If you don't believe Neil Lumsden's move to Brock University is football-related, then you probably also hold the deed to the Garden City Skyway bridge.

It is fairly easy to put one and one together. Lumsden, a Canadian football icon, was named the Ontario University Athletics institution's new director of recreation and athletics on Tuesday. Last week, the long-time Burlington junior program announced that it is pulling up stakes and moving to St. Catharines, effective immediately.

Brock tried to sell a "not coming" for football fake in its release. Sure, it's not solely about football. Lumsden's sports administration CV goes far beyond the gridiron. The signs are there, though. The existing junior team in the region, the Niagara Spears, who have applied to move up to the Canadian Junior Football League level, also disclosed there were talks about a merger but the "two groups just differed too much to see a successful amalgamation." That suggests having the junior program would be part of developing infrastructure and an convenient recruiting pool when/if football launches. Carleton also made similar use of junior teams before rejoining OUA football in 2013.

It would take 4-6 years if it were to be done right and done well, but definitely the pieces are in place. There is a lot of football talent in that corner of Southern Ontario, which Guelph, Laurier, McMaster, Western and others have mined very well over the years. The OUA and CIS are each running with the dreaded odd number of football members with 11 and 27 respectively, so no doubt there's some champing at the bit so see that situation get rectified. (And speaking as a fan of CIS, it's better to get to an even-numbered league through expansion rather than a withdrawal.)

Twelve teams would be a great number for the ever multi-tiered OUA, and Quebec and Canada West at six each, it would address some of the logistics with interlocking regular-season games. Just saying, and just saying there are some lines one can read between here, even if Brock hitting the gridiron might not happen before 2020.
The OUA Final Four and national championship will come down who is healthy and hitting shots in March — not February.

That prefaces any #HotTakes about the No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees defeating the No. 3 Carleton Ravens 78-72 on Friday, earning both their first Capital Hoops Classic win and first regular-season series sweep of the OUA's longtime lodestar since 2007. The result will not do much damage to No. 1 Ryerson's lead in the RPI that determines OUA playoff seeding, which factored into why Ottawa wing Caleb Agada was scratched after testing his sore ankle in the warmup. Notwithstanding that, it was the inevitable aggressive affray Carleton and Ottawa are known for when they get on the big stage in front of 10,105 people. Fifth-year point guard Mike L'Africain hooped nine of his game-high 23 points during a 22-12 Gee-Gees third quarter, and Ottawa's ball movement set up utility forward Matt Plunkett to hit three fourth-quarter triples on his way to 14 in 22 minutes. Carleton, which had 19 apiece from point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane and small forward Guillaume Boucard, chiseled a 13-point mid-fourth quarter deficit to four in the final seconds.

"Last year we beat them at home, the year before we beat them [in the 2014 OUA Wilson Cup], and nobody knows, right?" L'Africain said. "This is the game where everybody comes. This does a lot for our program, a lot for our school and a lot for the city of Ottawa.

"Every game is a new, complete game, though," L'Africain added. "Confidence-wise, it feels good. We win this game, everybody loves us for a little bit. We still have one goal [the CIS championship], one last thing to do on our bucket list."

First, the big picture stuff.

"The reason why this victory feels good is because of Carleton's dominance, not only with us but within basketball," said Gee-Gees coach James Derouin, who was a Gee-Gees assistant coach when they scored their only other Capital Hoops win in the inaugural edition in 2007. "Any win against them is great. That's a testament to their dominance. If we beat someone else it's different. This team has got like a 95 per cent winning percentage over the last 15 years. Any time you beat a team this good is special and it's extra-special when you do it in this environment.

"But we're different this year. We're looking to the future. We have a veteran group and we want to win in March. And I think they understand that."

Ottawa stretched out a 28-27 halftime lead largely though tighter ball movement and resolute rebounding. With fifth-year guard Mehdi Tihani (13 points, team-high four assists) taking on more lead-guard responsibility, they had only three of their 13 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. They also limited the Ravens to three second-half offensive rebounds in the second half after allowing 12 in the first 20 minutes.

Carleton shot an effective 58.8 per cent after the break after a ghastly 29.3 in the first half, but the patented Ravens run never materialized. Gavin Resch added 12 points (4-of-9 on threes) and Connor Wood added 10, but was 4-of-14 from the floor.

Agada's absence was covered well by Ottawa's complementary players, with temporary starting wing Mackenzie Morrison contributing eight rebounds in 33 minutes. Brandon Robinson added some athleticism on each end.

"The guy for me tonight was Mackenzie Morrison," Gee-Gees coach James Derouin said. "I felt like his defense was phenomenal, diving on loose balls and winning 50/50 rebounds. Caleb usually gets these balls, gets us 10 total rebounds, eight defensive, and today Mackenzie got us those balls. That's what you hope for in these games, that a guy steps up. That will be great for us moving forward."

The two Ottawa rivals' trip next week to No. 4 Brock and No. 7 McMaster are their only toughies left before the OUA playoffs. (The Ravens go into Brock first, while the Gee-Gees' Friday game is at Mac.) It looks like Ottawa will be stronger for this stretch without Agada.

"It means a lot to win without Caleb," L'Africain said. "I know everyone counted us out and that Ryerson game helped us a lot and it helped out our role players, and when Caleb gets back we'll be that much stronger."

Other shallow, fairly obvious observations:

  • As Plunkett goes, so too do Ottawa's chances of beating Carleton. That goes back to when the Barrie native had three triples in the 68-66 win at Montpetit Hall last January.

    "It's the second game in a row against Carleton that I felt he's been the X-factor," Derouin said. "When he plays with a chip on his shoulder and plays with confidence he's huge for us. He was awesome for us. His confidence mostly revolves around whether he makes threes. If he doesn't make one he can drop out of the game. He's an underrated athlete. He doesn't look like it with that man bun but he is a great athlete."
  • Say little when you win and even less when you lose, right? That is the 2016 working definition of duende. Carleton had a closed-door meeting afterward, which is understandable after their third loss in six games.

    They are still 5-4 against Ottawa over the last three seasons, including decisive wins in the last two national finals.
  • Phil Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb, Victor Raso, Tyson Hinz, Clinton Springer-Williams, Kevin Churchill ... Not even Carleton can cover for such turnover over two seasons. They are still a Top 5 team despite losing three games by a combined margin of 25 points to the country's two best teams.

    The rub is, being Top 5 when the OUA can only send three teams to the Final 8 might not be good enough.
  • Ottawa's bench outscored Carleton's 27-8. That is different from the past. Four of the five Ravens starters played at least 34 minutes. That's a Stu Turnbull workload.
  • Brathan McMaracle, Ottawa's two-headed centre, had 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks while hitting 6-of-8 shots. Ottawa made a strong power move by going right to Nathan McCarthy (nine points, five boards) at the start of the third quarter. Brody Maracle saved a fourth-quarter possession when Tihani lost his dribble while driving late in the shot clock by catching the ball and flipping in an over-the-shoulder shot.

    "There were some elements there where you go, 'maybe it's our night,' " Derouin said.
  • About Agada taking the warmup: Those with an overactive imagination, guilty as charged, might have wondered if Derouin was playing some mind game, but there's probably too much respect in this rivalry for that.

    "Caleb's been sidelined for three weeks and he just wanted to be part of the team tonight," Derouin said. "We were going to take a look at it the warmup tonight. He sort of gave me the 'it's not going to happen' look in the warmup. I wasn't really considering it. Win or lose tonight, we need him for March."
  • Another post-game curiosity. L'Africain played a game-high 38 minutes, leaving briefly with about two minutes left while Ottawa was milking the clock.

    "If you guys remember a really good player named Johnny Berhanemeskel, we used to play a lot of 1-on-1," L'Africain said, referring to last season's Moser Trophy honoree. "One time he hit my elbow and I got a bit of nerve damage — whenever it gets hit, I still can't feel my right hand. It gets numb, then I'm fine."
  • Ottawa's last three wins against Carleton were all one-shot games, including two that Berhanemeskel won with last-second shots. This was more decisive.
  • About the women's basketball Ravens' 73-50 beatdown of Ottawa earlier in the evening. Carleton looks like it has done an 180 since double-digit losses to the Gee-Gees and Ryerson, having now beaten nationally ranked teams in their last two starts. Six-foot-three centre Heather Lindsay had 18 points and 15 rebounds, while wing Elizabeth Leblanc was one board off a double-double with 15 and nine. The Queen's and Ottawa wins might be the best back-to-back efforts by Taffe Charles' team in a good while.

    For whatever reason, the Gee-Gees, who were practically brazen with its outside shooting when it beat a very quick Ryerson team in its gym was shellshocked, shooting an effective 28 per cent (12-of-42 on twos, 3-of-17 on threes). Once-a-year arena games can be a tough adjustment, but they were cold for 40 minutes.
  • The women's games at Capital Hoops have often been slow-starting and low-scoring. Along with adapting to not having a close backdrop, the players also have to contend with starting the game in a nearly empty hockey arena. You would likely never hear a complaint from a player about it, but it's a factor. Only this time, it wasn't for the Ravens. Ottawa took 8:42 to get its first basket. Meantime, on the evening the Ravens starting five of Lindsay, Leblanc, Stephanie Carr, Nicole Gilmore and lefty forward Lindsay Shotbolt shot an effective 55.7%.





The Ryerson Rams' turn at the top, long just matter of when, is finally arriving.

Of course, riding Ammanuel Dirussa's 29-point breakout to an 87-80 home-floor victory against perennial nemesis Ottawa, 24 hours after routing Carleton, simply means Ryerson won the day on Saturday. The Gee-Gees were without wing Caleb Agada (ankle), whose best-case target date to return is the Capital Hoops Classic on Feb. 5. Be that as it may, the team from the heart of the country's hoops hotbed cleared any mental block about beating the country's standard-bearers. Ryerson (12-2, 8-1 OUA East) knocking off Carleton and Ottawa will also weigh heavily into the RPI that the OUA uses for playoff seeding.

"We'll take it any way we can get it because there has been a history of losing to Ottawa in big games here and that was something we wanted to change," said Ryerson interim coach Patrick Tatham, alluding to the Rams' OUA East semifinal losses to Ottawa in 2013 and '14 and the national semifinal loss at home last March. "I think we changed it today.

"We are No. 1, There's no ifs, ands and maybes — we're not cocky, not arrogant in stating that."

The final five minutes included six lead changes, with the Gee-Gees hitting four triples in a row to wipe out a five-point deficit and offset Ryerson's fifth-year post Kadeem Green (10 points, 12 rebounds) denying the post entry to Nathan McCarthy (11 points, but only two in the second half). Gee-Gees forward Vikas Gill hit a top-of-the-key three for an 80-80 tie at the one-minute mark, but the combo of two Dirussa free throws and an Ottawa turnover sealed the result.

The Gee-Gees (19-3, 9-1 OUA North) took it down to final minute without Agada and with point guard Mike L'Africain (14 points, 4-to-4 assists/turnovers) compromised after getting his fourth foul with 4:38 left in the third quarter. Ottawa, down by one at the point, held serve while rookie Calvin Epistola was running the point.

"I am definitely proud of how our guys fought today," Ottawa coach James Derouin said. "When we are down Caleb and down Mike for a long stretch with foul trouble, two tough calls against him and I get a technical. The guys fought hard defensively. We just ran out of gas at the end. We're one weapon short [Agada] and Mike just got beat up. I'm proud of the weekend without Caleb.

"I want my guys them to obsess about this loss because we're probably going to see these guys again at the OUA Final Four, or playoffs," Derouin added. "This is a tough loss. But Caleb's a big part of what we do and we fought hard without him and I'd like to think he's worth more than seven points [the margin in the game]."

Dirussa, a 6-foot-4 guard with length, scored 21 of his 29 in the second half and had a sweet line that included 9-of-16 shooting with four steals, four assists and zero credited turnovers. Aaron Best (16 points, 11 rebounds) joined Green as a fifth-year with a double-double. More importantly, Green led the way in forcing Ottawa out of the post. McCarthy and Brody Maracle, combined, were 8-of-9 for 17 points in the opening 20 minutes. The 'Brathan McCaracle' combo had four points on 0-for-5 after the break.

"Carleton, Ottawa, they have been No. 1, No. 2 since I came here four years ago, With Carleton and Ottawa, we've always been right there," Rams forward Juwan Grannum said. "It was good to knock them off and know 'we got next, we got next.'

"We've never been No. 1 before so we knew we had to do it."

As part of seizing the day, the Rams had the edge in offensive rebounds (16-10) and turnovers (11 to Ottawa's 15), which typically seems to be a winning combo. Their next looming-large game is a midweek matchup against currently No. 4 Brock on Feb. 3.

While Agada's absence has to be taken into account in any post-game analysis, Ottawa did not use it as an out.

"You can already tell everyone's not too thrilled," L'Africain said. "We're going to go back and work a lot harder, It's always fun to get back in the gym after a loss.

"I don't know how to be positive about this, this is not good ... It hurts. This is a team we go really far back with."

Some scattered thoughts on the past two nights at the Court on Carlton St., where the Ryerson fans brought the ruckus for two nights:
  • Judging from the crowd reaction, beating Ottawa resonated more with Rams people than defeating Carleton, which of course has 11 of the last 13 CIS championship banners. Score one for living in the now and all rivalries being local. Ottawa was atop the polls and they eliminated the Rams from title contention 10 months ago.
  • The battle in the paint turned 180 degrees after the half. Eleven of Ottawa's first 14 points came through 'Brathan McCaracle' — copyright pending — and 6-foot-9 forward Matt Plunkett. Under their own basket, the Rams were able to get inside down the stretch when they needed it. Tatham, who's the head coach while Roy Rana is on sabbatical, also smartly had his team stick with that approach instead of panicking.

    "They went to a zone, and we managed to get some passes into the seams," the 31-year-old bench boss said. "It was like a grudge match; the score didn't change for four minutes. Then Kadeem made a hook [after being blocked by Plunkett on the initial shot] and that gave us life."
  • L'Africain's third and fourth personals came fewer than 45 seconds apart midway through the third quarter. On the fourth, the initial assumption courtside was that it was on another player.

    Derouin earned a technical for arguing the call. Tatham also received a tech. Each time, the opponent made the free throw but didn't score on the ensuing possession, so it cancelled out.
  • It's not far-fetched to think Carleton is at risk of missing the Final 8, which will only have three OUA teams.

    Carleton is 8-2 in the OUA. All eight wins are against teams that are .500 or worse in the conference. The losses to Ottawa and Ryerson involved losing a late lead at home and losing by almost 20 in a game where they never got closer in the second half than the three-point gap coming out of the break.

    Brock has signature wins against Ontario opposition (Ryerson and McMaster). Somewhat similarly, Mac has taken double-digit road wins against York and Queen's. 
  • Also, if you think the wild card is coming from anywhere but the OUA, you should know the sky is actually blue.
  • Back to Carleton ... the ball sticks quite a bit when the Ravens are on offense, and the great looks you could set your watch to for years on end were farther and fewer between against Ottawa and Ryerson.

    The only Carleton trademark that turned up in their 79-61 loss against the Rams was offensive rebounding, as they had a 50% retrieval rate on the offensive glass (27 o-boards to Ryerson's 27 defensive). They couldn't make hay from it since they shot an effective 35.6%, with Kaza Kajami-Keane (3-for-13, seven points, 6-to-4 assists/turnovers) having a lot of just-missed driving layups. Typically, in the past the lane would be a little more open since defenders had to respect the draw-and-kick, or the shovel pass to a post scorer. Teams can collapse a bit more on Keane and Connor Wood.

    Guillaume Boucard poses a matchup program as a 6-foot-3 guard playing the 4-spot, but on Friday Ryerson's Adam Voll had four blocks. The stat sheet had Boucard down for almost as many turnovers (8) as points (9).
  • Carleton's coaching staff and intangibles should make them a tough out by playoff time, but in a bridge year between Phil and Thomas Scrubb's graduation and the maturation of their recruiting classes, they might not have the horses. Lacking a big post presence might finally hurt them.
  • That said, anyone copping the attitude that there is some  asterisk on this season due to Dave Smart's sabbatical is doing a disservice to Rob Smart, Dean Petridis, the coaching staff and players. It's still their season. Also, it's doubtful Carleton reduced the program's relatively ample budget for this season.
The latest chapter in the Carleton-Ottawa rivalry involved a point guard who had fresh stitches in his hand sinking the game-winner, a floor leader being carried off the court with an ankle injury and a nine-year home-court win streak being snapped by the Gee-Gees' 75-73 win at the Ravens' Nest.

Pretty standard, really, for when the Ravens and their familiar foils tip off in Ontario University Athletics men's basketball. Saturday's night tilt was essentially a prequel for the Feb. 5 Capital Hoops Classic and at least one post-season showdown at the OUA Wilson Cup and/or CIS Final . Minutes after his last-minute fadeaway jumper that capped the game-ending 8-2 run, Gee-Gees point guard Mike L'Africain acknowledged the CIS hoops hierarchy doesn't change on Jan. 16

"It's a statement win but to us it doesn't really mean anything until the other games because we've been here," said L'Africain, who had 17 points, three steals and a 6-to-3 assist/turnover ratio. "I've never done this one. We've never got a win here. But I felt we kept our composure."

L'Africain has made some sweet dishes in his day, but a mishap while washing dishes on Thursday nearly affected his availability. The fifth-year floor leader played with bandages on the thumb and index finger of his shooting hand.

"What happened was I have this one glass and I'm a very suspicious guy," he said. "You know who there's so much soap in the water you can't see anything underneath it? And I dropped it and I tried to be a hero and catch it real quick, but it dropped so fast and smashed on the bottom and I got cut. 

"I was in Emergency for 12 hours. So for Capital Hoops [in three weeks], I'll be able to shoot better. It was numb and shaking, but these are the games where you can't sit off."

It's not unheard of for Carleton to lose, but it is unheard of for them to get outrebounded 43-32, which included the Gee-Gees retrieving 18 of their own misses. It took a toll, though, since floor leader Caleb Agada completed a 23-point, 10-rebound effort by gutting out the last minute with a twisted ankle sustained during a rebound battle. Essentially, Ottawa proved a point although it chance of holding serve in next week's Toronto/Ryerson road trip might have diminished.

"I didn't think we overly celebrated," Gee-Gees coach James Derouin said. "I'm hoping that our veterans understand 'good job, and move on. We might have to go into Toronto without Caleb, but it's a good stepping stone."

Carleton got 24 points and six assists from Kaza Kajami-Keane and 20 from guard Guillaume Boucard, who each had tough misses in the last two minutes. The Ravens were unable to get a good look on the final possession. It was their first OUA loss at the Ravens' Nest since a 95-81 setback against Tut Ruach and the York Lions on Jan. 27, 2007, nearly nine years ago.

"There's a bucket list with these guys," Derouin said  "Winning in this gym is on that list."

Other takeaways and shallow, fairly obvious observations: 
  • Keane, the Cleveland State transfer, took over at times, getting his 24 on 11-of-16. He also twice pulled off the classic Carleton manoeuvre of sliding into the path of a driving-and-dishing player to draw offensive fouls on Agada. To his credit, after getting his third late in the third quarter, Agada didn't pick up another.
  • We need to talk about Caleb, or more specifically, his barely buzzer-beating breakaway dunk at the end of the second quarter. The clock was down to fewer than 2.0 seconds when he crossed the time line, but Agada is so deceptively fast that he had time to throw it down and beat the halftime horn, in the officials' estimation. The kneejerk reaction was that he cut it close with the dunk instead of a layup. Then again, a layup at top speed is easier said than done.
  • Ryan Ejim was a truth for long stretches, as the Ravens power forward hooped 14 points in 26 minutes and denied the Gee-Gees the post entry. "He made it almost impossible to get it inside," Derouin said. "He made some big plays. If we're going to beat them again, we have to find a way to use [centres] Nathan McCarthy and Brody Maracle more."
  • By Carleton math, being even on the rebound count is considered a fail. One can only imagine how the Gee-Gees grabbing 18-of-41 available off their own misses went over in the room. Carleton's 6-foot-11 post, Cam Smythe, played only 10 minutes and wasn't a factor. The other four starters all played at least 30. Veteran guards Connor Wood (eight points on 3-of-10) and Gavin Resch (two points, game-high seven rebounds) had off nights.
  • Another 'when was the last time we saw that?' stat: the Ravens only got to the line seven times, finishing 6-of-7 to Ottawa's 19-of-27. It wasn't for a lack of strong takes from Kajami-Keane or Boucard, who's a matchup nightmare as shooting guard playing the 4-spot.

    No doubt that came up during the long post-game meeting Carleton interim coach Rob Smart conducted.

    The Ravens are at No. 5 Ryerson in their next outing on Jan. 22. Typically, no one wants to face a Carleton team that just lost.
  • Ottawa is trying to effect a carefully cultivated grittiness after, frankly, wearing down last March, when it lost the OUA semifinal at home to Windsor, needed overtime to vanquish Bishop's in a Final 8 first-round game and lost the national championship game 93-46 to Carleton. Lack of a suitable matchup meant fifth-year combo forward Vikas Gill played limited minutes, but Ottawa still showed some rebounding depth. McCarthy typically starts, while Maracle (six points, two boards in 23 minutes) and Matt Plunkett (6 and 7 in 28) forming a second wave.

    "When Matt plays with that edge, he gives us that third rebounder, alongside Caleb and Nathan/Brody," Derouin said. "I thought Plunkett was the difference in the game tonight. He came away with big, two-handed rebounds."

  • The Gee-Gees shot 54.3 per cent from two-point land, which some would joke is typically inside their range. Mehdi Tihani's 13 points (including 3-of-4 from deep) was very unsung.

All in all, a very good premiere episode for CIS basketball's long-running drama.

A blocked field goal was the missed play on Stefan Ptaszek and the McMaster Marauders' back seat when they opened the 2015 campaign.

After dropping the 2014 Vanier Cup 20-19 to the Montréal Carabins, the Marauders waltz into the season looking for that one play and another chance.

"The way we lost, we feel like we were one play short of a Vanier Cup championship ... I hope all of our coaches and athletes look to have one more play in them. If we get that close again, we find that play," Ptaszek said.

McMaster opened Sunday, Aug. 30 against arguably one of the best vertical pass games in the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, but shut down all assets they had in a 55-33 victory.

The secondary is tested right away — which could determine how much work needs to be done. Nick Shorthill and a very senior secondary have hung up their maroon jerseys. A new secondary comes in with minimal experience, and will be working to find their stride.

Highly touted quarterback Asher Hastings will be the number one man in the pocket — but hasn't really seen much competition standing behind Marshall Ferguson and Kyle Quinlan for the past few seasons. But Hastings showed his arm in week 1, sending an 89-yard bullet down the field for one of five touchdowns. He finished with 384 total yards.

But how quick can it be done? There was still some sloppy play, and this isn't the same calibre of Marauder we've come to know.

"I can't pretend we'll be a Vanier Cup group week one," Ptaszek said. "Don't judge us by where we start, judge us by where we finish."

McMaster's not the only team that may not be a Vanier Cup contender from the beginning. The Carabins, despite hoisting the cup for the first time in franchise history, lost a lot from their arsenal during the offseason. Byron Archambault, one of the best linebackers in the game, was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A relatively lengthy list of former players graduated.

The Carabins are all about jumping off the Vanier Cup hangover and finding their groove.

"The 2016 edition of the Montreal Carabins are going to have their own identity," said head coach Danny Maciocia. "We were still able to keep the foundation for the most part in place for this year's team, but every year, every team develops its own identity. We still feel like we're going to be competitive, we still feel like we'll have an opportunity to win football games on a weekly basis, but obviously it's an edition that's going to be finding its own identity."

"For the most part, it's a new slate. We've got some new guys in here and some talented young men and they're going to have an opportunity to establish themselves within the Carabins family," Maciocia continued.

But the two top teams from the 2014 campaign aren't the only ones with question marks.

The Windsor Lancers have lost the stellar quarterback in Austin Kennedy and their weaponry in Evan Pszczonak — and felt the impact of it in an embarrassing 76-7 loss to the highly-skilled Western Mustangs.

The list is endless of changes, modifications and improvements — making week one's Top 10 pick one of the hardest across the board for voters.

The only confident prediction may be to say the Western Mustangs — permitted they stay healthy — could be a great contender for the Vanier Cup.

But with the OUA as the only conference that has opened up play, it'll be interesting to see who comes forward from the rest of the league — and lifts the coveted trophy.


Shelby's first week Top 10:
1) Montreal
2) McMaster
3) Western
4) Laval
5) Guelph
6) Manitoba
7) Mount Allison
8) Calgary
9) Saskatchewan
10) UBC

CIS first week Top 10:
1. Montreal (-)
2. Laval (-)
3. Western (-)
4. Calgary (-)
5. McMaster (-)
6. Guelph (-)
7. UBC(-)
8. Saskatchewan (-)
9. Mount Allison (-)
10. Manitoba (-)







Carleton, Phil Scrubb: still great

This game was a wash early on. The Huskies couldn't defend, Phil Scrubb was en fuego and Carleton was locked in defensively. Carleton won 90-50.

There's not much use digging too deep here, as Sask didn't seem up to task to guard anyone. The Scrubbs shouldered most of the scoring load, combining for 49 points on 19-31 shooting. It should be noted that this game felt more like a 9 a.m. tip-off for the Huskies because of the travel and time difference. That doesn't explain the 40-point disparity.

Carleton's defence was good and forced Mike Scott into tough shots. Scott's selection did not put him in a spot to be successful either, but Carleton shut down their other options, so it is hard to blame the guard for shooting.

Also: this game's stream until the second quarter, apparently. I only tuned in then, so I didn't notice any issues. Gotta hope stream problems get fixed since they will be charging for the semis and finals.

Vic-Dal was a "basketball" "game" at the national championships

I didn't enjoy this at all.

Some were praising the game, but it wasn't great to watch. Missed shots, botched open lay-ups, inconsistent officiating. Vic had their opportunities to blow this open, missing a bunch of shots in the fourth. The McLaughlin-Tibbs pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop was effective in getting players open, but I thought that Tibbs missed McLaughlin in favour of taking his own shots sometimes. McLaughlin is an above-average three-point shooter and even though he struggled, I thought Vic could have done a better job getting him the ball, perhaps using more screens or running alternative looks. Your first-team All-Canadian needs to get more than 10 shots in 30 minutes of play.

Dalhousie gave it everything they had, though. Their defence did make play tough for McLaughlin, but Ritchie Kanza Mata was the standout from my perspective. I thought he might get in the jersey of Tibbs but he surpassed those expectations, giving Tibbs little room to start dribbling or see the court.

But the Tigers lacked shooting and finishing, which, as it turns out, are two very important parts of scoring the ball. They fed Kashrell Lawrence and he played well, but asking him to lead your team to victory when he's matched up with a much taller defender is stacking the deck in your opponent's favour. Lawrence even put Dal up 1 at the end with a put back.

After McLaughlin got wrapped up on a roll to the basket (which would have been an intentional foul at any point but the final possession of the game) and made his free throws. Here's a (dim) screenshot of the McLaughlin foul:


I'd argue there isn't any play on the ball here, and the real-time play suggest this too. McLaughlin made both free throws and gave them the lead.

But Dal had an opportunity to win it. Six seconds left on the game clock is a decent amount of time to run something and get someone open. It ended in a contested three-point attempt from a player who averages 0.6 three-point attempts per game. Suboptimal.


With that missed shot, the Tigers exit the championship-side tournament, and Vic moves on to play Carleton. Vic will need to move past this game immediately if they want to sniff the Ravens.

Ryerson blows out Windsor with big third quarter

On home court, the Rams crushed the Lancers. I was fortunate to be in person for this game and the crowd had their moments, but it wasn't the same advantage you would expect for a home team. It was a nervous optimism for a while, both in the stands and on the court.

Both teams played timid, missing easy looks and making odd passes. Ryerson settled in later in the first quarter. That's a little surprising because they have the home pressure. When they got comfortable running in transition, Windsor wavered and you could feel the Rams's confidence rising.

I speculated in my preview that Adika Peter-McNeilly could provide for the Rams, and provide he did. He rebounded well, made good decisions and showed a lot of poise for someone in their first nationals game.

Windsor tried to crash the glass. They had their fair share of offensive rebounding opportunities because they only shot 36.6% from the floor, but Ryerson locked things down. Peter-McNeilly led the team with ten boards, all on the defensive end.

You could see the result coming after the first quarter, where Windsor only scored 10. They put up a fight, but at the end of the season, with another game under their belt because of playoffs, the team just didn't have the roster depth to keep up. Khalid Abdel-Gabar got in foul trouble and without a lead guard, the Lancers floundered. The team strayed from their offence, playing in emergency-mode for a decent amount of time. Shots were both contested and rushed because of the deficit.

Now, I thought Ryerson wasn't using a ton of on-ball screens. This is key because of Windsor's desire to switch all screens. Instead of pick-and-roll, the Rams relied on off-ball plays to free up a player and allow that player to attack the defender who should be unsettled. It worked well, as the Rams drove to finish at the rim or initiate contact.

I don't think Windsor is as bad as this game showed. However, they were screwed by the dated seeding rules. Yes, you have to beat the great teams to win, but you should be rewarded with an easier opponent if you are the No. 2 seed. This is logical stuff. If you're reading this, it's too late: for all intents and purposes, Windsor's tournament is over and they'll lose two key players (Khalid Abdel-Gabar and Evan Matthews). I'd argue those are their thinnest positions too.

Bishop's provides the potential game of the tournament

It is gutting for me to write about this. I just feel brutal for the Bishop's team, players and fans.

Halfway through the second quarter, as the Gaiters put on a 22-1 run, you could just feel the gym shift. It was a busy crowd, even though the Ryerson locals had left already. Bishop's brought a ton of support. I swear, everyone in Toronto who could find Lennoxville, Que. on a map was in at the Mattamy Athletic Centre. (So, a couple hundred people.)

But the purple-clad fans won the hearts of the casual observers and it pushed the players a bit more. Bishop's pushed up on screens, trying to take the ball out of the dribbler's hands. This isn't a great strategy because of Ottawa's ability to swing the ball to open players, but it worked for a few reasons.

1) Ottawa didn't fully move the ball. They would make passes, but it would stick a bit and shots were forced.
2) Ottawa couldn't hit their open shots. This was a trend, as the Gaiters and Ravens were the two teams to really hit from behind the arc. That Bishop's hit well from 3 is a surprise because they shot 27.9% from the land beyond this season. That's 42nd out of 47 teams. 10 made threes was a season-high for the Gaiters.
3) Bishop's had clean rotations. I slammed their defensive rating a bit in the preview, and I stand by what I said, but they did play very well and closed out well. If you're going to play that pick and roll defence, you need smart, quick players. From one game, it looks like Bishop's had it.

Now, Bishop's offence wasn't convincing either. But they crashed the glass hard and bailed out stagnant possessions. For those keeping score, in two of the past three games, Ottawa has been hammered on the glass.

What did the Gaiters in was the fouling out of Kyle Desmarais. Had he stayed in, I think the final two minutes wouldn't have been laden with turnovers and poor passes. But Ottawa attacked him and got him out of the game. His exit led to the key play of the game; a Caleb Agada steal and a crucial block/charge call that put Agada on the line.




That's a tough call to make. There was no sense of control from the Gaiters though. They were hanging on in the final minutes and I don't think a ref would have much confidence this after watching Bishop's come apart.

I do think it was a block. Paused at the 20 second mark, you can see the Gaiter player going down and leaning in to get contact. He also made a play to get the loose ball, so I doubt he was bracing to take a charge and be in position.

So, Agada hit both free throws and the Gaiters ran nothing with 10.5 seconds left. The shot was just a huck, and I think that play is as important as the block/charge. We can question the refs, but Bishop's final play execution, or lack thereof, deserves criticism too. I thought that if the Gaiters didn't make a shot after Agada's free throws, Ottawa would run away in OT. That's exactly what happened.

Ottawa escapes and have a lot of questions that need answers. James Derouin says they'll keep shooting. I agree with that, but I think rebounding is what they need to emphasize.

Bishop's put up a fight and for that, they deserve serious, honest credit. They played well, hit open shots and should have won.

Any kind of discussion about where RSEQ basketball falls in the CIS hierarchy is premature. This is one game. Bishop's put up a fight against Windsor too, but lost. The disparity between Quebec teams and those contending for a national championship may not be as big as we think, but to say it doesn't exist is massive leap given the decade-long CIS tournament drought and this year's weak non-conference play.

Bring on the championship games. Could be one of the best semifinal/final we've seen in a while.
Part two of the previews, just in time for Dal-Vic!

VICTORIA v. DALHOUSIE 


Victoria
Dalhousie
ORtg
104.9
100.7
DRtg
94.1
101.2
NetRtg
10.8
-0.5
RPI
6
15
1. Who is Dalhousie's answer for Chris McLaughlin?

Fifth-year Chris McLaughlin is an inside-outside threat that can clean the glass and start fast breaks. At 6-10, he towers over the Dalhousie roster because of an injury that ended 6-8 Devon Steadman's season. Dal isn't good defensively -- they have the worst DRtg in the tournament -- and their best rebounder is Kashrell Lawrence, listed at 6-2. I think Dal will resort to a zone defence to prevent McLaughlin from getting easy touches.

2. How will Marcus Tibbs respond to AUS defensive MVP Ritchie Kanza Mata? 

I'm going to guess that Mata guards Tibbs in this one. Tibbs is the second-leading scorer for the Vikes and averages five assists per game. He's the engine of this offence so slowing him down could force others to make decisions. I doubt the Vikes would want this, as Tibbs is pretty good at breaking down a defence and finding open players if he can't finish the play himself. Mata has been disruptive on defence and when watching those AUS championships, you could see how difficult he makes life for opposing guards. Playing in his hometown, I wouldn't be surprised to see Mata get into the jersey of Tibbs and unsettle him a bit with high-energy play.

3. Dalhousie will have to score a good amount, but can they?

The Tigers went 3-3 in non-conference play and put on a great run to win the AUS championship. But the Vikes are the best team they have played in months. I'm skeptical of Dal's ability to score against the Vikes, especially after watching the Tigers stall out for periods and take bad shots in the playoffs. If Dal executes, they can hang around.

Prediction: Victoria 74, Dalhousie 58

OTTAWA v. BISHOP’S


Ottawa
Bishop’s
ORtg
129.1
85.2
DRtg
94.2
81.9
NetRtg
35.0
3.3
RPI
3
23

1. Is Bishop's defence as good as their DRtg?

Simple answer: no. The average offensive rating in RSEQ is in the mid-to-low 80s, so of course Bishop's defensive rating will be lower. It's nearly impossible for me to make an accurate assessment of their defence because I do not watch Quebec basketball. But I feel comfortable saying their defence is not as good as the number suggests, but based on non-conference numbers, it is still pretty good. 

In pre-season action, Bishop's held Ottawa to 80 points. That is a great number, considering it's well-below their season average. The problem will be offence. Ottawa is a good, not great, defensive group but the Gaiters aren't a great offensive outfit.

2. Where will Bishop's get their points?

Yeah. An 85.2 ORtg isn't really going to get you that far in this tournament. The Gaiters don't shoot a ton from the arc which is actually a curious trait of RSEQ basketball. I did some research at the holiday break and found 3-point-attempts per game were trending upwards, but the Q doesn't shoot much (yet). So, I figure the Gaiters will attack off the dribble, but Ottawa has the athletes to contain perimeter penetration.

3. Is there anyway Ottawa loses this game?

If they don't respect Bishop's like they should, it could be close. I doubt that will happen because Ottawa had a bad weekend in the OUA Final Four and this is the last tournament for major parts of their roster. They will want to prove themselves here, especially after media day was spent answering questions about being second fiddle to Carleton. Also, Bishop's went 0-6 in non-conference play. 

Prediction: Ottawa 91, Bishop's 51.
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