With spots in the Wilson Cup Final Four at stake, OUA takes center stage this afternoon and evening as the 4 teams with first-round byes host quarter-final matches in Hamilton (this afternoon), Ottawa and Toronto. McMaster scheduled their game at 2 PM – Marauders host #5 seeded Windsor Lancers in a rematch of last season’s OUA quarter-final at Mac in which the Lancers won in an upset, en route to a spot at the CIS Final 8. Unfortunately, in what is definitely not the most aesthetically-pleasing scheduling strategy for the common OUA/CIS fan, the other three games – involving the #1, #2 and #3 teams in the country – all begin at 8 PM. With the Wilson Cup scheduled for next weekend – where ever the leadership in the OUA resides for these matters – the league would have been much better served from a marketing perspective to try to space the games out through the day – especially in Ottawa. Alas, we can hope/pray for better planning in the future. But I digress…
#5 Windsor at #4 McMaster… As mentioned, the Marauders – with plans to challenge for a national championship last season – were somewhat-embarrassed on their home court by the Lancers as the CIS world saw the first real emergence of 6’4″ Alex Campbell, who had 18 points on that afternoon and then 20 the following week in Ottawa as Lancers upset the Gee-Gees to advance to last season’s Final 8. Campbell has clearly continued his offensive dominance through this his fifth and final season, going off for 37 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals this past Wednesday as the Lancers held off the pesky Laurentian Voyageurs at home. Both Mac and Windsor are perimeter-oriented teams with McMaster likely having any edge in the paint with 6’3″ jumping jack Rohan Boney and 6’8″ Connor Gilmore inside. Lancers lack a legitimate rim protector and rely on 5’11” high-IQ point guard Mike Rocca and 6’3″ freshman sensation Isaiah Osborne but size is an issue. Expect a transition-filled affair with the key to the game being how well the Marauders defend Campbell – expect Mac to attempt to make him a passer early. Campbell had 28 in the only other meeting between the two teams in January, also at Mac. But Marauders dominated, leading 55-32 at half en route to an easy 106-74 thrashing of the Lancers. As it turned out, that game was the last time Windsor lost – they’ve won 10 in a row since.
# 6 Brock at #3 Carleton… Down the stetch of the regular season, the Ravens re-emerged as the lock-down defending and rebounding club that has been the foundation of their success over the past decade and a half in the Smart era. Badgers young guards 6’0″ freshman Tyler Brown and reserve Nolan McKenzie, will be tested by 6’2″ Kaza Keene, 6’4″ Connor Wood and company. While 6’7″ Dani Elgadi is a capable scorer and 6’5″ Johnell Simpson shoots it in streaks, Brock’s guards must be able to get free to find their star scorers. Expect guard play to be the determining factor as to whether or not Brock can fashion what would be a meaningful upset. Ravens won 90-65 at Brock in their regular season meeting as Badgers scored just 12 points in the final 13 minutes of the game.
#7 Queen’s at #2 Ottawa… Gee-Gees took the first game in late January at Montpetit Hall, leading comfortably through out the game by as many as 21 – it was 19 early in the second quarter as 6’1″ Mike L’Africain, my choice for OUA Player-of-the-Year, had 30 points in the absence of 6’3″ Caleb Agada who had just hurt in his ankle and did not play. Gee-Gees forced 19 Gaels turnovers including 10 by 6’3″ Suhkpreet Singh and held emerging star 6’6″ forward Tanner Graham to just 1 point on that night. Queen’s will have to convert defensively in transition and try to keep the game at a reasonable pace. Guard play will be key and the veteran Gee-Gees front court, led by sure-fire All-Canadian L’Africain, veteran Medhi Tihani and Agada have what appears to be a large advantage over Gaels Sammy Ayisi and Mark Paclibar. Expect Agada to be entrusted with checking Singh, who has fashioned an all-star season. Inside, 6’8″ Ryall Stroud had the best overall game of his career on Wednesday in the win over U of T. Ottawa has been without 6’6″ Brody Maracle for the last 3 games however expect him and 6’8″ Nathan McCarthy to be ready to go.
#9 Lakehead at #1 Ryerson… With all due respect, Thunderwolves must get back in transition and play slow to have any chance. In their recent game in Thunder Bay, Rams led by 31 early in the fourth (final spread of 13 was deceiving) and made 15 for their first 24 threes of the game, many in transition to get to the blow out win early. Again guard play will be key as 6’0″ Henry Tan of Lakehead, who came alive late vs. Western after struggling for much of the last 2-3 games of the season, must be able to control tempo and create off the dribble. Rams have too many weapons on the wing with 6’5″ Aaron Best, 6’3″ Adika Peter-McNeilly, 6’5″ Ammanuel Diressa and 6’7″ J.V. Mukama while Lakehead has only one real quality defender in 6’4″ Alexandre Robichaud – pick your poison. A Lakehead win would be a monumental upset.
The remaining top seeded winner will host next weekend’s OUA Wilson Cup Final 4.