to add spark to Ravens offense, creating and knocking down threes while 6’3″ Stanley Mayambo continued his consistent, supportive work defending and making threes.  Underrated 6’4″ forward Mitch Wood was money in the semi-finals against Ryerson, doing his normal unheralded work inside grabbing loose balls, tipping rebounds and winning every 50/50 ball but provided some added offense, going 4-6 from three for 16 points including three threes after halftime, again showing his propensity for being a big game, big spot guy.  Carleton loses only Smythe, who completes his fifth and final season so expect the returning roster and any new faces to reference this season’s disappointment often next season.

McGill:  Some observers were a bit surprised at Redmen’s #3 seed in the tournament and the corresponding first round match-up against the team that was by far the worst in the Final 8.  However, the manner in which McGill’s thrashed AUS champion UNB led many to believe that Redmen’s national semi-final game vs. Calgary would be a toss-up.  Unfortunately for the fifth-year laden Redmen, it was apparent by late in the second quarter that McGill simply did not have the horses to compete with the likes of the Dinos and any thought of a McGill win was eroded by the contribution of a probable false sense of security of riding through the RSEQ and the first-round of the Final 8 in dominating fashion.  McGill simply could not make shots when it counted and, although Redmen rebounded to lead for much of the Bronze medal game against Carleton, not being able to consistently make perimeter shots was the difference in back-to-back losses over the weekend.  Coach Dave DeAveiro‘s core has exhausted their eligibility and only 6’1″ Alex Paquin – their best player at the Final 8 showing off a fine array of moves off the bounce and 6’8″ reserve Noah Daoust are returning impact players.  Expect McGill to fall back to the pack in the RSEQ with the entire conference needing to upgrade significantly to be viewed through any Top 8 lens.

Brock:  With a strong come-back in the opening round and two dominant wins in the consolation bracket, coach Charles Kissi and program got a very good first taste of the Final 8 with strong success.  While 6’7″ Dani Elgadi was a revelation – Canada’s Commonwealth games entry hopefully is taking a closer look – the Captain will have to be replaced with 6’5″ Johneil Simpson likely to take the mantle after an extraordinary performance in Halifax.  Simpson remains one of the nation’s most explosive scorers in bunches but picked it up on the glass and generally with his compete level at the defensive end – this was a coming out party of sorts for the Scarborough native.  Brock played the final two games without 5’11” point guard Tyler Brown who started slowly against Calgary but hit two big shots late and gained confidence attacking his check deep into the paint as the game wore on.  Unfortunately, the Hamilton native turned his ankle late in the quarter-final and missed the remainder of the tournament.  Brock already was without their top freshman, impact 6’2″ combo guard Kascius Small-Martin who missed the entire Final 8.  Brock needs more depth at the point guard spot and 6’1″ Ibrahim Igom (Montreal) took the reigns for stretches against UNB and Acadia but clearly still needs to develop to be strongly regarded as the longer-term answer.  Fans got their first look nationally at 6’7″ Cassidy Ryan and 6’5″ Daniel Cayer and results were mixed with both forwards struggling offensively for the most part.  But in general Badgers have laid the foundation for multiple Final 8 appearances going forward, assuming Kissi can augment his talent level at the guard spots and with one more forward.

Alberta:  Without a doubt, Golden Bears were the most disappointing side at this season’s Final 8 with many (including and maybe led by me) believing coach Barnaby Craddock‘s team would present the best challenge to Carleton’s reign.  But Dinos guards exposed some chinks in the armor in the Canada West Final and Ryerson, led by the blistering shooting of 6’7″ J.V. Mukama and 6’5″ Manny Diressa, took the air out of the Bears rather early in their #4 vs. #5 quarter-final showdown, making 9 of their first 11 threes in the best stretch of shooting in a Final 8 championship bracket maybe ever.  Bears barely got a chance to take advantage of the fine inside post skills of 6’5″ All-Canadian Brody Clarke and 6’1″ Austin Waddoups and 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye were just ordinary amid the athleticism, length and skill set of the Ryerson wings and guards.  Craddock will look to replace fifth-year stalwarts Gueye and able perimeter shooting reserves 6’6″ Lyndon Annetts and 6’6″ Geoff Pippus for next season.

Acadia:  In what turned out to be a foreshadowing of the end of a seven year reign, Axemen busted out a zone defense against Carleton and stayed in the game until basically the last five minutes by thoroughly out-rebounding the Ravens in about 33 of the 40 minutes and staying in it with strong guard play.  Coach Kevin Duffie rolled the dice against one of the top perimeter shooting programs in the country, starting in a 1-3-1 that was quickly dissected before keeping 6’9″ Erik Nissen and 6’8″ Rhys Larry at the back of a 2-3 zone that contested shots and made “one-and-done” the mantra for much of the game.  Wonderful on Duffie to show some courage to go against the consensus and stick with his convictions despite the early tough start.  6’1″ Trevon Grant was spectacular against Carleton with 16 points and 6 rebounds and was on the wrong end of a tough charge/block call late that helped turn the tide.  Acadia also got another solid effort from 6’3″ Ben Miller with 15 points and 10 rebounds but Axemen could not overcome 21 turnovers.  Duffie will need to replace Nissen, Larry and 6’5″ Thomas Johnston among others for next season.

UNB:  Unfortunately the great career of 6’0″ Javon Masters came to an inglorious finish as the Reds lost a pair both by double digits and both in which UNB never was really a factor.  Reds “d” was porous and, outside of Masters and some decent shooting from 6’2″ Jesse Kendall, UNB looked mediocre.  Worse was the antics on the UNB sidelines which began from basically the opening tip of the game against McGill – numerous folks I talked to made unsolicited comments about the extent to which the referees were being blatantly blamed for UNB’s scoreboard misfortunes.  Congratulations to Masters for a wonderful career and his all-time U-Sports scoring record.

Other Thoughts… It was great to spend time with ex-U of T Head Coach and National team Assistant Mike Katz, who shared numerous great stories and his unique insights into the games.  Coach Katz also has a new found talent picking at an acoustic guitar which allowed us to dust off some old tunes for an impromptu jam session on Friday afternoon, with my valiant attempts at mimicking the vocals of classics no doubt driving away several patrons from the Westin Hotel lobby bar… It was a celebratory weekend for two storied Final 8 championship teams as Eddie Pomykala and his Bishop’s Gaiters celebrated their 20th Anniversary of their 1998 Final 8 championship – Eddie is always engaging with a “book”-like knowledge of CIAU/CIS basketball; let’s hope he finds his way back into the game at a more active level somehow.   As well, it is incredible that 10 years have passed already since Brock Badgers won their second Final 8 championship in Ottawa – many will remember the emotional embrace at mid-court between Coach Ken Murray and son Scott, a key member of that team, immediately after the final buzzer in 2008.  Both father and son were present as were legendary Region basketball icon Brian “Mugsy” Mulligan and several members of that Badgers championship team including Brad Rootes, Rohan Steen and Mike Kemp… While the Thursday, Saturday, Sunday format has some appeal for coaches and players with the extra day of rest allowing for some healing and preparation, from the perspective of attendance and interest, going back to a Friday/Saturday/Sunday format has merits.  Despite having a “local” team in Thursday’s opening game at Noon local, the stands were virtually empty:  taking a Friday afternoon off is usually practical for the casual fan and/or those flying in from out of town; Thursday’s are much more difficult to justify.  Anecdotally, there were numerous out-of-towners who could not come in for Thursday who could have arrived in time for  a Friday noon start.  Perhaps this is something that future Final 8 organizers will take into consideration in their planning.  Thanks again to the people of Halifax for a wonderful time !

 

Blistering three-point shooting lifts Rams to fourth consecutive Final 4


Ryerson 88, Alberta 62… Rams started the game making 9 of their first 11 shots from beyond the three point arc, racing to a double digit lead before pulling away in the third quarter for an easy win over the Golden Bears.  6’7″ J.V. Mukama was the catalyst in the early run with five threes while 6’5″ Manny Diressa finished with a game-high 25 points including six threes and added 7 assists for the Rams, who had 20 assists on 32 makes in the game, displaying a wonderful array of passing skills.  Underrated tonight however was Ryerson’s ability to guard the ball and produce difficult offensive possessions for the Bears, who rolled to the Canada West regular season crown before falling to Calgary in the CW playoff championship game.  Mukama had 21 points and 9 rebounds and is finally over the past three weeks or so flashing his high potential at both ends after an indifferent regular season.  6’5″ Filip Vujadinovic continues to save his better performances for the big stage in Halifax as he added 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in a “glue-guy” type performance while 6’0″ Myles Charvis added 14 in the win.  Alberta shot just 6-22 from three and were never really in today’s game, looking demoralized after one of the best team shooting exhibitions off the start of the game in recent U-Sports Final 8 history.  Ryerson looks to avenge last weekend’s loss in the OUA Wilson Cup championship as Rams take on #1 Carleton Ravens in one of two Final 8 semi-finals on Saturday.

Axemen hang tough but fade late in first round loss to Ravens


Carleton 81, Acadia 64… 6’9″ Eddie Ekiyor had 9 of his game-high 25 points during a game-deciding 17-2 run early in the fourth quarter as the Ravens finally solved an Axemen zone which had been the key reason that #8 seed had the game tied at 54-54 in the first minute of the fourth. After 6’3″ Marcus Anderson‘s three from the left corner broke the tie, Ekiyor got free inside for several tough finishes including a two-handed put-back dunk in traffic that ignited the Ravens sidelines and took the air out of the pro-Acadia crowd.  The talented forward that long-time local Halifax basketball legends are calling “NBA Eddie” then showed his ability to run the floor, getting ahead of the pack for another slam that put it out of reach.  Axemen had stayed in the game by forcing many perimeter Carleton shots against their 2-3 zone and, as importantly, limiting the normally-active Ravens to one shot with stellar defensive rebounding.  After a rough start that saw Ravens shred Acadia’s 1-3-1 with lay-ups and put-backs, Axemen dropped into a 2-3 that contained Carleton, allowing only three “o” boards in a 25 minute stretch during the game.  But Carleton began finding holes and getting inside in the fourth quarter to win going away.  Ravens shot just 27% from downtown 10-37 and the game began conjuring memories of the 2008 Final 8 semi-final between these two teams that went to triple OT before Axemen prevailed.  6’9″ Erik Nissen had 18 points and 17 rebounds to lead Acadia and did a splendid job cleaning the glass for large parts of the game.  6’1″ Trevon Grant was magnificent for Acadia off the bench with 16 points including knocking down both of his threes; Axemen were a tidy 7-17 from three but turned it over 21 times.  6’3″ Ben Miller had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Acadia, who out-rebounded Carleton 50-40.  6’11” Cam Smythe added 18 points and 8 rebounds while struggling for major parts of the third quarter but did hit a clutch three from the left wing in the game-deciding run.  Ravens meet Ryerson Rams in one of two semi-finals on Saturday in a rematch of last Saturday’s Wilson Cup.

Late Diawara hoop lifts Dinos to two point thriller


Calgary 78, Brock 76… 6’6″ Mambi Diawara’s driving layup along the right baseline in the final minute turned into the game-winning hoop in a game that had several late lead changes.  Badgers rallied from a 14 point deficit to take a four point lead with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining on the heroics of 5’11” Tyler Brown, who hit two big threes from the top of the bowl followed by a driving layup.  But 6’1″ Lucas Mannes, a transfer from Trinity Western, had three huge threes in the fourth quarter including a tough, twisting leaner from the left baseline late.  In what was a high-end classic, 6’6″ Lars Schlueter hit his only three of the game off a busted-coverage pick-and-pop to give Calgary a 72-70 lead with just under 3 to play and later Mannes restored a three-point Dinos lead with a bomb from the top of the bowl off a fine draw-and-kick from 5’11” David Kapinga, who was a defensive presence all night.  But 6’7″ Dani Elgadi tied the game with just over a minute to play, setting up Diawara’s game-winning drive out of a timeout.  Brock had two chances to tie including a desperation three by 6’5″ Johneil Simpson, who was Brock’s best player on the afternoon with 24 points in 40 minutes.  Elgadi finished with 20 points and 7 rebounds including a three while Diawara had 19 for Calgary with Kapinga adding 18 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals.  But Mannes stole the day with his clutch, ice-veins shooting.  Calgary meets McGill Saturday night in one semi-final.

Redmen dominate in easy win over UNB


McGill 88, UNB 57… Redmen pulled away in the second quarter to lead by 15 at the half and then put the Varsity Reds away early in the third in a 30 point pounding of the AUS champions.  McGill held Reds to just 31% shooting including 4-17 from three while getting balance scoring with 5 players in double figures in dominant performance.  McGill’s pressure forced 22 turnovers and, outside of a handful of creative takes to the rim, 6’0″ Javon Masters, AUS POY, was largely ineffective, turning it over officially six teams however it felt like more.  6’2″ Dele Ogundokun was stellar defensively on and off the ball against Masters, who received maximum attention with 2 or 3 defenders always around him.  The game featured 55 fouls and 58 free throws with the officials drawing the ire of UNB Head Coach Brent Baker almost from the opening tip – the UNB bench took a technical in the first half and Baker was assessed another after the game was well in hand.  Redmen made 10 of their final 18 shots from the beyond the arc after starting just 1-6, a key reason why the game was tied at 16 after one.  But 6’1″ Alex Paquin got going off the dribble (9 of his 12 points in the first half despite playing with 2 fouls) and later 6’8″ Noah Daoust had a stretch of 9 points midway through the third which helped ice the game rather early.  Ogundokun led the way for McGill with 17 points including 3-4 threes while Masters led all scorers with 19 on 7-16 shooting including 0-4 from three.  McGill took UNB out of an rhythm offensively and adjusted offensively to how V-Reds were guarding their ball screen game to advance to Saturday’s National semi-finals.

Analytics-based Final 8 Preview


One of the top coaches in the country in my opinion is Windsor’s Chris Oliver who continually has the Lancers in the OUA championship discussion, at times with lesser talent than opponents.  Chris is a wonderful teacher of the game – I highly recommend his site “Basketball Immersion” which provides a plethora of basketball wisdom including numerous individual and team drills and much more compiled through Coach Oliver’s three decade (or so) odyssey in the basketball world.

Part of Chris’s more recent success could be the result of the growing field of analytics and a member of the Windsor staff, Daniel Iannetta has compiled a “A Final 8 Preview Per Synergy”.  While I am ordinarily a one-man-show, Dan has clearly put in meaningful work for this preview which I hope you enjoy.

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Daniel Iannetta is nearing the completion of his Masters in Applied Human Performance at the University of Windsor. His research mainly explores the use of sports statistics and data analytics in the field of many different sports, including basketball, soccer and football.  He also spent the last year with the Lancer Men’s Basketball team as their Head of Statistics & Analytics where he developed detailed scouting reports, and game analysis utilizing Synergy Sports Tech, as well as a program that he and his advisor, Dr. Kevin Milne created using C++ programming.  For updates on sport statistics research and other sport-related topics, follow Daniel’s twitter @danieliannetta

Acadia Axemen (NR) – Host

Strengths:

Ball Distribution: (low turnovers too)

– The host team, Acadia Axemen do a very good job at distributing the ball, and making sure that their offense is free-flowing. They average 16.8 APG, putting them in the top 10 of the country, and right behind Carleton for tournament teams. The Axemen have 4 players who average over 2 APG, including senior guard, Ben Miller, who averages 6 APG, good for 3rd most in the country. When the offense can be facilitated by anybody on the court, it will make for a tough time for any opponent.

Offensive Rebounding:

– Acadia can generate many second chance point opportunities by the way they can get after the offensive glass. The Axemen average 14 ORPG, which puts them top 5 in the country. Erik Nissen averages over 2 ORPG, and per Synergy, converts 1.3 PPP off of the second chance opportunities, putting him in the top 10% in the league for that category.

Weaknesses:

Inefficiency from the Field:

– Acadia has some limitations offensively in that they can be average in efficiency in both transition, and overall half court (per Synergy). The Axemen only generate 0.936 and 0.793 PPP in transition and half court, respectively, which slates them in the bottom 40% of the league. Outside of the 3, Acadia only shoots 41% from the field, which puts them at 28th in the league. They will need to be able to convert more from inside the arc if they want to make a run.

Low FT%

– Acadia has one of the lowest FT shooting percentages in the league at 67.5%. Similar to McGill’s struggles, Acadia will be going against some great competition where points might be difficult to generate offensively. They cannot squander the chance to get points at the free throw line if they want to succeed.

Player Facts:

Erik Nissen (#11)

  • Senior forward, Erik Nissen has been the driving force for the Axemen all year. He is a walking double-double with his PPG total of 18.3 and 10.8 RPG being key in the team’s 15-5 record this year. At 6’10, Nissen is a problem for anyone in the post, however, he can also stretch the floor (1.1 3PM/G) creating a matchup problems for other bigs.

Ben Miller (#9)

  • Though Miller has struggled from the field this year (37.7%), he is an incredible ball distributor (6 APG) and rarely makes mistakes with a 2.2 A:TO ratio while shooting 87% from the line. Both qualities you love to have from your senior point guard.

McGill  Redmen (5) – RSEQ Champion

Strengths:

Forcing Turnovers:

– McGill does an incredible job at taking the ball away from their opponents. As a team, the Redmen lead the country in turnovers forced with 23.1 takeaways a game. They also cause a turnover on 23.8% of their opponents possessions. Much of their success has to do with 6 of their players averaging over 1 SPG.

Defensive Efficiency:

– Per Synergy, McGIll has the most efficient defence in both transition, and half court while only allowing 0.807 and 0.696 PPP, respectively. Defensive standouts Dele Ogundokun (#3) and Daniel Pieper (#8) have helped the Redmen hold opponents to 66 PPG (2nd in the country) while shooting 39% from the field (5th in the country).

Weaknesses:

Terrible FT%:

– One of the areas that could cause McGill fans some concern is their inconsistency at the free throw line. Throughout the season, McGill averages getting to the line 20 times a game, but only makes 62.8% of their attempts (bottom 5 in the country). This means, on average, the Redmen leave just over 7 points on the board. In close games against better competition, this could prove costly.

Turnover Prone:
– Though McGill forces a lot of turnovers, they also have some issues in taking care of the ball themselves. McGill averages 16 TO/G, which ranks them 39th in the country. Against teams that thrive in transition (e.g., Brock, Carleton, etc.) McGill has to do a better job at taking care of the ball, and eliminating easy opportunities for their opponents.

Player Facts:

Dele Ogundokun (#3)

  • The work that Dele does on the defensive end of the floor cannot go unnoticed; he has only allowed opponents to score 0.652 PPP while being the primary defender. He is forcing opponents to turn the ball over 24.4% of possessions while averaging 2.4 steals a game. Look for the RSEQ MVP Candidate to be a thorn in the side of most players this tournament.

Alex Paquin (#5)

  • Paquin is one of the best spot-up shooters in the country, scoring 1.37 PPP off of spot up chances.The senior guard is the main offensive spark-plug for McGIll as he leads the team with 15 PPG, and over 2 3PM/G. Teams will need to plan for him every time out.

Calgary Dinos (4) – Canada West Champion (CW)

Strengths:

Steals & On-Ball Defense:

– Calgary is an excellent team defensively, only allowing 72.8 PPG, which is good enough for 8th best in the country. Most of their defensive ability comes from their ability to disrupt passing lanes, and force teams into bad matchups, causing many turnovers. Calgary averages 13.1 steals per game, which leads the country. Guards, Mambi Diawara and David Kapinga average 2.5 and 3 SPG, respectively.  

Depth:

One of the Dinos’ biggest strengths in comparison to the rest of the field is the amount of depth that they have at all 5 positions. In a tournament played over 3 straight days, fresh legs are extremely important, and Calgary can go deep to their bench, having 9 players average over 15 minutes a game this season.

Weaknesses:

Lack of Rebounding:

Calgary has some trouble defending the ball as a team. As a whole, Calgary is ranked 29th in the country in total rebounds per game, and they are the only team in the Final 8 that averages a negative margin in rebounding difference against their opponents. Look for teams to try to crash the class against Calgary this tournament.

3-Point Percentage:

– Though Calgary is 11th in the country in 3PM this season averaging 9.65 a game, they are only 31st in the country in overall 3Pt% at 31.2%. The Dinos’ only have one player averaging over 1 attempt a game that shoots over 35% from distance. There’s an old saying that “you live by the 3, you die by the 3”; to be successful, Calgary needs to make sure they increase their percentages.

Player Facts:

Mambi Diawara (#1)

  • Mambi is an incredible offensive threat both in transition, and from distance averaging over 2 3PM/G, while averaging 22 PPG, good for 7th in the country. Diawara has scored over 20 points in 14 of Calgary’s games this year, but his impact isn’t just scoring; he leads his team also in rebounding with 7 RPG. Look for Diawara to be an impact player moving forward in the Final 8.

David Kapinga (#0)

  • Kapinga is a jack-of-all-trades for the Dinos. Not only does he lead his team in assists with 4.2 APG making sure to distribute to players like Diawara and Schlueter, but he averages an incredible 3 SPG, making sure that he is a difference maker on defence.

Alberta Golden Bears (2) – CW Runner Up

Strengths:

Rebounding:

– One of the most important keys to being successful in basketball is the ability to rebound the ball. No team in this tournament does that better than Alberta. The Golden Bears are top 4 in every rebound statistic in the country (ORPG, DRPG, TRPG) with the 3rd highest rebound margin of +12.3. Alberta will not let up second chance points on the boards, and will make sure to crash the glass to get their own second chance opportunities.

Amazing Spot Up Team:

– Per Synergy, the Golden Bears score 0.972 PPP off of Spot Up sets, which puts them at #2 in the country. They have incredible shooters from the perimeter like Austin Waddoups (#1) who averages 2.5 3s a game at 40.2% shooting. However, they also have dual-threat playmakers off the dribble who can attack the basket like Geoff Pippus (#9) who scores 1.35 PPP going to the basket from Spot Up.

Weaknesses:

Average in Transition:

– One area which Alberta struggles in is generating offense from transition. This could be due to the fact that they send everyone to the defensive glass, and may not have a lot of players running out in transition. However, against great half court defensive teams (e.g., McGill, Carleton, etc.) the Golden Bears may have to consider sending players out in transition to get easier scoring opportunities.

Ball Distribution:
– An area which may need improvement for the Golden Bears is their distribution of the ball. Only 1 player on the team averages over 2 APG while the team as a whole has an A:TO ratio of 1.09, which has them near the bottom of the rankings compared to other Final 8 teams. Alberta cannot be so reliant in on one facilitator if they want to make a deep run this year.

Player Facts:

Brody Clarke (#14):

  • The 6’8 Junior had an incredible year for Golden Bears totalling 15 PPG and 8.3 RPG, while shooting 54.4% from the field, all in only 24.4 MPG. Similar to Ekiyor from Carleton, Clarke is a problem to anyone guarding the post, and trying to keep him away from the boards. He is excellent in the pick & roll both going to the basket, but he also has a mid-range to his name that defenders have to respect.

Mamadou Gueye (#11):

  • Gueye has been an anchor for Alberta’s team all year both on offence and defence. He is top 2 in every statistical category on the team, and he is also one of 4 players in the country to average over 1 steal and block a game. He can do it all for the Golden Bears.

Carleton Ravens (1) – Wilson Cup Champion (OUA)

Strengths:

Team Defense:
– Carleton allows a league leading 60.4 PPG while holding teams to under 35% from the field, and 30% from 3. Per Synergy, Carleton has the #1 overall half-court defense in the league, only allowing 0.66 Points Per Possession (PPP) while forcing turnovers during 21% of the opposing team’s half-court offensive sets.

3-Point Shooting:
– Carleton made the second most 3s in the country this year at 9.5 a game (only behind Windsor), while shooting 36.2%. Not only are they making their 3s (5 of their players average over 1 3PM/G), they are making them at a percentage which is top 5 in the country..

Weaknesses:

Pick & Roll Offense:
– When Carleton guards run the pick & roll and try to keep the ball, they are below average in generating offense and very inefficient (0.642 PPP, 27.4 TO%). Players like Yasiin Joseph and Munis Tutu struggle to score in these sets (37 FG% combined) while turning the ball over 26% of the time.

Foul Trouble:
– Carleton averages 18.5 PFs a game; they play a very aggressive style of defense that it can allow teams to get in the bonus very early, and get teams quick and easy points. However, with Carleton’s amazing depth, individual foul trouble might not be the biggest problem.

Player Facts:

Eddie Ekiyor (#42)

  • Ekiyor was an OUA First-Team All-Star this season averaging 14.3 PPG with 7.3 RPG. Though his per game averages may not be as flashy as others around the league, it’s important to note that Eddie is doing this in only 24 MPG. His overall offensive & defensive efficiency (59% FG, 1.1 PF/G) and per 40 numbers of 24 PPG and 12 RPG are much better representations of how dominant this sophomore has been for the Ravens.

Yasiin Joseph (#10)

  • Joseph joins Ekiyor as an OUA First-Team All-Star selection averaging 14.7 PPG while knocking down over 2 3Pt/G. Joseph is the quarterback to the Ravens offense, with an A:TO of 2.0 making sure to get his surrounding cast involved, while still knowing to score when needed.

New Brunswick Varsity Reds (10) – AUS Champion

Strengths:

Team Scoring:

– UNB has the 2nd most potent offense in the league, generating 90 PPG on 45.3 FG% and 34.1 3PT%, both top 10 percentages in the league. Per Synergy, the Varsity Reds generate 0.906 PPP which ranks them in the top 15% in the country, with 10 players averaging over 5 PPG.

FT Opportunities:

– To compliment UNB’s incredible offensive efficiency, the team also sports amazing numbers from the charity stripe. The Varsity Reds get to the line 23.4 times a game, 5th most in the country, while scoring 74% of opportunities, also good for 5th in the country. With these highly efficient numbers in all areas on offense, opposing coaches will find it very difficult to scheme for this team.

Weaknesses:

3-Point Defence:

– An area in which UNB struggles is defending the 3-point line. Opposing teams score 35% of 3Pt attempts on the Varsity Reds, which ranks them bottom 7 in the country, and well in away the lowest team in the tournament.  Per Synergy, they give up 0.942 PPP on 3-point shots, which is average. However, for teams that can let it fly, like Carleton and Acadia, UNB can possibly be exposed.

One-Dimensional:

– Only one player on UNB’s roster averages over 10 PPG, and that is MVP Candidate, Javon Masters. For teams that have made it this far, they have done so in being able to take away what their opponents do best. If teams are keying in on Masters and he isn’t able to carry the load as much, who on UNB will be able to step up?

Player Facts:

Javon Masters (#23)

  • As previously mentioned, MVP Candidate Javon Masters has been unstoppable this year for UNB. With a stat line of: 24.5 / 5.9 / 5.5 with 1.8 SPG, he truly does everything for the Varsity Reds. His efficiency is on another level (50.7 FG%, 37 3Pt%, 90.2 FT%) almost putting him in the 50-40-90 club. He might be the most talented player in the league.

Ibrahima Doumbouya (#21)

  • It can be very difficult to shine while playing alongside MVP Candidate, Javon Masters, but freshman forward, Doumbouya has been able to put together a nice season averaging almost 10 PPG with 5.2 RPG. It’ll be interesting to see how the freshman can handle the big stage alongside his 5th year senior teammate.

Brock Badgers (3) – At Large Bid

Strengths:
Low Post Defense:

– In the Final 8, the Badgers average the most BPG with 4.5, only another stat that helps solidify them as one of the best defenses in the country (70 PPG, 36% FG). Brock is equipped with many defensive playmakers, especially down low like First-Team All OUA, Dani Elgadi, who averaged nearly 2 BPG. Take it in the paint at your own risk when going against the Badgers.

3-Point Defense:

– In addition to the Badgers stingy low-post defense, they are also well equipped at guarding the perimeter. Brock ranks 7th in the country in opponents’ 3Pt% with 29.5%. They do an amazing job at closing out on opponents and forcing them to pass away otherwise good shots. With their length and quickness, Brock is able to disrupt shot opportunities like no other (Spot Up Defense Per Synergy: 0.738 PPP).

Weaknesses:

Lack of 3-Point Scoring:

– One area where Brock has suffered in being productive all year is their 3Pt shooting. Brock averaged only 6.9 3PM/G, which puts them 36th in the country. To make matters worse, the low attempts they do have, they only convert on 32%, which puts them lower than any team in the tournament, besides Ryerson. Besides Johneil Simpson (#11), no one on Brock is really a threat from deep.

Giving Up Offensive Rebounds:
Brock’s other weakness can stem from their willingness to get out in transition. When doing so, they leave themselves susceptible to offensive rebounding opportunities. The Badgers give up the 3rd most O-Boards at 12.8 opposition ORPG. Against teams that are able to crash the glass like Alberta and Acadia, they will need to do their best to limit second-chance points.

Player Facts:

Dani Elgadi (#13)

  • First-Team OUA All-Star, Dani Elgadi has been outstanding for the Badgers all year. As a senior, Dani averaged 17.3 PPG in only 28 MPG. What stands out is his length and athleticism for his size which helps him clean up the glass (9.3 RPG) and swat shots away (1.7 BPG). He is a problem for opposing players on both ends of the court.

Cassidy Ryan (#35)

  • Cassidy has been one of Brock’s most consistent players throughout the season. He averages 17 PPG, and does so in a very old-school, bruising way. He is able to bully his way to the basket, and draw tons of contact. He is an excellent FT shooter (82.3%) and provides an outstanding 1-2 punch with Elgadi.

Ryerson Rams (5) – Wilson Cup Runner-Up

Strengths:

3-Point Scoring:

– The Rams are 9th in the country in 3PM/G at 9.3 per. Much of their team’s success in this department is due to First-Team OUA All-Star, Manny Diressa who averaged 3.1 3PT/G. In addition, 5 other players for Ryerson average over 1 3PM/G, meaning there are many players who can let it fly. However, Ryerson only shoots 31.5% from 3; if they want to shock some teams in the tournament, they need to shoot the 3 at a higher clip.

Drawing Fouls:

– Besides UNB, no other team in the tournament does a better job at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line than Ryerson. They play very aggressively and do not shy away from contact. Per Synergy, the Rams get to the line 13.3% of their possessions, the 3rd best in the country. Again, similar to their 3Pt% needing to improve, Ryerson’s FT% of 65.4 needs to improve drastically if they want to make a run this year.

Weaknesses:

Lack of Ball Distribution:

– Aside from Myles Charvis (#7), the Rams have a very difficult time in distributing the ball. They are the only team in the tournament who have a negative A:TO Ratio (-0.1). 8 players on the Rams average over 1 TO/G, meaning teams that are excellent in transition (Brock, UNB, etc.) will be able to capitalize on Ryerson’s mistakes.

3-Point Defense:

– Though Ryerson sports a top 10 defense in PPG allowed (73.3), they allow opponents to shoot 33.4% from 3, which ranks them 33rd in the country. Per Synergy, they are a below average team defensively against guarding the 3, giving up 0.998 PPP against the 3, ranking them in the bottom 15% in the league.

Player Facts:

Ammanuel Diressa (#4):

  • Manny started off the year injured, but quickly found his form leading the Rams back to the Wilson Cup Final where they ultimately lost to Carleton. Diressa averaged nearly 22 PPG while scoring over 3 3Pt/G. Per Synergy, he is the most efficient off screen scorer in the country, scoring 1.47 PPP off of screens. He has such a quick release that when once he gets away from his defender, he is shooting it, and quite likely he will make it.

Myles Charvis (#7):

  • The Waterloo transfer, Myles Charvis had a terrific season with the Rams this year. The senior guard lead his team in minutes played (32 MPG), while providing 12 PPG and leading the team in assists with 4.0 APG. He will need to bring his leadership, and ability to control the game (Top 10 in A:TO Ratio) every night to propel Ryerson forward.