Ejim, Kajami-Keane lead Ravens to 7th consecutive National Championship

Carleton 78, Ryerson 69… 6’7″ Ryan Ejim, sometimes benched and even quietly criticized for his indifferent play for stretches of his fifth and final season, had a season-high 19 points and 9 rebounds, setting the tone early with several strong, inside scores off high/low action as Ravens built leads as large as 23 in the third quarter and held off a late Rams rally for their 7th consecutive National Final 8 championship and their 13th in 15 seasons under now-legendary Head Coach Dave Smart.

“We made the decision that we were going to spend the first five minutes going through the posts and see how they responded.  We got what we wanted down low”, commented Smart who again displayed his big-game preparation and strategic thinking, going to the high-low early and often, an action which Carleton had rarely, if ever, showed opponents throughout the season.  Carleton continually flashed 6’10” Eddie Ekiyor to the foul line/elbow and got Ejim in a one-on-one low post situations, usually isolating Rams 6’6″ Juwon Grannum, and the brother of Canadian national team player Melvin Ejim stepped up in the biggest game of his career, shooting 7 for 12, including a buzzer-beating 12 foot jumper with the shot clock approaching zero late in the fourth with Rams clawing back in it.

Carleton’s steady 6’2″ fifth-year point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane controlled the tempo for much of the game, continually getting himself into the lane and making solid decisions to either finish or find teammates.  Kajami-Keane, who called his transfer to Carleton “the  best decision of his life” and his Head and Assistant coaches (Dave and nephew Robert Smart Jr.) the “best coaches in North America” during a post-game interview with Sportsnet 360, finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists including back-to-back scores at the rim that quelled a 14-0 Ryerson run that got the game back to single digits.

6’3″ All-Canadian Adika Peter-McNeilly was spectacular for Ryerson, especially early, with 15 of his team’s 28 points before the break when Rams trailed 39-28.  Carleton rode a 21-8 run to start the third to their largest lead before 6’0″ Myles Charvis and 6’4″ Ammanuel Diressa had threes as part of the 14-0 run to get to single digits.  But Kajami-Keane, voted Player-of-the-game, calmly beat his man off the bounce twice to restore a double digit gap.

Later, 6’4″ Moser Award winner Connor Wood turned it over and later missed a rushed, open three that opened the door for Ryerson’s final run as Rams got it to as close as 6, the last time with 1:23 to play on a slick tip in by 6’8″ Adam Voll who came alive on the offensive glass in the fourth quarter.  But Ejim made his tough 12 footer with the shot clock winding down and later Wood scored on a breakaway “and 1″ lay-in to seal it.

Wood, who by some standards had regressed defensively in this his fifth and final season, went back to his strong defending ways this afternoon, along with Ekiyor, holding Rams outstanding wing Diressa in check with what was a very underrated defensive effort by the native of Guelph, ON.  Diressa shot just 4 for 14 including 1 of 7 from three and showed his frustration at the close coverage with an uncharacteristic technical foul in the third quarter.

5’11” Ammanuel Owootoah knocked down four large threes for Carleton to finish with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists and more importantly took up the challenge of guard Peter-McNeilly down the stretch.  After Adika’s wonderful first half effort of 15 points, the fifth-year wing had 8 second-half points, finishing with a team-high 23 points and 4 rebounds.

The game was played at a high level with just 14 turnovers apiece as Carleton won the battle on the glass (46-38) including allowing just 9 offensive boards, but 3 in the final frame when Rams used second-chance points to get back in it.

Another tremendous tournament put on by the folks in Halifax and for those who have not been out here, I strongly urge you to consider making the trip next March when Acadia hosts the event.  Everyone should experience this national treasure in the true Atlantic Canada spirit !


#1 Rams survive late flurry, advance to first-ever National championship game

Ryerson 59, Dalhousie 58… Rams took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, surviving a late turnover and Dal’s outstanding 6’2″ fifth-year Kash Lawrence missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer to move Ryerson into the program’s first-ever Final 8 championship game, a rubber-match with #2 Carleton.  In an admittedly sluggish and turnover filled game between two teams who defend, Rams trailed by four late in the third at 42-38 before a 10-1 run capped by 6 consecutive points from 6’4″ Ammanuel Diressa gave Ryerson their largest lead of the game at 5.  Later, with Ryerson leading by 6, Dal’s 5’11” fifth-year point guard Ritchie Kanza Mata picked up his 4th and 5th fouls in quick succession, much to the chagrin of the partisans, who packed Scotiabank Centre yesterday afternoon.  But Tigers were equal to it as Lawrence and 6’2″ Jordan Aquino-Serjue led a 6-1 run to get it to 1 in the final moments.  Dal’s air-tight offense then created a double team and turnover when they trapped 6’3″ Adika Peter-McNeilly however Rams defend the final play well which ended up with Lawrence catching the ball at the top of the bowl off ball reversal after Rams stopped Aquino-Serjue penetrating.  6’7″ Filip Vujadinovic was instrumental in Ryerson’s victory, using his strength and ability to finish inside for 16 points and 5 tough rebounds.  Rams again struggled from three, shooting just 5 for 27, continuing a season-long trend of generally mis-firing in an arena setting, but Vujadinovic, who helped offset a tough game and foul trouble for 6’8″ Adam Voll, did a great job battling with the incomparable Lawrence (16 points, 8 rebounds) who authored another explosive game inside.  Peter-McNeilly came up with one of the better defensive plays in the game when Dal’s 6’6″ Sven Stammberger looked to bring some momentum to his team with a break-away dunk attempt but McNeilly was able to high-point it and reject Stammberger in an outstanding athletic play.  Tigers had also struggled shooting the ball from the perimeter coming in to the game and turned it around in the first half – going 4 for 12 from 3 to lead by two at half.  But their struggles from downtown reemerged, going just 1 for 5 as Rams survived in front of another tremendous crowd in a wonderfully-energerized and big-time setting.  Dal plays the Bronze medal game this afternoon against McGill followed by the championship game, the third meeting of the season between #1 Ryerson and #2 Carleton.

Deeper, more talented Ravens defeat McGill to move to Final 8 championship

Carleton 74, McGill 58… The Ravens finished the first half on a game-deciding 17-3 run, breaking open what was a three point game midway through the second quarter to advance to another Final 8 championship game with a comfortable win over the Redmen.  Carleton locked down the Redmen during that span, holding McGill without a field goal during the run and getting out in transition, led by a three from 6’4″ Connor Wood, who led all scorers with 20 points including 4-7 from downtown.  Carleton also took advantage of 14 offensive rebounds, several of which resulted in immediate, momentum-altering kick-out threes that deflated McGill, which was reasonably solid in their quarter court defense.  Redmen got it to as close as 8 on multiple occasions in the second half but could never get over the hump to get back in it.  6’1″ Jenning Leung had 13 points including four 3’s while 6’2″ Dele Ogundokun had 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in what was a very tidy game with only 20 combined turnovers.  6’2″ Kaza Kajami-Keane came alive in the second half especially when McGill hung in, attacking the ball screen to finish with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists while 6’10” freshman Eddie Ekiyor was a force at both ends in the paint with 10 points and 6 rebounds including a two-handed slam in transition as the Redmen, usually a reliable defensive rebounding club were hampered by an inability to fully close defensive possessions.  Redmen struggled to consistently score, an issue not helped by a 14-23 (61%) effort from beyond the arc.  McGill will face Dalhousie in the Bronze medal game tomorrow while Ravens meet Ryerson for the tournament title.

Final 4 Saturday in Halifax

After the four semi-finalists had an off-day to practice, prepare and, at this stage of the season for most, heal their bodies, action picks up again this afternoon at Noon ET as former Nation’s Capital rivals Dave Smart and Dave DeAveiro meet for the first time in 6 seasons with #3 seeded McGill taking on #2 Carleton.  Many may not recall that while at uOttawa, DeAveiro was the architect of the re-birth of the Gee-Gees program with 7 consecutive 20 wins seasons and Head Coach of the Gee-Gees for the initial four editions of the annual grudge match between Ottawa and Carleton:  Capital Hoops Classic beginning in 2007.  DeAveiro arrived in Ottawa quietly with Gee-Gees ranked at the bottom of CIS programs while Smart was building a generational dynasty at Carleton and regularly pounding his cross-town rivals by 40.  Within a couple of seasons, Carleton/Ottawa became a bitter rivalry that bordered on the “Hatfields and McCoys” and regularly attracted ~10,000 fans to what is now Canadian Tire Center.  After DeAveiro left Ottawa for McGill in 2010-11, the two competitive coaches did battle just once when Redmen participated in the 2010 House-Laughton Classic – DeAveiro’s first season with McGill – and Carleton won by 21.  This renewing of the personal rivalry between the two Daves presents an intriguing back-drop to what in reality may be the easiest of the two semi-finals to project.  While McGill has strength and depth up front, guard play usually dictates success at this stage of the season and with 6’2″ Kaza Kajami-Keane, my choice for OUA Player-of-the-Year and a selection quietly echoed by more than one U Sports men’s basketball observer here in Halifax, the Ravens have the most versatile point guard in the country and a very difficult match-up for the Redmen.  Expect Kajami-Keane and 6’2″ Marcus Anderson among others to spend time checking 6’1″ Jenning Leung who has had to slide over to play the “1” after fashioning his best season ever playing off McGill’s stable of young point guards.  McGill struggled at times bringing the ball up against a tough Manitoba back-court, especially when Leung was on the bench.  However, Redmen got through a key portion of that game late when, with 6 minutes remaining, Leung went to the bench with his 4th foul and 6’1″ Isaiah Cummins stepped in to provided a much-needed turnover-free three minutes that got McGill to near the end of the game.  That stretch may help Cummins confidence after struggling in portions of many games this season at the lead guard spot.  Most expect DeAveiro to put his 6’2″ RSEQ MVP & Defensive Player-of-the-Year Dele Ogundokun on 6’4″ Connor Wood who at times has struggled against longer, more athletic checks.  Wood came alive in the second half against Calgary after Dinos 6’5″ Mambi Diawara and others held him in check early in Carleton’s first round win over Calgary.  Up front, 6’9″ Eddie Ekiyor continues to slowly play a larger role impacting games and 6’7″ Ryan Ejim will try to shake off what was a foul-plague and sluggish first round game.  6’7″ Francois Bourque may be the toughest front court player in this game and arguably best rebounder who will challenge for All-Canadian status next season if he becomes a more consistent finisher around the rim.  Both teams have underrated back-up bigs coming off the bench in McGill’s 6’8″ Sebastien Beckett who took an elbow to the mouth on Thursday and had to come out of the game due to bleeding and 7’0″ Cam Smythe who has solid perimeter skills with the “pick-and-pop” and on Thursday became much more assertive as an in-traffic rebounder.  Carleton must also account for McGill’s 6’5″ fourth-year forward Michael Peterkin on the offensive glass with his long arms and active energy when he is going well.  It says here that McGill keeps the game in the high 70’s but still loses by double digits as Ravens clean up their sloppy (21 turnover) ball handling and create scores off their defense and transition.

In the second game at 3:30 PM Atlantic and 2:30 PM Eastern, the host Dalhousie Tigers, coming off their dramatic last second win over Alberta in the first round, meet #1 seeded Ryerson which was strongly tested in their first round win over #8 Saint Mary’s.  For the second consecutive game, Ryerson will have to contend with what is expected to be a large partisan crowd of probably 7,000 or higher – it actually snowed quite heavily in Halifax last night so hopefully weather won’t be a limiting factor in drawing fans today.  Tigers turned the game around with their defense in the fourth quarter, forcing 9 Alberta turnovers in the final 10 minutes as AUS Defensive Player-of-the-Year Ritchie Kanza Mata‘s relentless ball pressure began paying dividends against a tiring Golden Bear backcourt.  Expect more of the same treatment for Ryerson’s 5’11” Myles Charvis and whoever else Rams coach Roy Rana chooses to have bring the ball up.  Rams really want to run and score in transition and struggled to do so vs. Saint Mary’s given indifferent work on the defensive glass by Ryerson.  Rams definitely are a better paint-protecting and rebounding team with 6’8″ Adam Voll but Rana may not have a proper match-up in this game for his strong post player (unless Dal brings in 6’10” Sasha Kappos), although 6’8″ Ryall Stroud comes to mind and Stroud did finish Thursday’s game on the floor for Dal.  Nonetheless, Ryerson will have to deal with Tigers full court pressure, rebound the ball and make perimeter shots, something that in an arena setting has been an issue for Rye.  Rams shot 36% for the season and 34% in the Wilson Cup playoffs from downtown but in their two games this season in hockey arenas went 7 for 37 (19%) at the Meridian Center and 7 for 25 on Thursday against Saint Mary’s.  Tigers had their issues also, going zero for 13 from three in the first round and, in their three most recent Scotiabank Place matches including two at last weekend’s AUS tournament, a combined 8 for 51 from downtown (15%).  Enter 6’2″ Kash Lawrence who has been a bull inside all season for Dalhousie and produced arguably the best game of his career in a big spot on Thursday.  While Ryerson has several outstanding athletes, Rams will have to find a defender who combines the strength, explosiveness and ability to disrupt shots inside to match up with Lawrence.  At the same time, how Tigers deal with a pair of All-Canadian talents in 6’3″ Adika Peter-McNeilly and 6’5″ Ammanuel Diressa will dictate whether this game will be played in the 80’s where Rye wants it or the 60’s where Dal wants it.  Tempo will be key as will the underrated defensive work of 6’4″ Jarred Reid, who can disrupt athletic wings with his length, experience and anticipation.  This promises to be another outstanding game in front of what should be an excited, engaged crowd that is likely to come down to the final one or two possessions.

Some Final 8 Day Two thoughts

Halifax continues to show that the City knows how to create the proper environment for Canadian University sport.  Last night’s crowd of 6,410 oozed of passion and set the tone for what turned out to be one of the more memorable games in Final 8 history.  Dalhousie has clearly done a wonderful job of planning and executing a tremendous tournament, epitomized by the energy and profile of Athletic Director Tim Maloney, a relatively fresh face on the Canadian university sport leadership landscape.  Maloney has been visible and engaging all week with a smile and welcoming charm combined with a work ethic and expertise illustrated by the success of this event thus far.  Along with other forward-thinking, new paradigm Canadian sport management executives such as Brock’s Robert Hilson, long-time observers, previously used to watching tired, decades-old university sports administration that simply continues to not work, are becoming encouraged by a growing belief that a new generation of leadership will propel what we believe and know is an woefully-undervalued set of properties to new, commercially-successful heights to the benefit of alumni, fans and, most importantly student-athletes… Top on-court performances from yesterday’s four quarter-final games were led by the 28-point/10-rebound effort from Dalhousie’s 6’2″ Kashrell Lawrence, who continues to astound with his strength and guile in and around the paint.  His ability to power off two feet and explode through much taller defenders remains one of the more unique features of our game – he may be the U Sports men’s basketball version of Charles Barkley, at least within 10 feet… As most know, Sportsnet will be covering live both of Saturday’s championship semi-final games as well as Sunday’s final, led by Tim Micallef, Sportsnet affable personality, who has been in Halifax since earlier in the week.  Micallef has been a long-time supporter of Canadian university sport and has been very visible throughout the tournament, actively engaged in all post-game press conferences and as the consummate professional, working hard researching all teams to ensure the broadcast will cast university basketball in a positive light.  The event and property should be grateful that a national media personality like Micallef is representing our sport given the respect, care and diligence he obviously shows for our game… Regarding the championship semi-finals, the event planners have properly scheduled the championship semi-final games for Saturday afternoon, giving the two winning teams that much more time to recover and prepare for Sunday’s final, again helping to make it a better overall event… It has been tremendous to watch all the action from press row with Martin Timmerman, a humble man who does so much behind the scenes to ensure fans from across the country have the most updated data via his site usportshoops.ca .  A labour of love for him, Martin has been an avid university sports basketball fan since the early 70’s when Waterloo had those great teams led by the late Mike Moser and being able to spend time with Martin – including watching numerous folks from across the country come down and pay well-deserved respect to him over the course of yesterday was gratifying… I was fortunate enough to be part of a group having dinner with a Halifax treasure in Bill Robinson who is CEO of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.  Always engaging with a plethora of stories from his time at Saint Mary’s as an All-Canadian football player, in Ottawa with the Rough Riders where he won a Grey Cup in 1976 and being the lead organizer of the Final 8 for many years.  For those in town in Halifax, I strongly encourage you to visit the Hall of Fame located in the Scotiabank Center… We hope to have more for you as the weekend progresses.


Lawrence, stifling 2nd half “d” leads Tigers to dramatic, last second victory

Dalhousie 67, Alberta 65… In what was a classic, signature U Sports men’s basketball game in a big-time, energetic environment, 6’2″ Kash Lawrence powered home a lay-up off a fine feed from fellow AUS 1st team all-star Ritchie Kanza Mata with just 1.4 seconds remaining as Tigers came from behind late to send a crowd of 6,410 in a racious Halifax Scotiabank Centre into delirium.

Tigers flattened out for Kanza Mata as the game clock wound down and the slick guard got himself in the lane and found Lawrence (game-high 28 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals) free on a second cut along the left baseline, who made no mistake with one of his patented two foot explosive takes.  On the preceding possession, Alberta’s 6’6″ Mamadou Gueye, who shook off first half foul trouble to finish with 16 of his team-high 18 points, was whistled for a very questionable travel call in the lane that negated a probable Golden Bear lay-in, one of several “frankly” incorrect calls made by one of the three game officials in a tournament where refereeing has for the most part been high end.

Entering the critical, game-deciding final possession, Golden Bears had only 1 team foul using their second to stop what would likely have been an easy transition run out and then the third to stop the clock with about 10 seconds remaining.  Some may question why Alberta did not take their 4th team foul later when Tigers were setting up for final play but in reality, that was a blip in a wonderfully exciting and entertaining game that shows our product is very capable of being packaged and presented in a professional manner that can create lasting property value.

Alberta dealt with the hostile environment very well early, using a 7-0 run to close the first quarter leading by 5 but Lawrence, who is an underrated defender, scored the first 6 points of the second including a steal and breakaway lay-in to key an 11-0 Dalhousie run helped by their patented tight half-court “d” to build leads as large as six at 28-22 midway through the second quarter.  But Gueye, who had 3 fouls in the first 7 minutes of the game – including his third that looked like it should have been called on one of his teammates instead – got going by capping a 12-3 Alberta run with a three-pointer – one of only 3 threes made by the usually explosive Golden Bears – to lead by 7 midway through the third.

At that point, Dalhousie began extending their defense into the front court and Bears generally struggled to get into their offensive flow – Golden Bears turned it over 22 times including a eye-popping 9 times in the fourth quarter alone as the pressure finally paid dividends for Dal.  Still, after trailing by 4 with 4:43 left in the game after a lay-in by 6’6″ Sven Stammberger, Golden Bears were equal to it, riding a 7-1 run capped by a clutch Gueye jumper to lead by two entering the final minute.  Kanza Mata then tied the game with a slick pull-up jumper from about 8 feet in the lane with 21 seconds remaining, setting up what was a season-ending travel call on the Golden Bears that sullied what was a signature game for U Sports men’s basketball.

Kanza Mata finished with 16 points and 5 assists and Dal won despite going 0 for 13 from three-point land but kept the normally high-volume three-point shooting Golden Bears to just 3 for 13 including zero attempts from downtown by Alberta’s main three-point threat 6’5″ Geoff Pippus.

Tigers now prepare to meet #1 seeded Ryerson Rams in one championship semi-final to begin at 3:30 PM Atlantic time, 2:30 PM Eastern time start on Saturday afternoon.  That game will be preceded by #2 Carleton and #3 McGill at Noon ET/1 PM AT.  Both games will be broadcast by Sportsnet nationally.

Peter-McNeilly finishes strong as Ryerson outlasts energetic

Ryerson 79, Saint Mary’s 70…  6’3″ All-Canadian Adika Peter-McNeilly had 13 of his 17 points in the final 12 minutes as the Rams outlasted a game and energetic Huskies team spurred on by a large, loud Scotiabank Place crowd estimated at over 5,000.  Huskies trailed by double digits early before 6’5″ Brian Rouse (15 points) and 6’5″ Theon Reefer (17 points on 7-20 shooting) began attacking the rim and 6’8″ Ach Lual (14 points, 15 rebounds) worked the offensive glass – SMU basically stayed in the game with 18 “o” boards.  Ryerson threatened to pull away at least twice in the second half but Huskies got it to 2 with about 4 minutes remaining when Peter-McNeilly took over with a splendid hesitation take to the rim at high speed in transition for an “and 1″ followed by a dagger three.  6’4” Ammanuel Diressa had 24 points to lead all scorers, virtually all in the first 3 quarters adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists.  5’11” Myles Charvis (12 points) was instrumental in the win for Ryerson also with several acrobatic finishes at the rim.  Rams were dominated on the glass 52-35 and again struggled shooting the 3 ball in an arena setting going just 7 for 25 (28%) from downtown, well off their season average about 40% as a team.  Recall Rams struggled shooting it at the Meridian Center in St. Catharines in their regular season loss in St. Catharines to Brock.

Defense, rebounding lift Redmen to solid win over Manitoba

McGill 63, Manitoba 53… Redmen controlled the defensive glass and held the Bisons to just 2 for 8 shooting from downtown in a 10 point win over the Canada West finalists to break the RSEQ’s streak of 11 consecutive seasons without a championship round victory at this tournament.  McGill led for virtually the entire way in a grinding, defensive battle with Manitoba getting it to as close as 3 with 7 minutes left in the third before 6’1″ Jenning Leung started a 9-2 run to rebuild the lead to double digits.  Later 6’2″ Dele Ogundokun banged in a three from the left wing for Redmen’s largest lead at 13 with under two minutes to play and the game was decided.  McGill consistently ran the hot-shooting Bisons, who made 11 of 21 threes in their CW semi-final win at Calgary, off the three point line and held Manitoba to just 4 offensive rebounds and just 23 points overall after halftime.  6’7″ Francois Bourque was dominant inside with 13 points and 14 rebounds including several slick inside finishes off wing ball screen action.  Leung added 13 including three 3’s, the biggest being the momentum-changing shot from the left baseline to start the big run.  Emerging 6’8″ reserve Sebastien Beckett came off the bench to score all 8 of his points after halftime helping to offset a sluggish start for 6’8″ Noah Daoust who himself became more engaged with a strong second half.  6’4″ Keith Omoerah was Bisons best player with 13 points and 9 rebounds (all defensive) while 5’11” A.J. Basi added 13 on just 5-14 shooting and just one three when McGill overhelped on strong side penetration.  McGill meets Carleton in one championship semi-final on Saturday night.

Sloppy Ravens pull away late over resilient Dinos

Carleton 85, Calgary 69… Ravens overcame an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers and 23 fouls with a dominant effort on the glass and a game-deciding 13-2 run keyed by a pair of threes by Moser award winner Connor Wood, pulling away late for what turned into a comfortable win.  Dinos fell behind by 17 on 3 separate occasions and twice clawed their way back into the game, the final time at 66-61 with 7 minutes to play on a transition lay-in by 6’4″ Mambi Diawara, who was Calgary’s best player in my view.  But Wood knocked down a three off a nice baseline set and then 6’2″ Kaza Kajami-Keene followed with an “and 1″ to restore a double digit lead and the game was never in question thereafter.  Carleton dominated the glass at both ends at 48-24 including 17 offensive rebounds as the undermanned Dinos front line simply could not deal with 6’9” Eddie Ekiyor, 6’11” Cam Smythe and company on the glass.  Ekiyor also made life difficult for Calgary’s 6’5″ Thomas Cooper, who finished with 17 points but went just 6 for 17 from the floor, struggling to get solid looks at the rim or beat the long, athletic Ekiyor off the dribble.  Diawara (16 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists) was active all afternoon and helped keep Wood to just 2 first-half points.  Dinos athletic guard trio of 5’11” David Kapinga, 6’0″ Jhony Verrone and 6’4″ Max Eisele did a fine job guarding the ball for the most part, creating enough ball pressure and deflections to help force 21 Raven turnovers, probably the most Carleton has turned the ball over in several seasons.  Carleton shot 14 for 35 from three but took only 7 free throws all afternoon against 28 for Calgary.  5’11” Emmanuel Owootoah was on fire in the first half, making 4 of 5 threes including a long, 40′ runner as time expired in the second quarter.  Calgary played without regulars 6’6″ Lars Schlueter, 6’6″ Dallas Karch and 6’7″ Matt Ellis all out with injuries and Dinos were humbled on the glass, wearing down late after a wonderfully resilient effort for the first 33 minutes of play.  Ravens now await the winner of McGill/Manitoba set to go in about 8 minutes time.

Final 8: Day One

Straight up:  it is wonderful to be back in Halifax for this event.  There is something about this City and University basketball that just fits like a glove.  I have been coming here since the early 90’s and it never gets tired.  Had a chance to have dinner with Halifax’s own Bill Robinson last night among others and Bill, who is now the CEO of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, was in fine form recounting numerous stories from the past.  Halifax is a national treasure and although I love the job that Cyrill Leeder & Co. did hosting this event in Ottawa, the Final 8 in Halifax simply has an undescribable magic to it.

Many believe that Carleton/Calgary, the first game of the tournament at Noon AT/11 AM Eastern will be a contrast in styles with Dinos wanting to get up and down the floor but Ravens, when at their best, are also pushing the tempo so, shooting percentages in an arena notwithstanding, I am expecting a game in high 70’s, low 80’s.  Clearly how Carleton deals with 6’5″ Thomas Cooper is the pre-game focus but expect the Ravens to work to exploit things inside where it says here they have an under-appreciated advantage.

McGill/Manitoba also shapes up to be a contrast in styles with Bisons smaller lineup wanting to push the tempo while McGill, with their stable of bigs, wanting to keep the game in the 60’s.  Bisons had a rough time getting out of Winnipeg where there was fog and unfortunately had a modern day “Planes, trains and automobiles” travel experience with some players just getting in early yesterday morning.  Two teams laden with fourth and fifth year guys promises to be a splendid inter-conference match.

We hope to have periodic comments throughout the day although the inclination is to focus on watching and catching up with old friends in this great town:  a perfect venue and city for Canadian university basketball.