NCAA games this summer: A quick, first look

While no tours or specific schedules have been officially announced, we are being told by multiple sources that plans are being made for the next wave of NCAA Division 1 teams to make their way north of the border for games this summer against U-Sports programs.  Expect at least five teams – likely more – to start their seasons with games in Canada.  Among the teams we are hearing that could visit:

Cincinnati… Bearcats Head Coach Mick Cronin has been taking his teams to Canada since the early 2000’s when he and his Associate Head Coach Darren Savino coached at Murray State; Racers visited Ottawa in 2005.  This would be the third time a Cronin-coached team would visit Canada, most recently when the Bearcats came in September, 2010.  Recall the Cincinnati/Carleton game drew about 5,000 fans to Scotiabank Place in Kanata and Cincinnati won 87-70.  Bearcats come off arguably the best overall season in the Cronin era with a school-record 30+ wins, the American Athletic Conference championship and their highest ever Cronin era seed (#2) in the NCAA tournament.  Cronin coached under Rick Pitino and Savino was high school teammates with both Bobby Hurley Jr. (Arizona State Head Coach) and Danny Hurley (new Head Coach at UConn) under the legendary Bobby Hurley Sr. at Jersey City St. Anthony’s Friars where they won what was then the mythical USA High School championship in 1989.  Cincinnati blew a 23 point lead, losing their second game of this past season’s Tournament in dramatic fashion to Nevada.

Ole Miss… The Rebels compete in the always-tough SEC (Southeast Conference) and would be making their first-ever trip to Canada.  Ole Miss (12-20, 5-13) struggled through a coaching change this past season as Andy Kennedy, the winningest coach in program in Oxford, resigned on February 18, 2018. On March 15, 2018, the school hired former Middle Tennessee head coach Kermit Davis as the new head coach.  Rebels currently have at least four Eastern European players on their roster.

South Dakota State… The Jackrabbits, the three-time defending Summit League champions and NCAA tournament participants last visited Canada in 2010 playing a series of games against Manitoba and Winnipeg.  SDSU was a 12 seed this past season losing their first NCAA tournament game to #5 Ohio State 81-73.  The Jackrabbits could again feature exciting 6’10” Mike Daum, who nearly singlehandidly authored an upset against the Buckeyes in this past season’s NCAA tournament.  Daum, a rising senior who was a walk-on at SDSU, has put his name into this summer’s NBA draft but has not hired an agent.

Maryland Eastern Shore… Hawks would also be making their first-ever trip to Canada under interim coach Clifford Reed.  Maryland Eastern Shore, which finished 7-25 this past season, competes in the Mid-Eastern Athletic conference which in past years has had teams including Morgan State and Florida A&M visit Canada.  Just about three weeks ago, on March 27, 2018, Maryland Eastern Shore announced that Reed, who was an Assistant on recently dismissed Bobby Collins‘ staff, would serve as the interim head coach for the 2018-19 season, after which the school will conduct a national search when the season ends.

We hope to have more as more official announcements are made.


Australia spoils Canada’s Gold Medal Dreams with lopsided win

Australia 87, Canada 47… The Boomers blew the game wide open with a 16-0 run bridging the first and second quarters, holding Canada scoreless for over 7 minutes and went on to route the upstart Canadians in the Gold Medal game at the 2018 Commonwealth Games men’s basketball tournament.  All twelve Australians who dressed saw action and all hit the scoreboard in a very comfortable win against Canada, coming off a dramatic upset of New Zealand in the semi-finals.  Canada will bring home a silver medal from this event.

6’0″ Munis Tutu was the only Canadian in double figures with 10 points as Canada shot just 6 for 26 from three and 27% from the floor overall in a dominant defensive effort from the Boomers.

Congratulations to all the Canadian players led by Head Coach Kirby Schepp who, despite fielding by far the youngest side in the tournament, finished 3-3 highlighted by a wonderful victory over New Zealand in the semi-finals, illustrating the depth of players and coaching we are fortunate to have developed here in Canada.

Canada earns a silver medal against all odds !

Fox Sports recap of Boomers victory

Guardian coverage of the Gold medal game


Gueye buzzer-beater lifts Canada to Gold Medal game tonight

Canada 88, New Zealand 86…  6’7″ Mamadou Gueye banked in a buzzer-beating three off an in-bounds play to lift Canada to an unlikely semi-final win over New Zealand, pushing the Canadian squad into today’s Gold medal game against the host Australians.  Kiwis had defeated Canada by 22 points in the preliminary round.

Kiwis had rallied from a large fourth quarter deficit to lead by one after 6’1″ Shea Ili hit 1-2 free throws with 5 seconds remaining.  The foul call on Ili came off a scramble in transition and appeared very controversial with both Ili and Gueye diving for a loose ball and referees determining a foul against Canada – for evidence the following video should aptly illustrate how questionable the call was:

Earlier 6’5″ Ammanuel Diressa (22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) had tied the game for Canada with just under a minute to play after 6’7″ Thomas Abercrombie had given New Zealand their first lead of the game at 85-83, capping a furious 24-6 Kiwi run.  But Gueye made good on a clutch shot after it appeared that Canada’s original play was taken away, commenting:  “It was a bit of a scramble, that’s not the play we drew up but the ball fell to me and I was confident as soon as the ball left my hands.”

Canada earned themselves a legitimate chance to win against a very strong international side with very efficient offense that forced the Kiwis into some less favorable matchups – Canada had a combined 9 for 15 from downtown effort from Diressa (22 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and 6’1″ Munis Tutu (17 points, 6 assists before fouling out late) to lead by 20 at 75-55 by late in the third.  Diressa was especially clutch during a third quarter 30-13 run with three consecutive threes while Tutu had 8 points and several assists in the run.  6’9″ Conor Morgan had 7 of his 19 points during the run as Canada shot 12-28 from downtown (43%) overall.

Canada also cleaned some things up defensively after the preliminary game loss to New Zealand, especially in their middle ball screen defense which was a problem area in the first game but today limited Kiwis quality looks from three-point land.  But New Zealand upped the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter as the game got physical and Kiwis exerted their strength and experience inside, setting up the controversial but in the end tremendous finish for our young Canadian kids.

Canadian Head Coach Kirby Schepp was justifiably proud of his team after the win:  “We were much more solid defensively especially in the ball screen which resulted in them getting far less open looks from 3 and at the rim.”

On the game winning play:  “It was a broken play at the end a little bit.  I think they guarded it very, very well.  We ended up getting the ball into the hands of a guy who had been sitting a little bit in the second half and he just made a play at the end.  It was one of those ones where I thought we played phenomenal three quarters of basketball.  Give all the credit to New Zealand.  Those are maybe the toughest guys I’ve maybe ever seen.  They are just tough, tough guys.  Battled, battled, battled. And we basically just survived their fight at the end.”

On tomorrow’s Gold medal game:  “Being an international game for our guys who are somewhere between 18 and 23, at that level, against that quality of team… And now we have a chance to play Australia, in Australia, for gold.  Priceless opportunity.

Commonwealth semi-finals – including Canada/New Zealand – tonight in Australia

After several days of rest and preparation, the men’s basketball tournament at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia resumes tonight beginning at 8 PM ET (10 AM Saturday in Australia) with upstart Scotland taking on host Australia followed by Canada’s semi-final fixture against New Zealand.  Canada’s game is set to begin at 10:30 PM Eastern time.

The teams have moved from Cairns – located in the northeast part of Queensland – about 1,700 km. south down the shore to Gold Coast.  Semi-final games and Sunday’s Gold and Bronze medal games will take place at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Center which holds about 6,000 for basketball.

As previously noted, Kiwis roster features a deep array of top-end professionals that includes 6’6″ Thomas Abercrombie (Washington State ’08), a Kiwi National team program vet, 6’11” Robert Loe (St. Louis ’14) and burly 6’6″ 35-year old veteran Mika Vukona, another National team veteran.  6’0″ Shea Ili has been Kiwis best guard thus far at the Commonwealth Games.

Recall New Zealand used a 10-0 run off the start of the third quarter to break to a 19 point lead and defeat Canada 82-60 earlier this week.  Canada played without 6’0″ Munis Tutu in that game.

The game could be available on the official Games Channel however the schedule on the site does not specifically show this game.  According to Canada Basketball, the game will be shown on DAZN Canada which appears to be a subscription-based service.

Morgan, Diressa lead Canada to easy win; medal round next

Canada 97, England 79… 6’9″ Conor Morgan had 18 of his 24 points prior to halftime while 6’5″ Ammanuel Diressa added 13 of his 18 before the break as Canada jumped to an early 36-12 lead en route to an easy win over England to advance to the 2018 Commonwealth Games men’s basketball medal round.  Canada will take on New Zealand on Saturday with a berth in the Gold medal game at stake.  Australia meets Scotland in the other semi-final after the Scots defeated Nigeria.

“We got off to a great start and had great energy defensively which led to some easy scores”, offered Canadian Head Coach Kirby Schepp.  “We are getting better and becoming more of a team as we get more practices and games under our  belt.”

England was a solid athletic team made up of professionals from the British Basketball League and included 6’6″ Mike Tuck, originally from Markham, Ontario but Canada jumped on the Brits early, creating 7 first quarter turnovers – Brits turned it over 21 times overall – and getting several easy run outs.  Morgan scored in a variety of ways and 6’0″ Munis Tutu and 6’3″ Justus Alleyn took over in the second half with Tutu finishing with 16 and Alleyn 12.

Canada also got a solid defensive effort from 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye who logged a team-high 31 minutes and finishing with 12 points and 6 rebounds.  6’9″ Jean Pierre-Charles had 7 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes as Schepp shortened his bench for this sudden death game.

Canada now has several days of practice and preparation for the championship semi-final game against New Zealand on Saturday, April 14th at 12:30 PM local time and a much more manageable (for North American audiences) 10:30 PM Eastern time on Friday night.

Kiwis defeat Canada in final Group A preliminary game

New Zealand 80, Canada 62… Kiwis started the second half on a 10-0 run to take a 19 point lead and coasted to an easy albeit sloppy win over Canada as Group A play concluded at the 2018 Commonwealth Games men’s basketball tournament in Cairns, Australia.  Canada had the game to as close as 4 early in the second quarter but then New Zealand authored a 9-0 run to lead by 13, utilizing full court man pressure that eventually wore down the Canadians who were playing without injured 6’0″ starting point guard Munis Tutu.  Tutu’s availability for tomorrow’s championship round match against England is questionable.

Head Coach Kirby Schepp spread the minutes around relatively evenly across 10 players with star 6’5″ shooting guard Ammanuel Diressa seeing only 15 minutes as Canada adjusts to the FIBA scheduling that sees their next game – a sudden death affair against Group B runner-up England – less than 24 hours away.  5’11” David Kapinga had 12 points for Canada while 6’6″ Mambi Diawara added 10 as Canada shot just 4-22 from downtown, turning it over 18 times.

Canada now preps for the quick turnaround against England in a game that begins at 5:30 PM Cairns time on Tuesday (3:30 AM ET tonight).  Recall Canada defeated the Brits in a pre-tournament game about one week ago.  Scotland faces Nigeria in the other game with the winners moving on to meet Australia and New Zealand in the semi-finals which take place on Saturday, April 14th.  Gold medal and Bronze medal games go Sunday, April 15th with Canada looking to bring home a medal – but tomorrow’s game vs. England is a must-win to put themselves in a position to do so.

Australia holds off New Zealand

The Aussies broke ahead for good in the fourth quarter to defeat the Kiwis 79-73 to move to 2-0 in Group A play at the Commonwealth Games men’s basketball tournament.  Australia’s win sets up Monday’s game between New Zealand and Canada as the showdown for the second bye in the championship round.

Kiwis were led by 6’0″ 25 year old guard Shea Ili who led all scorers with 22 points.  Ili is a New Zealand-bred emerging star who Canada will have to account for.  6’6″ Thomas Abercrombie (Washington State ’08), a Kiwi National team program vet added 10 points in 34 minutes for New Zealand.

Others on the Canadian scout will likely include 6’11” Robert Loe (St. Louis ’14) who had 7 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes.  Loe and burly 6’6″ 35-year old veteran Mika Vukona, who battled foul trouble last night, are likely to test the Canadian front line once again.

6’6″ Rebeun Te Rangi had 12 points in 16 minutes last night while veteran 6’2″ Jarrod Kenny (32 years old) struggled with only 2 points in 22 minutes as New Zealand shot just 3 for 17 from downtown overall.

Game time on Monday (Sunday night Eastern time) is 6:30 PM local/4:30 AM Eastern.

The loser of Monday’s game will advance to the first round of the championship set to face one of two qualifiers from Group B.  The winner obtains a bye into the championship semi-final round.  At this point, Scotland and England appear to be the top two teams that are likely to emerge from Group B with the Scots having defeated England earlier.

Strong defensive effort, Alleyn & Diressa lift Canada to key win over Nigeria

Canada (1-1) 82, Nigeria (0-2) 67… 6’3″ Justus Alleyn had 10 of his team-high 24 points during a game-deciding 25-9 run early in the fourth quarter as Canada pulled away over Nigeria to even their Commonwealth Games preliminary round record at 1-1 earlier today in Cairns, Australia.  Alleyn was able to help Canada disrupt Nigeria’s guards defensively, get out in transition and knock down some threes.

“Justus has been pretty solid overall but today was definitely a break out game for him”, commented Canadian Head Coach Kirby Schepp.  “He played great at both ends”.  Overall, Schepp was complementary of Canada’s ability to “buy in to better ball movement and patience.  (We) did a much better job of sharing the ball (Canada had 17 assists on 31 field goals) and the result was much more efficient play.”

After the Nigerians got to within five at 57-52 on a series of inside finishes by 6’9″ ex-NBA forward Ike Diogu, who led all scorers with 29 points and added 15 rebounds, Alleyn finished an “and 1″ on the first possession of the fourth, giving Canada a needed spark.  Later 6’5” Ammanuel Diressa (24 points on 5-15 from downtown) hit the first of his two fourth-quarter threes, part of an 8 point fourth for Canada.  6’0″ Munis Tutu had 4 of his 7 points during the big run and added 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 20 minutes.

Canada packed things in defensively and sent various double teams to try to slow the work of Diogu and fellow 6’8″ God’sgift Ouyekachi (St. John’s ’14), both of who were difficult to check given their size and athleticism.  Schepp described Ouyekachi as resembling an “NFL linebacker” with his body and strength.  Ouyekachi finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds including 7 on the offensive glass as the two athletic specimen combined to go 13-20 from the floor and place constant pressure on Canada’s interior “d”.

As a consequence of Nigeria’s inside strength, both 6’9″ Jean Pierre-Charles and 6’9″ Conor Morgan were in foul trouble early and for most of the afternoon and played just 17 and 22 minutes respectively.  Schepp highlighted the strong contribution off the bench of 6’9″ Erik Nissen who was pressed into a defensive role and was very good.

Canada’s guards did a solid job holding the rest of the Nigerian team to just 11 for 45 combined, creating 27 Nigeria turnovers.  6’0″ U.C. Iroegbu, who just completed his senior season at Stony Brook U., an NCAA Division 1 program, had just 7 points on 1-6 from three with 5 turnovers as Nigeria made just 2 of 15 from beyond the stripe.

Canada now will enjoy an off-day giving them time to prepare for a super tough and physical New Zealand team on Monday.  In what is being described as a tremendous game, the Kiwis lead Australia 52-51 after three quarters.

Home Aussies dominate Canada in 40 point win

Australia 95, Canada 55… Our young Canadian squad did jump out to an early 13-10 lead in the first 4 minutes but Australia closed the first quarter on a 15-0 run and Canada got no closer than 10 the rest of the way in a first-game pounding at the hands of the hosts in Cairns as the men’s basketball preliminary round got underway at the Commonwealth Games.

Canada’s starting five of 6’9″ Conor Morgan, 6’7″ Mamadou Gueye, 6’9″ J-P Charles, 6’4″ Ammanuel Diressa and 6’1″ Munis Tutu was competitive early as Morgan had 7 early points including a three while Charles did a solid job defending.  But the older, more experienced Australian’s executed offensively very well, sharing the ball and finding the best shot, building leads of 20+ midway through the second quarter to coast to the easy win.

While Canadian Head Coach Kirby Schepp took some positives out of the game:  “I thought Jean-Pierre Charles was very solid especially defensively while Conor (Morgan) was solid and made some plays”, Schepp also was realistic that “it was evident that we lacked experience and need to adjust to the much more physical style than our guys are used to”.  Indeed the foul count was a very skewed 25-8 against Canada with Canadians shooting just 4 free throws all night.  Canada also shot just 5-24 from three and were led by 6’6″ Mambi Diawara with 10 points, most coming with the game well decided.

Schepp added that “overall this was a great experience for our young guys to play experienced pros in a tough environment.  That was a true senior team we played.”  6’10” Angus Brandt (Oregon State ’14) and 6’4″ Nathan Sobey (Wyoming ’14) each led Australia with 10 point and 11 rebound double doubles while 6’10” 34 year old center Daniel Kickert (St. Mary’s (Ca.) ’06) led all scorers with 14 points.  6’6″ 33 year old Brad Newley, who has spent time on Australia’s senior team and played in the 2016 Rio Olympics, added 12 points.  Newley was a second round pick in 2007 NBA Draft (Houston Rockets) and presently stars for AEK Athens in Greece.

Canada next plays at 2 PM Saturday afternoon Cairns time against Nigeria, which was soundly defeated 110-65 by New Zealand in the other Group A game today.  Canada’s game begins at midnight Eastern time tonight.