Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Can any team outscore the Gee-Gees? This may be head coach James Derouin's reaction.
Coming into the 2014-15 season, we knew the Gee-Gees were going to be good. Sure, they lost Terry Thomas to a pro contract in Europe and he was a major piece in their run to the national championship game.

A slight regression was an understandable expectation. Thomas used 28% of the possessions when he was on the floor and was damn efficient, shooting 54.1% from the floor and 45.2% from three. Replacing that production is no simple task, although not impossible. This team dealt with the loss of Warren Ward the year before, a player of more importance to the offence.

Instead of mediocre start, Ottawa looks better than ever. The Gee-Gees are 8-0 and they've rolled over their top-ten opponents, besting McMaster 106-83 and Ryerson 93-64.

Those wins are impressive and the metrics back it up. Right now, Ottawa owns an offensive rating of 134.1. They are shooting just under 41% from three and 52.5% overall, with an effective field goal percentage of 61.8%. Through eight games, 46% of the Gee-Gees field goal attempts have been threes.

There's a couple of reasons for that: their assist to turnover ratio is the best in the country (the Gee-Gees are the only team in the country averaging single digit turnovers in the country) and their offence is balanced and willing to share the ball. Look at the usage percentage from their starting five (numbers slightly rounded):
  • Johnny Berhanemeskel - 27%
  • Caleb Agada - 25%
  • Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue - 19%
  • Mike L'Africain - 16%
  • Vikas Gill - 12%
Berhanemeskel's usage number looks a little high, but it is justifiable: he's shooting 61.1% from the field. He has more ball-handling responsibilities than you would think, and he is averaging 4.8 assists per game with only 1.5 turnovers. Berhanemeskel is fourth in the country in scoring, but from an efficiency perspective, Tommy Scrubb is the only other top scorer on a ranked team that rivals his marks. 

Caleb Agada deserves credit for his growth too. He started as a raw athlete and blossomed into one of the best all-around wing players. Agada has length that allows him to bother shooters and disrupt passes. Offensively, he has a quick first step and improved his three-point shooting. Last year, he shot 17-58 beyond the arc but he's already made 12 threes on 30 attempts through eight games.

Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue and Vikas Gill represent the Gee-Gees two greatest assets: continuity and spacing. The ball zips around the floor and these two are great cutters, but their skills are only emphasized because they have so much room to operate because of the three-point threat. That being said, great cutters do not always get the opportunities they have earned. They either get missed or they get the ball late. Part of that is because players just don't expect the cutter but this squad looks for the man diving to the hoop. Head coach James Derouin deserves credit for turning this into one of the most unselfish groups in the country. Mike L'Africain, is the only starter shooting under 50% -- he's at 43.8 right now -- but since his usage is low, that is an easy pill to swallow. If L'Africain can push his shooting percentage north of that mark, this team becomes even more dangerous.

Their bench is doing well too. The next five guys in the rotation are combining to shoot 47.8% from the floor, with Moe Ismail and Matt Plunkett hitting 43.8% and 41.9% respectively from three. Those two shooters help maintain the critical spacing this offence needs. Mehdi Tehani hasn't shot up to his capabilities, meaning they may have a little extra bump to their offensive numbers come 2015.

Naturally, Ottawa will get compared to Carleton at every turn. It's a worthy exercise here, as the two have played the same regular season season and are one-two in the CIS top ten.

Offensive rating
Defensive rating
Net rating

Some quick thoughts on those numbers: the net ratings are probably higher than what we will see at the end of the season. Carleton's pace seems high too; I ran the numbers a couple of times to double-check. I say that because the Ravens have traditionally played slower, but without a real post threat anymore, a quicker tempo makes sense.

Of course, the major takeaway is the defence. Its the same old story: the Gee-Gees struggle defensively. It is fair to wonder whether this team is capable of crafting a defence that will shut down other top teams, but that may not be the issue. Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely an issue and I think Derouin would agree. But right now, no one is capable of taming Ottawa's offence to a manageable point, and if you can outscore your opponent like the Gee-Gees do, you mask your defensive shortcomings.

We get to see if this team can either tighten up their defence against the other top offence in the country or whether it will even matter on January 10, when the Gee-Gees and Ravens square off in their first match-up since the 2014 CIS Final 8 championship game.

All advanced statistics used in this post were created following formulas from Basketball-Reference. For questions about the statistics, please contact scott1hastie [at] gmail [dot] com. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

(Photo by Shelby Blackley)
We're at the halfway mark for CIS women's hockey, and if the season were to end right now, I couldn't tell you who would be the now eight teams — thanks to a revisit of the structure — heading to the national championship. Last year, the McGill Marlets, Montreal Carabins, the Saskatchewan Huskies, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, the Moncton Aigles Bleues and the St. Thomas Tommies made up the national bracket, which, for the most part, made sense. Montreal and McGill fought in one of the best gold medal games that went to two overtime periods before McGill buried the winner. Saskatchewan foiled Laurier's plans for bronze, essentially silencing the Hawks and taking home a medal for the first time in their program's history.

The only thing that wasn't shocking was that the host St. Thomas went 0-3 in the tourney despite having one of the best fan bases I've ever seen.

But right now, if we were to see who would go to the national championship, I wouldn't be able to tell you. Aside from RSEQ, where McGill and Montreal continue to run the show, every other conference is jumbled and full of unexpected and questionable records. Add that to the new format of eight teams going to the national championship, and we have a load of potential for teams. Let's take a look.

East coast worst coast? 
The stigma with teams that come from the AUS is that they are the worst of the pack. Coming from one who sat in the beautiful press box at the arena in St. Thomas and watched part of the Tommies' opening game against Saskatchewan (they lost 3-2), the fact of the matter is they aren't as weak as people perceive them to be. Moncton — the winners of the AUS — had more trouble sticking with teams than St. Thomas did, and both teams really lost by a lack of speed rather than a lack of skill.

But currently, St. FX sits atop the AUS with comfort of an 13-1 record while Moncton trails with a 10-3-1 record. St. FX's only loss? To UPEI, a team that has a 4-7-1 record and sits second-last in the six-team conference. St. FX could very well be the team that comes out this year from the AUS — they were supposed to last year, but the Mount Allison Mounties came out of nowhere to send St. FX packing. If they can keep composed and focus on their physical game — speed, strength and endurance — St. FX could compete on the national level, and should be a team we see at the national championship in Calgary in March.

A five-way race for top of the West
I went to look at the standings for the West, and literally was shocked by how close it was. Currently, six teams sit less than seven points apart. Saskatchewan sits at the top with 32, but closely behind is Calgary followed by Manitoba, Alberta, UBC and Regina. Really, the only teams out of that race are Lethbridge and Mount Royal.

Calgary already has their ticket punched to the national championship as the host team, which could be a factor in not dominating the West like they usually do — or it could be the lackluster season of a certain women's hockey icon. What's also interesting to note is that many of the games those five top teams have played have gone to overtime — Saskatchewan has played five, losing two. Regina has played in an astounding seven overtime games, only losing one. This conference is so close that any slip-up once the playoffs begin can send anyone home — and I don't have a prediction on what's going to happen. It'll be the most interesting one to watch to see who will claim that provincial banner.

Quebec's two-way race
This might be the easiest one to figure out mainly because thanks to McGill's victory last year, the RSEQ will most likely get the second assigned berth this year into the championship. And in reality, who else can compete with the big, bad McGill and Montreal? The conference standings seat Montreal and McGill respectively on the top, with Concordia six points back from first and an under .500 record. This is the easiest one to pick for me because there is no competition — McGill proved they are a powerhouse with speed, skill and national talent, and Montreal is right there with them.

What the hell is going on in the OUA?
I left the Ontario conference last for a number of reasons. 1) I have spent the last three years, three months and 13 days covering this conference, especially in women's hockey, to the bare bones of its structure. 2) The conference has the most teams, making it harder to analyze and really get a feel for how the playoffs will play out. 3) I'm slightly biased toward the conference.

But most importantly, 4) I actually don't know where to start.

At the beginning of the season, I knew from covering the Laurier Golden Hawks that they would have a target on their back. They're the defending OUA champions with a glowing resume. They came fourth in the country last year. But the loss of Candice Styles, one of the top converted defencemen in the country and speedster Devon Skeats, a very young team and no real good depth have been hindrances on their year. They sit at .500 and were pushed out of the Top 10 ranking for the first time since at least the 2003 season — which is when CIS records of women's hockey begin, according to Michel Belanger.

So now, the OUA looks like a cluster of teams that make no sense with a bunch of questionable records, making deciphering true contenders from lucky teams pretty hard.

Let's start with who's currently at the top — the Western Mustangs are the only team in the entire country that has not lost a game in regulation. They are good. They are a powerhouse and have a solid group from their leading scorer to their fourth-line defencemen. Western deserves to be running circles around the rest of the OUA because they are taking advantage of the convoluted conference. As long as nothing goes awry with injuries or sudden flattening in the second half of the season, Western is my pick to come out of the OUA.

After that, everyone's everywhere. Who would have expected the Windsor Lancers to be third in the province? Queen's lost their fifth-year goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher, yet their third-year starter looks like a true veteran between the pipes — and it's showing. Guelph still sits among the top calibre, but the most surprising is the Toronto Varsity Blues, who are currently just above the Hawks in fifth.

Toronto was feisty in the playoffs last year against Laurier, forcing them to a game three situation in the semifinals. However, what is important to note is that their goaltender, Nicole Kesteris, is headed for the Winter Universiade in February and this could be a big factor in how Toronto fairs in the final weeks. Granted, many of the best players from across the country will also be joining her.

With those big players gone in the final weeks, it's going to come down to the depth of benches and the strength of players to vault them into the playoffs. From there, as we've seen, anything can happen. But I would not be surprised if we see Western and Queen's in the OUA final.

Midterm analysis is hard because there are so many factors, but from what I've seen across the country — aside from RSEQ — it's going to be an interesting ending to the year.

If I currently had to pick right now, this would be the eight-team national championship contenders I would pick:

OUA: Western Mustangs
OUA: Queen's Gaels
CWUAA: Calgary Dinos (host)
CWUAA: Alberta Pandas
RSEQ: Montreal Carabins
AUS: St. FX X-Women
1 additional assigned berth: If the berth goes to RSEQ like it should, it'll no doubt be McGill, and they'll benefit. They compete better on a national level than provincial, and there is no other team remotely close to them in Quebec. If it goes to OUA, it'll be either Windsor or Laurier — Guelph tends to crack under playoff pressure.
1 at-large wildcard berth: Mount Allison. Because who can seriously count them out?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Our friends at Yahoo's Eh Game site have the numbers, and they look pretty good: the 50th Vanier Cup averaged 320,000 viewers on Sportsnet.* This number doesn't include streaming -- either the CIS feed, or Radio-Canada stream or (obviously) illegal ones -- and those figures would bump this number up significantly. NCAA football games in the same time slot averaged 91,000.

So, what does 320,000 viewers actually mean for the future? Quick answer: probably nothing.

According to the Toronto Star, regular season OUA football averaged 28,000 viewers in the 2013 season. The 2013 Vanier Cup averaged 301,000 viewers.

I actually think 320,000 viewers this year is more impressive than it seems.  I cannot find the tweet, but Jim Mullin made a good point during the Mitchell Bowl: the lack of weekly television coverage hurts the product and people are unaware of what is going on. Mullin is bang-on here. Dropping a product on viewers, starting with two oddly named games that are confusing in nature, is not the easiest way to draw people into your product. Seriously, the Mitchell/Uteck Bowl make it hard for people to understand what they are watching. Is it a championship or a semi-final? Is it...both? That is a conversation for another day, but a contributing factor nonetheless. To get 269,000 without building the hype for four months is impressive.

But I doubt that this figure pushes the needle for Sportsnet. It isn't a large enough number for Rogers brass to say "maybe we made a mistake" and get their ducks in a row to start broadcasting the OUA again. It would be nice I'm wrong, but their stance seems like a firm one: production costs are too high.

In that same Toronto Star interview, Sportsnet president Scott Moore said that production costs needs to be closer to "5 to 10 cents." Moore says that "other sports" cost a similar amount. The Sportsnet executive also said that OUA football games cost $3 a viewer. Using that production cost as a similar mark for the Vanier, the per viewer cost was 26 cents. A Vanier Cup production likely costs more than a regular season football game, so the per viewer cost is going to be higher. Regardless, you can see that number is still well-north of what Sportsnet is aiming for.

I don't think this changes much. It is good to see the Vanier get support despite the odds stacked against the event, but don't expect to get regular CIS football coverage back on your TV anytime soon.

* Correction. When this was originally posted, the number read 269,000 viewers. This number did not account for Sportsnet 360's numbers. Thanks to Chris Black for the assist.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

It’s come down to the nitty gritty of CIS’ gridiron season — the OUA sits at the crossroads of its semifinal series between the top three (plus one unpredictable Ottawa Gee-Gees) teams, the AUS has their championship final for the Loney Bowl and CanWest has no idea what’s going to happen after Manitoba defeated Saskatchewan Friday — of course before print — in a very high-scoring game.

For that, we look at what should, will and just simply cannot happen this week in Canadian university football.

What should happen?:

Laval loses to Concordia
I may be a bit bias when I say this, but I really just want to see someone knock Laval off their high horse. Yes — they are a perennial powerhouse of the CIS and it’ll take more than one regular season loss to Montréal for the club to come down from No. 1 in the country. Do I think Concordia’s the team to knock Laval off that pedestal? No. But it’d be nice to see.

Western will regain their “dominance”
Some people may read this and say, “Why would you want Western to win again? Why can’t Guelph win?” Simply, I do not think Guelph is that good, and to have them go to the Yates Cup on a win against a battered Western squad is just luck. If Western can defeat Guelph with almost no secondary, an inexperienced backup quarterback and every offensive weapon “questionable” or previously injured, then they’ll head into the Yates Cup with a load of confidence.

Mount Allison will win the Loney Bowl for the second-straight year
The Mount Allison Mounties deserve to win the Loney Bowl out of the AUS for many reasons. 1) They are the only team in the entire country to finish with a perfect 8-0 season. 2) They had arguably their best season offensively. 3) They ended up rising as high as 6th in the country on the CIS Top 10. 4) They would have the opportunity to play the OUA champion instead of being beat up by Laval. Mount Allison impressed me from game one to game eight, and while yes, they are an AUS team, we need to acknowledge the impressive run they are having.

Calgary gets a wakeup call
Wakey, wakey, Calgary Dinos. Considering the way the Dinos’ year has gone, they deserve a wakeup call that kicks them out of contention for the Vanier Cup. An illegible player ruling disciplined the defending CWUAA champions to give them their first loss of the season and their second loss came in a 50-31 defeat to the Manitoba Bisons to finish off the season — a game where Andrew Buckley, Mercer Timmis and Jake Harty all played from start to finish. The other close call? A narrow 42-41 victory over those same Bisons on a missed field goal.

McMaster loses to Ottawa
In his column this week, Neate Sager asks whether the first game really matters. Both Guelph/Western and Ottawa/McMaster are rematches of games where the unexpected happened. The Gee-Gees in the final game of the regular season thwarted the Marauders, 38-18, en route to securing them a playoff position. What happened next? Ottawa went on to upset the Windsor Lancers in their first home playoff game in ages. Regardless of whether or not Mac was resting its starters, the fact of the matter is that Ottawa can say they’re the only team in the OUA to defeat the Marauders, and will use that as confidence in a game that could have them pull off the ultimate defeat. Why can’t it happen? Because the football world is already on its head and it can’t handle another Cinderella story. But damn, it would be nice to see.

What will happen?:

Western will not two-peat, lose to Guelph
I hate admitting this because I truly do not believe the Gryphons are that good of a team, but when Western finished their quarterfinal game with a backup quarterback, a concussed Brian Marshall, an injured Garrett Sanvido, a questionable George Johnson — you get the idea, as Morris Dalla Costa pointed out for the London Free Press — there were few question marks around whether Western will be able to compete. Their secondary is destroyed, and unless the weather plays against the Gryphons and helps Western out, I think we’re going to see the Guelph back in the Yates Cup final.

Laval will waltz into the RSEQ final
As much as I would love an upset, Laval is just too good. Even on a bad day, Laval still plays better than most teams in the country. Concordia’s not strong enough, and the only team that can beat Laval competitively is Montréal — a potential matchup in the RSEQ final. But right now, we’ll have to sit back and sulk as Laval walks over another club en route to another potential Vanier appearance.

St. FX will be scrutinized if they can’t beat Mount Allison
“Unsustainable” is the word of the month for the St. FX X-Men. Regardless of the steep hill they have in the AUS final against a very strong Mount Allison team, if they can’t pull out the win, the club will be reevaluated to see whether or not it is worth sustaining — why put resources into something that can’t win or bring in revenue? St. FX hasn’t won a provincial championship since 1996 and before then won 11. If money isn’t flowing into the program, it can’t grow. Talk of the future of the St. FX football team will be heavily influenced by their performance Saturday.

Editor’s note: At the time of print, Saskatchewan had already lost to the Manitoba Bisons to move on to the CWUAA final. Which on its own was a surprising turn of events. What will Manitoba do next?!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

What we learned this week is a weekly column on the latest developments in the men's and women's CIS basketball scene. This will focus largely on team's in the top ten, using metrics, game tape and (hopefully) interviews to provide a unique perspective on Canadian university hoops. 

Men's CanWest is wide open

One weekend teaches you very little, and the results are not likely to be accurate predictors. But still, the opening weekend of men's CIS basketball showed us one thing: CanWest will be the most entertaining conference this season.

I watched film from both Alberta-Saskatchewan men's games. The Golden Bears are nursing injuries already, while playing deep bench guys heavy minutes. The Huskies are still acclimatizing to a new rotation, with Mike Scott taking the main offensive role and other players being asked to carry more of the scoring burden.

Seeing the teams split the games wasn't necessarily surprising. Alberta's offence came together as the first game went on but I really liked the minutes that Brett Roughead gave them defensively. Roughead is listed as 7 feet tall, but according to the broadcast, Alberta's measuring tape stops at 7 feet and the coaching staff thinks he's probably got another inch on him. The third-year big man started the second game and got three blocks in 19 minutes of play. His agility in the paint is a work in progress, but Roughead uses his length to compensate for that.

Scott, the latest in a series of dynamic American gunners coming north and lighting up the CIS, had a weird weekend. He played 27 minutes off the bench in the first game and only six the next night. There was no traumatic injury, he just got pulled off in the second quarter after traveling before a three. Perhaps a nagging injury forced Sask to shut him down for the night. Otherwise, weird to see the drop off. For now, it's a balanced offence with Matthew Forbes bruising in the paint.

The short rotations for either team put an asterik on the performances, but if this is representative of how two CanWest contenders are going to look this season, it might not be the prettiest season.

That being said, Calgary and Winnipeg played a heck of a second game. The pace in the first quarter was really quick yet in control. What stuck out to be was the smoothness of the Dinos offence at times. They have a handful of versatile players, and Calgary's Dallas Karch put together a sweet 14 point (6-7 shooting), seven rebound, four assist game. His only miss came near the end of a possession where he was pinned under the basket. Small sample size, but he is a nice piece for them and will be a match-up nag for opponents.

 Neither the Wesmen or Dinos had any interest in defence the second game, but if you were watching for entertainment (guilty as charged) it was worth the time. Side-note: Winnipeg's court-design is bizarre. The black and red make for an awesome colour scheme, but splitting the area inside the arc with those? Weird.
The colour is a nice change from the snow-white Winnipeggers usually see, I guess
The final relevant game was the UVic taking on Regina. The Cougars deserve a top ten vote for the jerseys they wore. They looked damn good, very Washington Wizards-esque.

UVic played well enough. It is hard to put too much stock in their performance, given the opponent. Chris McLaughlin is a beast, and Regina did not have anyone to physically match up with him. (I don't know how many teams in the country will have someone to guard him, though). Marcus Tibbs, who broke out at the CIS Final 8 tournament, looks real good off the dribble and the chemistry between him and McLaughlin is already apparent. These guys will grow as the year goes on and will test for the CanWest championship.

Sask, Alberta open season in clash of CanWest titans
The Pandas (I hate when schools different names for men's and women's program) were ranked No. 3 to start the season, and they solidified their position with a couple of wins over then-No. 6 Saskatchewan. Sask dropped to No. 7, despite no other conference playing games. I think that's a bit unfair after watching the game.

Alberta made a ton of bad passes in the first half of game No. 1, forcing balls into cutting post players. They have some good perimeter defenders, annoying Sask ball handlers the entire game. That being said, the Huskies shot 5-20 from three in the first game, and a handful of those shots were wide-open looks.

Dalyce Emmerson -- an All-Canadian last year -- struggled, and that really was the difference. Emmerson shot 60.1% last year, second-best in the country. This weekend, she shot a collective 8-19. It's early, but Emmerson only shot under 50 per cent in four of her 19 regular season games.

It was close until the very end, so I don't really think we learned anything from this series. The coaches saw something I didn't, considering they dropped Sask a bit.

UVic and Winnipeg put up convincing wins, but it was surprising to see Regina lose by 20 while giving up 89 to the Vikes. Regina was leading after a quarter, 20-13, but two 31-point quarters from Vic turned this into a rout. The box score from the first game is worth a look. Two teams to keep an eye on as the season gets going.

What to watch this week: 

Victoria at UBC - Men's and Women's

Both of these games can teach us something. The men's squad at UBC had a down year in 2013-14, but expectations are high for them. At No. 7 in the top ten and the highest-ranked CanWest team, this team should make a run to the Final 8, provided they stay healthy.

UBC's women's team is ranked second, and we could see how tight the CanWest race will be if Victoria can hang tough (or possibly steal a game).

Acadia at UNB - Men's

How good is UNB? This game, against a new-look Axemen squad (new head coach, no Owen Klassen) will provide a glimpse into what the Varsity Reds will look like going forward. Also, Javon Masters is playing so you should try to watch him whenever you can.

St. FX at Saint Mary's - Women's

Without Justine Colley, how will Saint Mary's score? I know they still can score, but it is never easy to replace one of the best scorers in recent CIS history. Worth a view just to see how the Huskies acclimatize to their new situation.

McMaster at Ottawa/Carleton - Men's

This should be at the top of everyone's viewing list this weekend. The No. 4-ranked team against the No. 2 and No. 1? And they've played each other twice, in the regular season and playoffs? And there are high school buddies going against each other? And Mac's last trip to Carleton saw them hang 88 on the Ravens? Yeah, I'm in. I'll actually be in-house for both games, calling the games for the McMaster radio station. I'm hoping for an improved experience, as Ottawa had fans dropping homophobic slurs towards players when I visited two years ago.

Everyone else - it's opening weekend

Watch your team, and let's see what happens. We lost some major names last year and there are more teams than I listed who have to find themselves. Should be a fun one.

That's all I've got this week. Let me know what I missed in the comments and enjoy the games.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Started from the bottom

The return of CIS basketball is imminent, but the who's who of teams are a relative unknown compared to previous years.
The elite tier of teams — meaning those with serious contention for the national championship — is a thin group. Unlike years past, the gap between those contenders as the rest of the league is not as large. Definitely ranking the teams this early in the season is an exercise in futility, but it is worth the time to provide a baseline for who we should be paying attention to in the first part of the season.
Top five
1.     Carleton
2.     Ottawa
3.     McMaster
4.     Ryerson
5.     Cape Breton
Yeah, this is an OUA-heavy top-five, but bear with me.

Carleton gets the number one spot until they prove to be beatable. The obvious question mark is who takes Tyson Hinz’s minutes, but Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles is capable of sliding in and filling the gap. There are other key losses: Clinton Springer-Williams and Kevin Churchill are both gone. Head coach Dave Smart used a variety of guards and any regression from the guard spot should only be brief. They will miss Churchill’s passing from the post, which was an overlooked aspect of the Ravens potent three-point shooting. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Ottawa to usurp them in the rankings, but Carleton has the legacy to separate them.

Ottawa is a curious case. They’re going to be good, we know that. But the book is out on them: shoot tons of threes and play at a crazy-high tempo. Teams will be able to adjust to them, and some squads have built themselves in a similar model. The only notable major turnover Ottawa is experiencing is Terry Thomas, who went pro after the season. He has been replaced with Alex Ratte, a pure scorer out of Laurentian.

Ratte is a transfer after graduating from the Sudbury, Ont. university. He has two years of eligibility remaining and should provide head coach James Derouin with some interesting options. Suiting up for the Gee-Gees will be a welcome change for Ratte, as the number of offensive options is a 180 from his time at Laurentian. This team is a national contender, but have teams figured out how to beat them?


McMaster sits third, but an upset over Carleton or Ottawa (or, possibly but unlikely, both) in the opening weekend of the season would vault them into the top two. Mac is easily the deepest squad in the OUA, and more importantly, continuity. Depending on how the coaching staff allocates minutes, they will have added one or two major pieces - David McCulloch and Troy Joseph. The benefits of continuity are showing already, as McMaster has rolled their preseason opponents. On paper, Mac deserves the third spot. We will not have to wait long to see if their on-court production justifies the ranking.


And now, we move to Ryerson, one of the more intriguing teams in the league. The Rams made the Final 8 by upsetting Lakehead in the 2012 OUA Final Four. Since then, well, there has not been many positives. Ryerson will be back in the national championship, hosting the tournament at the fantastic Mattamy Athletic Centre. How much noise they make there? Well, that is tough.

Roy Rana’s roster is laden with veterans. The guard core of Jordan Gauthier, Jahmal Jones and Aaron Best play at a high tempo and love to shoot. But … they are known entities. You can’t dance around this fact. That group is solid and not the problem.

The forward crop is thin. Kadeem Green, Bjorn Michaelsen, and Juwon Grannum are the main front court players from last year, but they do not offer the same level of contribution as bigs on elite teams. Green’s 23.5 minutes per game lead the team - not a good sign considering the options behind him are not good.

Cape Breton

Cape Breton’s preseason has given them a bit of steam heading into the first poll. They have beaten St. FX (twice), UNB, Dalhousie, UPEI, UQAM and Calgary. Their only loss came against McMaster in the final of the Cape Breton exhibition tournament, but they dropped 90 points on a team that will be in the Final 8 conversation.

The Capers were 9-11 in AUS play last year, but they return all of their main roster pieces. Young players like Seth Amoah have stepped up, showing improvement you would expect from a guard entering his third year. He earned an All-Star spot in the CBU tournament.

Scoring was their issue last year, finishing 40th of 45 teams in points per game. There were some RSEQ squads and Algoma below them, which is a damning sign.

Their preseason numbers suggest they have shored up the offensive woes. Through eight preseason games, they have averaged 89 points per game.

Cape Breton deserves some top-ten recognition and there’s a ton of transition around the league. I expect them to land at fifth due to a combination of a) OUA voter fatigue (Windsor has a claim to the fifth-spot, but an all-OUA top five is unlikely) b) consistent preseason work c) no serious competition from any other conferences (yet).

The season opens on Oct. 31, with a slate of Canada West games tipping off on Halloween. More so than in recent years, the league is up for grabs. Enjoy.


Ed. note: I will be attempting to create a Google Doc sheet with offensive and defensive ratings for teams. It’s a better metric for judging teams. The reality is, points scored and points against are antiquated measurements and we want to push conversations forward.

I’m hoping that other student newspapers or CIS hoops outlets can use this info. If you have other metrics that you would really like me to crunch, please let me know at scott1hastie at gmail dot com.
CIS football is in a bit of danger.

Within the 2014 season, two programs have considered shutting down. Originally reported by CanadaFootballChat.com, the University of Waterloo told players and administration that there was a “strong possibility” that the program would fold after this season. This was denied by the university, but athletic director Roly Webster said, "If we can't justify our investment, I'd say (folding the team) is absolutely a consideration. I'd be lying if I said it's not."

Now, the details of St. Francis Xavier’s Presidential Task Force report have surfaced. The football program has been deemed “unsustainable” by the university — the administration’s worst category for ranking programs at the university. In a screen capture from the PDF, the comments do not provide much room for optimism.

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For reference, the university’s definition of unsustainable can be found in this screen capture from the St. FX report slideshow.

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Two programs discussing shutting down is newsworthy. Even if they do not actually follow through, the consideration means this is not likely to be an isolated issue. Programs are feeling the financial pinch as the cost of competing has ramped up. I wrote about the issue of funding for my school newspaper, and the issue isn’t going away.

Which brings me to a Newsweek piece about Laval, and the angle that isn’t addressed in the article. The author speaks glowingly of the Laval football experience, saying it rivals (and even bests) the NCAA environment. Inaccuracies aside, it’s a good read. 

Laval has changed the game for CIS football. They have a rabid fanbase, a dedicated alumni benefactor group and a really damn good team, year-after-year. The standard for excellence has been raised, and that is important. Carleton University’s adoption of the mega-funding model has them sitting in a really good position for a second-year program.

But we’re now seeing the fallout that comes with this. Teams are realizing they cannot compete on a national scale, and that attempting to do so is a waste of resources. The financial barrier to success is lower in other sports and athletic departments may see that to be a more efficient use of a limited pool money.

The landscape of CIS football changed nearly 20 years ago, but we’re seeing the real ramifications now. If a couple of teams drop out, could we see others follow suit?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The season has barely begun in CIS men’s hockey, and already we have one coach going off on an opposing coach through the media. And is not about anything that happened on the ice, and they don’t even play in the same conference. If you guessed UNB Hockey might be involved, well then you have a pretty good sense of one of the main sources (targets?) for drama in the CIS.

The subject of the tension is Francis Beauvillier, a sixth round draft of Florida in 2012, who played for four different teams in the QMJHL. After he didn’t get an AHL contract this autumn, the speedy forward from Sorel-Tracey, Quebec decided rather than play down a level in the minors in the ECHL it might better to attend university. We know this because he announced it on Twitter, and he also stated he was going to be a Varsity Red (even before UNB announced his recruitment). He arrived in Fredericton last week and was in the V-Reds line-up on the weekend in their home games versus Dalhousie and StFX. Beuvillier picked up two points in the two games, including his first goal, and doesn’t look at all out of place in the UNB attacking style of play.

Marc-Étienne Hubert, head coach of the UQTR Patriotes, reacted very angrily and very publicly to the news that UNB had landed a prized student-athlete that he thought he had successfully recruited. In the local Trois-Rivières paper Le Nouvelliste Hubert accused UNB of “contourner les règles” (bending the rules) and he said UNB “offre des cadeaux, possiblement de l'argent” (offered gifts, possibly money) to convince Beauvillier to spur Trois-Rivières for Fredericton.

Hubert offers some details. “On a des informations privilégiées, des preuves. Lors de certaines discussions avec les joueurs, le message a changé et on comprend que UNB a contourné les règles. Ce n'est pas les mêmes règles pour tout le monde et c'est frustrant. On s'aperçoit que c'est David contre Goliath.” (“We have inside information, evidence. In some discussions with players, the message has changed and it is understood that UNB bends the rules. It is not the same rules for everyone and it is frustrating. We see that it is David versus Goliath.”)

It gets better (or worse). Hubert goes on to accuse all the AUS hockey schools in the Maritimes of breaking the rules, and comes off sounding very parochial (or regionally biased) in the process.

“Lorsque j'ai rencontré les entraîneurs de la conférence des Sports universitaires de l'Ontario, ils étaient tous, particulièrement ceux de la région de Toronto, vraiment outrés par la situation et par la quantité de joueurs qui, pour la même qualité de programme et d'enseignement, vont choisir une université dans les Maritimes. Si ces universités suivent le règlement et ne donnent pas d'argent à ces joueurs, ça leur coûtera très cher d'aller dans les Maritimes plutôt que de rester chez papa et maman. Si j'ai besoin de lait, je vais au dépanneur à côté de chez moi, je ne fais pas 25 km pour aller le chercher à Shawinigan.”

Excuse me if my translation isn’t perfect, as I did come up through a school system in the Maritimes:

“When I met with other coaches in the OUA conference, they all, and particularly in the Toronto region, are truly outraged by the situation and the quality of players who, despite the same quality of instructional programs here, chose to go to university in the Maritimes.  If these universities follow the rules and do not give money to the players, it would be a lot more expensive to go to the Maritimes rather than stay home with Dad and Mom. If I need milk, I go to the convenience store close by; I don’t go 25 km and look for it in Shawinigan.”

Well, you can imagine that didn’t go over very well chez UNB. In the same news article, V-Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall is quoted as saying “C'est un grand manque de professionnalisme de sa part, lance-t-il. Nous avons le plus bel aréna et de grosses foules. Tout les profits sont retournés à l'équipe. C'est ce qui fait que nous avons le meilleur programme et que les joueurs se joignent à nous.” (“It is a great lack of professionalism on his part. We have the finest arena with big crowds. All the profits go to the team. This is so that we have the best program and that players want to play with us.”)

The Shawinigan newspaper, L’Hebdo du St-Maurice, also had a story last week on the former Cataractes player and his decision to play for UNB. Beauvillier says that once the Florida organization decided to send him down to the ECHL he reflected that it might be better to go to school now, rather than start when he was 28 years old. He’s always liked marketing and wants to get a business degree.

He said he came close to choosing UQTR over UNB, but ever since he was 16 he’s wanted to become bilingual and that made the difference. He wants to read, speak and work in English. “Ça a été une décision très difficile. J'ai changé à plusieurs reprises. J'hésitais entre l'UQTR et l'UNB, mais le fait que je désire devenir bilingue depuis que j'ai 16 ans a fait pencher la balance. Je vais lire, écouter et travailler en anglais. Ça va m'aider encore plus.”

It is probably comes as no surprise that both UNB and the AUS have responded to Hubert’s comments through a series of phone calls and official letters of complaint to UQTR and the RESQ and OUA conferences. The CIS has also been apprised of UNB’s dissatisfaction with Hubert’s comments and aspersions. So far I have not heard about any consequences for the UQTR coach, but I know for a fact that such comments within the AUS would certainly earn you a suspension.

In today’s Daily Gleaner (pay-walled), Athletic Director John Richard made it clear that UNB is pretty peeved with the published comments and are seeking a public apology and some sort of discipline imposed on Hubert.

"Any time you work 23 hours a day, seven days a week like he (Gardiner MacDougall) does on one program, and someone takes a run at your program, you're going to get defensive," Richard said. "And he should. From the second I saw the comments, I thought they were way over the line. And everyone I've talked to from our conference with whom I've had this conversation agrees with me. It's way over the line. It's not grey.

"We feel this AUS conference is the best hockey conference in Canada. The tough part to swallow all the time is all the accusations coming from the rest of the country toward this conference."

Richard strongly backs his hockey coach.

"I've talked to Gardiner, and more importantly, I've talked to the student-athlete too. These are young men who have been making decisions since they were 15, 16 years old about where they're going to play hockey and what they're going to do. These guys aren't kids. They're men making decisions with their best interests in mind.

"I know our coach is really aggressive in recruiting," Richard said. "But I've never seen him drive to some other town, lock the kid up in his trunk and bring him to Fredericton and kidnap the kid. The guys that are here want to be here and I don't think he's (Bouvillier) any different."

Coincidentally the AUS AD’s had arranged some time ago to meet last week at Mount Allison University to discuss a variety of hockey related topics. No doubt this had to do with the AUS trying to be proactive after the CIS quietly announced this August the results of their investigation of the Dalhousie men’s hockey program, including the fact that Dal was to be sanctioned for two years, including last season. 

AD’s discussed hiring an employee or an independent firm to audit the hockey programs for compliance with CIS regulations, but there has been no firm movement yet. UNB’s Richard is in full support of the idea and said “I will be one of the schools to put my hand in the air and volunteer that we go first. I'll be at the front of the line." The AD’s also discussed the idea of a “letter of intent” to keep competing coaches from poaching potential recruits.

This is news in itself -- that the AUS AD’s can come up with recruiting improvements for men’s hockey other than the “UNB rule” that now limits roster sizes to 22 skaters. Now that they have to deal with the fallout from the Hubert accusations, maybe the AD’s can find the common ground to accelerate their desire to dial back the recruiting wars within the AUS.

UPDATE: In his weekly sports column in the Oct. 31 issue of The Daily Gleaner, Bill Hunt reported that UNB has yet to receive so much as an apology from UQTR and have elevated the issue to the CIS.
"If we received something like 'We apologize. We know that doesn't happen. We've spoken to our coach and it won't happen again,' we probably would have moved on," said (UNB Athletic Director John) Richard. "That's not what we received. Not even close."
CIS director of operations and development Tom Huisman is offering no comment:
"A condition of launching any complaint or appeal is that everyone involved agrees to a total media ban," he said. "If there is such a complaint run through the system, the final result will be made public."