It has been a few days and it is still tough to picture Stefan Ptaszek being in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' coaches box instead of the McMaster Marauders sideline.

 For not just his 10 seasons at Mac, Ptaszek has been an staple on the thinking man's side of the ball in Ontario University Athletics - star receiver at Laurier who transitioned into coaching, then took over the Marauders in 2006 after they had a couple of so-so post-Greg Marshall seasons. The move up is richly deserved.

 Meantime, TSN 1150's Marshall Ferguson has a survey of potential interim head coaches for the 2016 Marauders. Early May is a little late in the game to make a permanent hire due to the hiring procedures at most CIS schools. Greg Knox, the former Mac D coordinator, is now with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as defensive backs coach. It would seem unorthodox for a coach to leave a pro program that's already started its season to take a university job. Most coaches are wired to finish what one has started.

Offensive coordinator Jon Behie has been a coach-in-waiting for several seasons. He's as Hamilton as the Bedrock Bistro, and has certainly put in the time that merits a move up to the big job.

 Anyway, good on Ptaszek for getting the call up to the CFL. Greg Marshall and Thérèse Quigley, now coach and AD at Western, laid all the groundwork in the 1990s and aughties for McMaster to go from underachiever to a bona fide football program.

When McMaster finally won the Vanier Cup in 2011, there was a narrative about how much this owed to Marshall. That did sort of take away from how Ptaszek, Behie and Knox instilled both a systemic shift and an attitude adjustment that enabled the Marauders to get by Laval in the 2011 Vanier Cup. The Marauders 1.0 that won four Yates Cups in a row dominated their conference mostly through ground-and-pound physical prowess, but that only got them so far. Of course, the narrative would be much, much different if McMaster had not had a potential game-winning touchdown pass sail just inches beyond a receiver's grasp against Laval in the 2003 Mitchell Bowl, which was Marshall's last game leading the Marauders.

Upon arrival in 2006, Ptaszek tweaked the offence to make it more about motion and misdirection. Knox also cultivated an attacking defence. That made for some memorable teams, and wins.
SFU, keep doing you.

Vancouver's entire economy illustrates that if the moneyed class wants something to be, they'll get it, whether that is the three-quarters empty condominium towers or the megabucks rolling in for the UBC Thunderbirds football team. Or, in this case, a school with zero hockey history wanting to bring NCAA Division I college hockey to the Left Coast, even though their closest competition would be in Alaska and Colorado.

Be that as it might, you might rupture your credulity when you hear the one reason  that former Vancouver Canucks VP Jon Festinger cited as evidence this would work:

One hurting element of St. Thomas calling it quits in men's hockey, of course, is that it takes some shine away from Atlantic University Sport's triumphal finish to the season.

The sport conference, after all, raised the bar for hosting the CIS University Cup and three of its men's hockey powers have something to show for the season, with UNB winning the national championship, Saint Mary's nabbing the nationals bronze, and St. Francis Xavier winning the conference championship. A conference, though, is like a chain: only as strong as its weakest link.

Perhaps less teams could mean more; St. Thomas being in CIS hockey, hate to say it, was a little like Eastern Michigan University playing major-college football when it's a five-minute drive away from the University of Michigan with their Big House. The Tommies averaged 3.5 conference wins over the last six seasons.

Some sad news that one might have feared was coming: the St. Thomas Tommies have folded men's hockey.

As reported by the Aquinian, the campus newspaper at the Fredericton, N.B., school will realize an annual savings to close to a quarter-million dollars, and the plan is that "athletic financial award commitments to a men’s hockey player will be honoured if the player continues his education at STU."

It always sucks when there is suddenly one fewer team in one of the major team sports, but times are tight, especially in Irving-land. One can feel the pain and know that, practically, a campus of 2,300 students that is two-thirds women would be in tough to sponsor a men's hockey program, especially with reigning CIS University Cup champion UNB next door. In fact, of the 11 universities across Canada that have a greater than 2-to-1 female-male ratio, only three are in CIS, the others being Brandon and Nipissing, which does have two hockey teams. That's extrapolated from a list published in Maclean's not too long ago.


BACK IN THE 613 — In the service of being honest and semi-unmerciful, it's best to find a fair comparable for the Final 8 men's basketball, as it was served up Vancouver style.

What is the best apples and apples match for the last weekend's men's basketball nationals, which was the first on the West Coast in 44 years and had an announced crowd of 4,415 for the Carleton Ravens-Calgary Dinos championship game?


VANCOUVER — Thomas Cooper averred he is coming back to the Calgary Dinos, and there probably will be a few more Americans following his lead to 'Canada Southwest.'

The runner-up Dinos' starting five in Sunday's CIS final against Carleton was a perfect reflection of the trend that as more Canadians go south to play, more players from outside Canada are coming north. Along with Cooper, a Chattanooga, Tenn., small forward who counted 76 points in three Final 8 games to earn an all-star nod, the Dinos ran with Australian fifth-year guard Josh Owen-Thomas and German forward Lars Schlueter.

All 17 Canada West men's teams included at least one non-Canadian this season. The trend is apparent in the women's game, too, where the Saskatchewan Huskies won the national title with Sabine Dukate, a Latvian, as a starting guard.

 Cooper, who previously played at Nebraska-Kearney, felt renewed playing in Canada, with the shorter 24-second clock.

"It's definitely fun, because you have to be in better shape, make quicker decisions, better plays," Cooper said. "All of those things, I'll definitely be back and I'll want another shot at it."

The move is somewhat a scaled version of what's happened in the NBA and NCAA.

"You can fight it or embrace it, and we've chosen to embrace it," Thompson Rivers coach Scott Clark told Krown Countdown U in January (19:00 mark).

It's also a necessity, since growth of post-secondary education in the two westernmost provinces has surpassed the pool of basketball talent. For instance, UBC and UVic long had British Columbia to themselves at the university level, but five Interior schools now play. Thompson Rivers, Trinity Western and Fraser Valley have all been tournament teams. Likewise, Alberta has gone from three to five since MacEwan and Mount Royal moved over from the college league.

"If we keep expanding and bringing other teams in, it narrows the recruiting base," Dinos coach Dan Vanhooren said. "Our populations aren't the same as Ontario or even Quebec."

With an extra season to play and only 24 seconds to take a shot, there's benefits to playing in Canada. The top competition is Division 1-calibre.

"It's been demonstrated many times, whether we play in the U.S. or they come up here, that our top 8-10 teams can compete with the NCAA teams," Vanhooren said.

Of course, a Division 1 team has a huge recruiting budget. Vanhooren was able to initiate contact with Cooper and Schlueter through former Dinos now working in the U.S. and Germany.

Ultimately, good to know how Canada West is trying to catch up. For anyone outside Canada West wondering, Calgary is the new normal. It's like Americans, Australians and Europeans are respecting the brand of b-ball here more than a lot of Canadians.



Alberta Golden BearsColey JacksonLas Vegas, NV
Brandon BobcatsDJ JordanWichita Falls, TX
Earl Thompson Jr.Henderson, NV
John PaulBexon, St. Lucia
UBC ThunderbirdsA.J. HollowayTacoma, WA
Phil JalalpoorShifferstadt, Germany
Dominic GilbertSydney, Australia
UBC-O HeatBrian AdembaNairobi, Kenya
Calgary DinosThomas CooperChattanooga, TN
Josh Owen-ThomasAdelaide, Australia
Lars SchlueterUlm, Germany
Fraser Valley CascadesNate BrownFresno, CA
Mark JohnsonPalm Springs, CA
Lethbridge PronghornsDejon BurdeauxOakland, CA
Carl HoffmanRancho Palos Verdes, CA
Brandon BrineAdelaide, Australia
MacEwan GriffinsThadius GalvezOgden, UT
Manitoba BisonsIlarion Bonhomme IIWashington, DC
Mount Royal CougarsGlen Yang*Hong Kong, China
UNBC TimberwolvesAustin ChandlerWenatchee, WA
Rhys ElliottAdelaide, Australia
Vaggelis LoukasAthens, Greece
Regina CougarsAlex IgualBarcelona, Spain
Rawane NdiayeNew York, NY
Zach MihaliczParker, CO
Saskatchewan HuskiesShawn LathanSan Diego, CA
TRU WolfPackMauricio MedranoLos Altos, CA
Gerald GoreSt. John's, Antigua
Volodymyr IegorovDonetsk, Ukraine
TWU SpartansKelvin SmithLos Angeles, CA
Pogos TrunyanSacramento, CA
Sebastien EliasenDenmark
Victoria VikesKai GreenSeattle, WA
Grant SittonBrush Prairie, WA
Winnipeg WesmenRyan OirbansMelbourne, Australia

California, not surprisingly given its population, had eight players in the league, followed by Australians and four from Washington state. I nine counties and seven U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. Mount Royal's Glen Yang did move to Canada while still in high school.

VANCOUVER — Pun time: Carleton gave a master class in Basketball 101.

The Carleton Ravens had their own Sweet 16, as in the number of three-point baskets they sank during their 101-79 CIS Final 8 championship-game win against the Calgary Dinos. It was a far cry off from the score in the previous championship game in Vancouver in 1972, when UBC defeated Windsor 117-84 without benefit of a shot clock or three-point line. Still, it's notable when a team does something that hasn't happened in the national final in 44 years.

It was a classic example of Carleton getting their players dialed in for the final challenge. Graduating guard Gavin Resch hit the first and was afforded open look after open look, making 6-of-12 triple tries for 18 points.

"I shot so poorly in the first two games that i figured my luck would have to even out eventually," said Resch, who was 4-of-15 on threes against Thompson Rivers and Dalhousie. "Once I hit the first I felt good and kept shooting."

With the Ravens setting tight ball screens, that Calgary never seemed to adjust to, the looks were wide-open. Four players tripled in the first 10 minutes. Tournament MVP Connor Wood (22, 5-of-12 from deep), centre and B.C. native Cam Smythe (2-of-4) and rookie T.J. Lall (2-of-2) all had multiple triples.

"They shot the ball well, and we didn't provide a whole lot of resistance," Calgary coach Dan Vanhooren said. "The game was going up and down, the style we played all year, We couldn't keep it in front of us, and they hit a lot of three-balls."

Calgary was 20-of-25 at the free-throw line to Carleton's 5-of-10. It still lost by 22. The Dinos shot an effective 45 per cent (19-of-38 twos, 7-of-28 threes). Carleton was an effective 59.3% (24-of-45, 16-of-36).

"We haven't had 16 threes shot against us all year," said Dinos star Thomas Cooper, who had a game-high 25 points but also was charged with nine turnovers.

The century points came when forward Ryan Ejim (12 points) tapped in a miss in the final minute. In past finals, Carleton has eased off the throttle in a semiconscious effort not hit triple digits.

The point was made to Smart that he can point out to Dave Smart that breaking 100 in a championship game occurred on his watch.

"That's a pretty good jab, I'll have to use that," the interim coach said.







VANCOUVER — Rob Smart declared that he is a one-time CIS championship-winning coach.

"He's back, he's back, there's a lot of family time for me, he's back right away," Smart coolly stated when asked about his uncle Dave Smart, who took a sabbatical from the sidelines this season.

There was speculation, of course, in August when Dave Smart availed himself of his right as an employee to have a personal leave. The 16-year head coach, who's also an assistant to Jay Triano with the senior men's national team, averred at the time that a break was essential to keeping roots in Ottawa with his spouse, Emily and two young sons, Theo and Gabriel.

It might also read like it was opportunity for Rob Smart to get his due by being the coach of record, for a season. Smart juggled the expanded role while he and his wife were having their third son, and while teaching in Carleton's Sprott School of Business.

"Rob's been fantastic this year," said Gavin Resch, the graduating guard who scored 18 points on Sunday against Calgary, making 6-of-12 triples. "The change of pace, it was good, because it made it feel like we could all stand to make adjustments, It was a really fun year. He's got a million things going on. He's a professor, his third child was born this year. It's just fantastic for him."

It would only be confirmation bias to suggest the change of messenger unlocked something for the Ravens as they went on to another CIS title, the sixth in a row and 12th in 14 seasons.

"It's tough to compare the two because they do things similar," said fourth-year guard Connor Wood, who was named tournament MVP after scoring 22 points on Sunday. "I really like the way Rob coaches. He really leads and really got us focused

"Rob will joke around a little more," Wood related.

Carleton did a good job of, to quote from Letterkenny, taking 20 per cent of the normal preseason expectations. There is no such thing as a no-pressure situation in that program, with the way the bar has been set and with the way that observers, even those who support the Ravens 100 per cent, look for any slivers of evidence that they are slipping from the perch.

There's just the outcome, that with the better-known Smart stepping away, there was a slightly different vibe, but the same result. Dave Smart stayed behind the scenes until the midway portion of the regular season, when Carleton lost thrice in a four-week span, with an 18-point loss at Ryerson sandwiched between both ends of a sweep by Ottawa. Against Ryerson and in the second Ottawa game, there were a lot desultory threes, instead of confidently flicked ones facilitated by a ball screen.

"Dave's really involved, he's involved with the mental side a lot," Rob Smart, 37, said. "He's helped our coaches with the mental side a lot. I got to be honest, I'm first-year, about halfway through I realized, 'I don't know how to win games, my team's playing differently. I really need to sit down with him.'

"As much as he drives me crazy, Dave knows how to win basketball games. As a first-year coach, his advice is unbelievably valuable.

"In the Ottawa games [both losses], our team looked mentally different," Smart added. "He just helped us with details,  little things that he's learned through hard losses, most of which I played in."

Resch and Guillaume Boucard, the fifth-years, are graduating. From the sound of it, Dave Smart will be refreshed when Carleton readies for 2016-17, with Wood and Kaza Kajami-Keane being the final-year players.



VANCOUVER — Carleton, according to the smart money, lower case, is an 11-point favorite against Calgary, which will be the crowd favourite.

They doubled that, and 'broke the board' at The Mitch with a 101-79 victory for Title XII and their sixth in succession. It is the first time in 44 seasons the season ended with a team hittin' a hundred, with only UBC's 117-84 victory against Windsor ranking as a higher point total.

Oddly enough, that was the previous time the tournament was out in Vancouver.

Carleton has won the last six finals by an average of 28.8 points. Ottawa, with the 12-point loss in '13, are the only team that has stayed within 18 of the Ravens in the final.

Comparison to the first 'peat? They had an average margin of 7.2 during the 2003 through '07 run in the Osvaldo Jeanty days.

No further explanation needed, time for a real-timey recap! Keep CTRL-R-ing and scrolling!

First quarter
  • At the first-quarter TV timeout, Gavin Resch has two triples and Connor Wood has had two clear looks, one that went, one that rattled out. Not a good portent for the Dinos.
  • Thomas Cooper registered with a drive, and a nice drop-down to David Kapinga for a back-cut layup.
  • Carleton goes right at Mitch Ligertwood to get two fouls on a spot on the bench for the 6-foot-7 Dinos forward.
  • It takes all of 6:01 of game time for Kapinga to get his second foul, as Resch draws a charge on a 2-on-1.
  • Now the 7-footer, Smythe, becomes the third Raven to triple, although Cooper answers. It's 19-9 at the two-thirds point of the quarter.
  • Calgary uses a timeout with 2;38 left in the quarter.
  • Jasdeep Gill hits an expiring-clock wing triple after Cooper smartly passes out of a contested shot. That comes between back-to-back Guillaume Boucard buckets.
  • GPB has eight, all deuces.
  • Without even checking the live stats, four Ravens tripled in the first 10 minutes. That includes T.J. Lall with two.
Second quarter!
  • In-game announcer fail: the trivia question was, "how many national championships has Carleton won?"

    Somehow, 11, the correct answer, was not an option. So, 5 + 1 + 5 = 12 in B.C. math. 
  • Carleton by 16, 90 seconds into the quarter.
  • Cooper triples, Wood misses a pair, but Cam Smythe hits one, to keep Carleton out front by 13 moving down to six in the half.
  • And, scene! Smythe sets a great up-top screen for Resch, but Calgary hedges, so Resch goes back to Smythe with about six seconds to shoot. Smythe puts it on the floor, then flicks back to Resch for the fifth-year's third triple this half.
  • Calgary gets into bonus 3:26 before the break.
  • On a that-was-way-easy ball screen set by Boucard, Resch triples for an 18-point Ravens lead.
  • Last minute, in transition with a six-second shoot-to-game differential, Wood flicks in a runner and gets fouled. Misses the back end of an and-one.
Sta-diddly-tistics
  • Carleton 54.5 per cent eFG (9-of-21 deuces, 10-of-23 threes), seven O-boards, only four turnovers. Ryan Ejim has three blocks and Boucard two.
  • The Ravens have 11 assists on 19 baskets, Calgary has five on their 10. So, yeah, this is basically a reprise of McGill against the Dinos, with Carleton having a better offence.
  • Calgary 36.4% eFG (6-of-19 deuces, 4-of-14 triples)
  • Resch's 12 is all on being 4-of-8 from downtown. 
  • Thomas Cooper has his game-high 14 on 13 shots, with a 3:3 assist/turnover ratio.
  • The Dinos who are not from Chattanooga are shooting an effective 30%.
Third quarter
  • Carleton hits half-a-hundred 34 seonds into the quarter, through Boucard, who gets into double figures.
  • Cooper splits free throws.
  • Kapinga has got to the cup twice for lefty layups in the first 100 seconds of the quarter. So Kaza Keane does one of his own, right, to get the lead out to 14. And everyone is happy!
  • Ejim  sits with his third foul, meaning Calgary will have some more ease getting to the rim. Mitchell Wood hits; 15-point lead.
  • Keane becomes the fifth Raven with a triple.
  • Reminder: next two nationals are in Halifax. 
  • Dallas Karch with a nice finish on a zippy Jhony Verrone pass; Dinos competing but after down 15.
  • It's been an even third quarter, thanks to a half-court shot at the buzzer.
  • How often does this happen: half-court buzzer shot goes for the basket ... and then there's a half court shot contest at the quarter break.
  • Mahony and Sons' servers need to learn to throw, but no one is complaining.
Fourth quarter
  • Ryan Ejim had eight in the third quarter.
  • Keane coming on strong, leaving Verrone breathing fumes.
  • Mitchell Wood just tore after his missed free throw and made it.
  • Keane gets his fourth foul with 6:45 remaining.
  • Kapinga, with two banked layups including an and-one, gets Calgary to within 14 for the first time since the opening minute of the third.
  • Resch hits his fifth triple at the midpoint of the fourth.
  • Ravens into bonus with 4:12 left, up 20. Boucard, with a double-double that includes 13 points and two tone-setting blocks in the opening minutes, might have played his way on to the all-star team in his last game.
  • Likely tournament MVP Connor Wood triples at the two-minute mark.  


VANCOUVER — The bronze medal is same old-same old for the Ryerson Rams, although the new exposure to a far-from-home Final 8 is new and needed.

Exposure is something far more vital in the clinical sense, but put toward this competitive endeavour, it means a group learning something new together that it needs its repertoire. The Rams reflect the basketball talent in Toronto, the generation who grew up never knowing the region not having a NBA team, and who had coaches to push them along. The Rams have that cluster effect, feeding to a football-free school with ideal basketball facilities.

They are as Toronto as a TTC shutdown during morning rush. Torontonians, though, sometimes forget how the rest of Canada lives. Travelling some 3,000 km to play nationals, point being, should do a lot for a group. The reality is that is Ryerson is going to deliver on the work Roy Rana started and one day win a CIS title, it will have to do it on the floor in Halifax or Ottawa, for instance.

"Bonding, and having the mentality of we're on the road and have to get this done, is going to help us learn how to get these wins," fourth-year guard Adika Peter-McNeilly said after Ryerson's 85-78 bronze-medal win against the Dalhousie Tigers on Sunday.

The Rams, who are bidding adieu to five-year guard Aaron Best, 6-foot-9 rim-protecting forward Kadeem Green, and backup guard Andy Agyepong, have a nice line of succession set up. Eleven players still have at least two years left, while McNeilly, 6-7 forward Juwon Grannum and 6-3 backup guard Derrick Allahyarian are on track to the trio of fifth-year seniors.

"Coming out to B.C., this weekend was great for the guys," said Ryerson interim coach Patrick Tatham, who also touched on the Rams' coaching question.

"I feel like I am five years ahead of my time right now, It's great, I am a student of the game just like the guys and hopefully, if the future's bright, I take over my own program. If not, I'm content to be an assistant to Roy."

Against Dalhouise, Ryerson started springy 6-foot-6 guard Filip Vujadinvoc, and relied on the fellow third-year guard, 6-8 Jean-Victor Mukama, to pick up extra work. A third third-year who's in line for a lead role, 6-8 forward Adam Voll, played through a form of pneumonia and big-manned his way to nine points, eight rebounds and three assists over 16 minutes.

"I was smiling on the inside," said Tatham, who played inside in his career. "We've been waiting to see that from Adam."

(Brief digression: the way to get much out of a Final 8, not that the quick hit-hungry, churn-and-spitters poking for a fiery quote in order to tell they story they cannot tell, is to spin a team's result into a larger narrative. That kind of comes back to three cliché sports tropes that are showing their age.

  • The idea that a one-off, a best-of-one result wrecks a whole season. Perhaps so for, say, the 1978 Boston Red Sox it did.  It is just generational, being more rational, so it would seem.

    "I don't think the guys have anything to be disappointed about," was how Tatham summed up the Calgary game on Saturday. "Yes, it was close game, Yes – we played from behind and played in a hole. Give it up to Calgary – twelve threes to our six, and they won by 11 points.

    "We made some history at the school and the success is still high."

    Bam, there's your explanation.
  • Hoping for teary losers. Millennial athletes are often stereotyped for having less passion than their Old White Man Says-genre predecessors. That's a misdiagnosis. On reflection, it's more about having grown up in a more connected world that gets smaller each day, and remembering there was a reason, even if they never heard the expression, that sports is 'toy department.'

    Indeed, Best was disappointed to lose. As a person born in the 1990s, ballers of his vintage are more attuned to always having another game.

    "There are positives in everything," Best said. "I am sure we'll pull some positives from it."

    Motivation for Sunday was easy to find.

    "Most of the guys were pretty down and everyone deals with it in his own way," Peter-McNeilly related. "I took a long shower after back at the hotel. Then we just realized we did not come all this way to come back with no medal."
  • Also, it takes the focus away from Carleton and shows what teams are doing to try to reach Carleton. So, win-win-win.
And we're back to Ryerson, and its need to keep broadening its horizons. The 2017 and '18 Final 8 tourneys are each in Halifax.)

Now, the doubled-edged part about being the team most bequeathed the overflow of Toronto talent that does not go D1 or juco, in a basketball world without borders, is that they can stay in their bubble. There is a huge convenience factor for southern Ontario teams in OUA, but it loses value at the Final 8.

Carleton and Ottawa, for instance, went to a preseason tournament at UBC. Ryerson, and perhaps this is budgetary, only left Ontario twice all season. The first was using their open weekend, a great innovation in OUA, to go all the way to Buffalo, N.Y., for a game against D1 Canisius. Their next outta-Ontario was the Harvard game in Boston in January.

So, two outta-Ontario games, albeit in Roy Rana's sabbatical season. The women's basketball Rams, the CIS silver medalist, had a B.C. tournament trip in October among five outta-Ontario games.

Of course, to get to do that, to attract that commitment to travel more, a school has to win. So a second Final 8 medal ought to help.

Ryerson's January and February got loaded with home games, and they lost at Guelph and needed a last-seconds triple to defeat Queen's by two. One could kind of see the levers turning on Wilson Cup weekend. The Rams had a great energy, and having a banner mattered to them. The combo of the win against Carleton, while UBC was losing in the Canada West semis, was good in the short run. It meant a more pressure-packed quarter-final.

"It was great to see," Tatham said on Sunday. "JV [Mukama] hitting big shots, guys getting tough rebounds, making championship plays."

In the here and now, the trip was daunting for a group that had never travelled for Final 8. If a team gives itself enough chances, though, it will get used to it and break through.
(Editor's note: In the interest of sustaining conversation, the plan for the three hockey and hoops nationals threads that I am off-site for is to have some belated Wishful Thinking Wednesday posts that pertain to each championship. Below that will be an open thread with results and whatnot.) 

The Super Championship weekend, let's get this inked in right off the hop, is a winner for CIS.

And, and I swear this occurred to me before the St. Thomas Tommies -- shunted to the No. 8 seed so the Calgary Hayley's Comet Has Gones could play the prime-time Friday quarter-final, lost to No. 1 Guelph.

Why not try to have the women's hockey and hoops championships  as close together as possible, and aim to have the men's basketball Final 8 and men's hockey University Cups in cities that are safe driving distance, for the diehards or alumni that might have a school make both?

The SCW is a great idea; this Shelbyville Idea is a next step. The regionalists will howl, but everyone will get a turn, and this gets out in front of the coming day when some of these tournaments are going to get too extensive for one school to bid. In fact, that day is already here?

The SCW should not be walked back. You need to be seen, and as it stands, wall-to-walling it with the eight semifinals and four finals in hockey and hoops makes sense.

What of having an atmosphere? 'Having a national conversation about CIS, it might make sense to somewhat tether these tentpole tournaments.


Championship Sunday UNB 3 St. Francis Xavier 1

Two goals in 17 seconds in the mid-second put the Varsity Reds on the path, with Randy Gazzola, the St. Catharines, Ont., native who helped Val-d'Or come one goal from the 2014 Memorial Cup, chipping in an assist from his D spot.

Looks like this was the usual muck-a-thon that prevails late in the season, that hockey types will tell you is tense and great and you can't get it since You Never Played The Game. This contest had 83 faceoffs, one each 43.37 seconds. So, it was a lot of souvenir pucks, and a lot of tedium.

Gazzola, like the X-Men, has played some triple overtime. He was in that record-OT semifinal at the 2014 Cup that the Ottawa Senators' Curtis Lazar ended in the third extra session, sending Edmonton to the final where it beasted the Guelph Storm and Robby Fabbri.

Bronze-medal gameSaint Mary's 5, Saskatchewan 2

Calder Brooks (Calgary/P.A./Spokane, WHL) has two goals, and he is from Emerald Park, Sask., so sick burn on his home province. Good finish for Saint Mary's, going with the bronzes in women's basketball and women's hockey. If only they could be third in AUS in football!


VANCOUVER — Everyone 4,300 km away in the capital — whom given the state of CIS coverage, probably only saw a tweet of the score and a 'chain story' from a writer who had never seen them until Thursday — will have a theory about what went wrong for the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Which is fine and dandy, at a time where having a very finite of people who can get paid to ask the questions has begat endless opining. The Gee-Gees' denouement was definitely a 'Define Irony.' Once the results were in, it felt like the James Derouin gang, still the foils to Carleton, might have started to fray on Jan. 16 when CIS defensive player of the year Caleb Agada incurred a high ankle sprain while closing out the Ravens on the road after eventual player of the year Michael L'Africain had made the decider for the two-point win.

They pulled off their first Capital Hoops Classic win in February minus Agada in front of 10,105 fans at Canadian Tire Centre. Once everyone got back, though, they never smoothed everything over and peaked in March.

"I think the biggest thing that hurt us was Caleb's injury, and I am not saying that Caleb didn't come back well," said forward Vikas Gill, one of the outgoing fifth-year tri-captains along with L'African and defensive specialist Mehdi Tihani.

"Last year, it happened too when Mike was injured. We kind of hit the 'stall point.' When you play without someone such as Mike or Caleb, you step your game up. Everyone has to be better. Everyone has to do this. Everyone has to do that. You kind of relax — 'we have Caleb back, the best rebounder, the best defender.' The thing there is that if we keep that mentality of they're missing, we would have kept peaking. We relaxed.

"The same thing happened last season with Windsor. We beat Windsor without Mike, then played them in the OUA Final Four and we lost. Injuries are part of basketball; we're really good when a player gets injured, but not good when they get back."

Superficially, the Gees' stretch-four shuffle from Gill to Matt Plunkett on their first and second units seemed like a play to give more run to Plunkett, who might be the country's best pure shooter. In truth, the 23-year-old Gill, was limited by the back and knee issues. Basketball takes a toll on tall men's joints and fascia, you know.

"I was overtraining," said Gill, a Stittsville, Ont., native. "It took its toll."

In the four-point quarter-final loss against Dalhousie, L'Africain played the second half with a badly bruised knee. Everyone has injuries, but a healthier guard creates a possible five-point swing, no?

"It happened in the first quarter," L'Africain said after sitting out the consolation games. "I would have sucked it up for the semifinal."

A hollow finish doesn't hollow out a five-year contributor's legacy, really. Or the takeaway that Ottawa has figured out that to win, you need a balanced strength from having a group that is together 10-11 months a year, like Carleton.

"We showed here that it's cool to play for each other, cool to work hard," L'Africain added. "Not just swag out and go through the motions. Not everyone, but some guys before us did that, and it happens in other programs. We sacrificed our summers, especially Mehdi and Vik, who didn't get the same recognition as some of us. Their sacrifice speaks volumes to everyone else."

That last part touches on one of Carleton's hidden factors, that their players mostly stay together in the off-season. It's surprising that this isn't de rigeur in CIS, since Carleton has done it for years and even the anti-athlete NCAA allows summer job programs.

"I came the August I was recruited and never left," L'Africain related. "Not a lot of teams do it. It makes a difference, man. I've been in Ottawa 10 months a year, or more. It's a difference. It's why we always get off to a hard start. Everyone's together, the whole family."

Sixth place at nationals is a step back, but it's only transitory. Basketball, year over year, is not like auto racing with a race for the overall points lead. Now, it is impressive to see the Wall of Champions in the hall of the Ravens' Nest at Carleton. That is another irony, since if the people who created and sustained the dynasty listened to the 'X championships in Y years' talk (better use letters in case this piece needs to be written again in '17, '18 and '19), Carleton would lose their edge.

For the Gees, it's not that they lost, it's about matching the edge.

"Of course we wanted to finish our careers with a gold medal," Tihani said. "That was our last goal as a team after five years. It's not about the end, it's about what we did over four or five years that we were together. We made a lot of history, and that's the positive side."

Four consecutive Final 8 trips, with the 2013 bronze and '14-15 silvers. Their court CV also includes four wins against Carleton, including one in the 2014 OUA Wilson Cup. That stems from the departing trio and the '15 fifth-years, guard Johnny Berhanemeskel and forward Gabriel (Gab) Gonthier-Dubue.

"When I came I originally told Coach Jimmy, championship or not, we wanted to leave the program better than we left it," Gill said of when he arrived in 2011-12, Derouin's second season. "I feel like I contributed to that, so did Mike, so did Mehdi, Gab and Johnny. Next year I look at the roster and I'm excited – I think they're going to win."

There are tinges of Carleton in that — just reload, and treat every season as if it is a rebuild. That also quells fretting about whether the Gees are geeked out by being the 'second team' in Ottawa, where the casual sports follower is just inured to Carleton winning.

Two hilarious personal examples of that.

  • The Grantland article about Carleton on March 3, 2014, which was very well-done, was of course getting posted all over my Facebook feed, since I live in Ottawa and know a lot of people who do follow CIS. Almost none, though, seemed to know that a couple nights earlier, Ottawa had actually shaded Carleton 78-77 in the Wilson Cup when Berhanemeskel hit a last-second winner.
  • Last week outside Mick E Fynn's, the pub which is on the other side of Carlton St. in Toronto from Mattamy Athletic Centre. Falling into conversation with an acquaintance, a blind goal ball player who was in the area to play in a national blind hockey tournament. His guide, upon mention of the basketball, said, "I hear Carleton's not that good anymore."

    "They have won it all the last five years."

    "But their other teams were stronger."

    Notwithstanding that Carleton doesn't think that way, the point was the obvious. The Ravens only get compared to predecessors, and to the less than half aware, there isn't even a second place in CIS.

That would stoke the fear that the Gee-Gees' impact might disappear into the ether. It's worth pointing out that five years ago, when the novelty was wearing off Capital Hoops, the Gee-Gees started to improve, with crowds going past 10,000 in back-to-back years for the first time in the event's 10-year history.

That is a legacy in a sports that does charge admission.

"We got better over the years, and people started noticing," said Tihani, a Gloucester, Ont., native. "Moving up to this year and last year those crowds were much stronger."

At that point in 2012 when the Gee-Gees lost Capital Hoops by 40 points, one could be a little lachrymose about Carleton's competition, so-called. They went unbeaten in 2011-12, with Phil Scrubb was working on his first Moser Award as a 19-year-old second-year, and Tyson Hinz was in his third season. A past CIS rookie of the year Clinton Springer-Williams Jr. was sitting out as a transfer, too.

"It allowed other teams to see us compete and it opened some eyes across the country," Derouin said. "For a while it didn't look like they [Carleton] were ever going to lose."

Tough to prove, but Ottawa's example and a commensurate surge in the depth of talent in Ottawa have gone hand-in-hand to OUA's growth. It generally has four teams that are good enough to get an auto or the at-large berth, and there's another four teams who could tear up a tournament ticket like Steph Barrie's Queen's Gaels nearly did to Ottawa in the OUA quarter-final.

Those takeaways can be pulled into a larger point. There is more out there for CIS basketball, much more, than Carleton. It is understandable that one school having X championships in Y seasons (writing it that way in order to have this again in '17, '18 and '19, ha-ha) might glaze over some eyes.

Ottawa just has to figure out how to win the Final 8. That, and/or hope someone picks off Carleton in an OUA quarter-final.

As far as 2016-17, Ottawa has 6-foot-8 forward Jean-Pierre Emmanuel-Charles, a former Carleton contributor, coming in as a transfer. Their retention includes their Nathan McCarthy/Brody Maracle platoon. Plunkett, who hit 15 triples in the tournament, will work in at the 3 and 4-forward spots. Agada will be the fulcrum and a Player of the Year candidate. Calvin Epistola is pencilled in at point guard, although he will only be a second-year.

"The identity around Mike is probably going to be the biggest vacuum," Derouin said. "We ran stuff through Mike."

They can never totally replace Carleton, but Gill's last word shows there is a commitment to copying it. He said there was a sense of that when Derouin brought in a seven-player recruiting class in 2012-13. They were rising up to what Ottawa also had, in a different form, during the best days with David DeAviero in the previous decade.

"The second year, I remembering immediately seeing that with Caleb and Matt Plunkett, we were going to have a lot of talent," Gill recalled. "And it was not just talent but hard workers, guys who might have slightly less talent but are hard workers. They brought that great work ethic you need."

One of the years, if not next year, it will be enough.
VANCOUVER — In a real sports country with an elaborate media culture built to get casual fans to care about real student-athletes, Calgary Dinos vs. Carleton Ravens would be a dream matchup.

Instead, and this is a two-way go, it could be like that gift that took you by surprise at first. No doubt there was a priming for the CIS Final 8 to come down to Carleton and the Ryerson Rams in a rematch of the OUA Wilson Cup. Rivals who have a lot of interrelated traits, one reflecting The 613's flinty toughness and the other embodying the hunger and hoops talent bubbling up in The Six.

Instead, the 'settle' is Thomas Cooper , who's found roundball renewal as a 25-a-night scorer leading the Dinos, against Carleton in the one game that the Ravens plan to win. Carleton has that juggernaut mystique, and a victory would give it a six-peat, one away from Ken Shields' 1980-86 Victoria Vikes.

Carleton, in character is not so much in recruiting footprint, is as eastern Ontario as cheese curds. The United Nations of Southern Alberta has a top scorer from Chattanooga, an Australian two, a German four, and David Kapinga as their hometown point guard.

Drama!

"First team I heard about — first team I heard about," said Cooper, that incandescent itinerant whose one-on-one game is as mellifluous as his American South accent. "They are a good program. They have won numerous championships in the past years.

"We have to treat it like it's another team," emphasized Cooper, who took two years off from basketball before joining Calgary and leading Canada West with 25.7 a game, 6.4 more than any other scorer. "No one even expected us to win today [Saturday against Ryerson]."

Cooper had the 30 points with 11 rebounds against Ryerson, but there are red flags in his line. He finished with a 47.9 per cent effective shooting (10-of-24, three triples) and 1:5 assist/turnover ratio. That was against Ryerson, which counts on length and quickness to defend the wing. Carleton is all about percentage-playing, making the drive inveigling and then springing a trap. Or forcing a shooter to put it up from a couple feet farther than he's accustomed.

A common trend at a basketball Final 8 is that teams can build strategies to stop the player of the year or big-time scorer who blew in with hype, such as it is, by default. They don't often leave with that piece of net cord tucked into the hat passed out to winning players.

"He's a walking event for us," Dinos coach Dan Vanhooren said. "All of the other guys get to respond to that and it often brings a positive outcome for us."

Through 80 minutes against McGill and Ryerson, though, Dinos point guard David Kapinga has been more of a revelation, and more integral to Calgary's success.

A point guard that can beat the up-top pressure can help a team ask questions of Carleton that Carleton has not been asked, especially if the wings are hitting the way Calgary forward Jasdeep Gill did with his off-bench 23 on 84.6% eFG. The teams that have each beaten Carleton twice since January, Ottawa with Michael L'Africain and Ryerson with Manny Diressa, each had that element.

Kapinga went for 26 points/69.2% eFG against Ryerson and drew 14 free throws, with a 6:2:4 assists/steals/turnover line. He did stuff to Ryerson that Ryerson hadn't been asked very often.
"Kapinga just made championship plays, something we haven't seen all year," Rams coach Patrick Tatham pointed out late Saturday night. He beat us off the bounce – something we have not seen all year. It was like Ryerson against Ryerson."

Kapinga also had four fouls against the Rams, and Carleton will try to foul him out, like it has sometimes done to defensive player of the year Caleb Agada. That's taking a kid's best toy and breaking it, with no hard feelings. Kapinga is the fulcrum of these Dinos as much as Cooper, but will have to keep being dogged and disciplined, a tough check-and-balance.

"Kapinga's pulling it along at the right time," Cooper noted. "He's getting it together as the games get bigger. He's hard to get in front of and he's really a hassle on defence. His playing confidently really helps us right now."

Vanhooren will try about anything, knowing that's how the tournament goes. His favorite/most frequent five, player usage-wise, is Kapinga; Cooper; Australian fifth-year Josh Owen Thomas; forward Lars Schlueter; forward Matt Letkeman. The next two 'favorite fives' reflect the rotational contributors: Jhony Verrone, 6-6 big Dallas Karch and rookie guard Torrez McKoy.

Aside: Jhony, Dallas, Torrez? These are great names! Speaking of great basketball names ...

Against Ryerson, Vanhooren turned to Jasdeep Gill, who averaged 13.5 minutes. Gill had a 51.8% eFG in conference play, including 34% on triples. The forward got 23 over 25 minutes on 9-of-13 overall and 4-of-7 on triples, for 84.6% eFG.

"I wasn't a shooter when I was younger, but you have to expand your game at the university level," Gill said. "The groove just started and my teammates supported me."

'Fly by it a little bit'

Point being, while Carleton tries to filter out the randomness inherent in a game where good shots rattle out and bad shots catch rim and count, Vanhooren will play the wild card.

"My inconsistency with my substitution pattern is geared to every guy feeling like he can have a chance," Vanhooren said. "Whether it's Jazzy, Dallas or Torrez, someone has helped us.

"If they're playing well, I will run with them a bit longer. You got to fly by it a little bit.

Those are all X factors for Calgary, which at this level, has had some awesome athleticism, going back to the high-bounding Bekkering boys, Ross and Henry, in the late aughties. Those teams were a treat to have in Ottawa the first the nationals were there.

That brings it to a theme for each team. In a 4-on-4 game on some outdoor court in July, neither this Calgary nor this Carleton might do much against their respective predecessors. They each have a good opportunity, coming up in about 5½ hours on the Sportsnet 360.

Raise a toast to Lisa Thomaidis, who will head to Rio 2016 this summer with both the CIS championship and the FIBA Americas gold medal.

Perhaps the Saskatchewan Huskies, with Thomaidis tweaking a team with nine flatlanders including the homegrown fifth-years Laura Dally, Dalyce Emmerson and Kelsey Trulsrud, plus Coaldale, Alta.'s Taya Keujer as a fifth-year cog, will even get shouted out in the Ledge for winning it all. That didn't happen in 2010 when the men's basketball team won the CIS title.

From here, it looks as if Saskatchewan's iron-woman five wore down speedy Ryerson, with Dally getting an efficient 25, Emmerson and Trulsrud producing matching 14/12 double-doubles, and the Latvian lead  guard, Sabine Dukate, having 22 points and a 7:3:4 assists/steals/turnovers ratio. Ryerson wound up with Keneca Pingue-Giles having to put up 28 shots to get her 26.

Saint Mary's won the bronze, with McGill getting the unofficial antique bronze in the touranment where the chalk picks all played for the medals.

VANCOUVER — Rob Smart would be the least affected if this turns out to be a one-shot deal.

Whether his uncle returns at 'C1' at the Ravens' Nest or Dave Smart moves onward and upward after coaching for Canada during its bid for a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the younger Smart wouldn not change. Also, regardless of who cuts down the nets after Sunday's CIS Final 8 game between the Ravens who were supposed to be rebuilding or a new challenger, one-on-one scorer extraordinaire Thomas Cooper and the Calgary Dinos, the mental framework will be the same inside the Ravens' Nest in about a week. It will be on to 2016-17.

Go figure that a team from Ottawa would know how to snow-job the lot of outside-looking-inner types. You can hear the hot takes flying off the 140-character grill: what does it say that Carleton could win the title after Dave Smart stepped out and Phil Scrubb and Thomas Scrubb, who were each a human trump card at each end of the floor?


VANCOUVER — Leave it to the football commentator to have the correct spot!

It might be the most uniquely Canada In The 21st Century set of finals. Eight teams, seven provinces, each official languages, and the X factors in making this happen where a Calgary baller named Jasdeep Gill and a UBC puck-chaser with the handle off Haneet Parhar.

Channeling 2016 Gord Miller, if he was doing the work of 1994 Gord Miller: does it get any more Canadian than this?

Pushing past the creeping Carleton net-cutting to come in the last final of the day, Championship Sunday offers a rarity. When the women's hockey Gryphons and men's basketball Rams fell on Saturday night, none of the four national finals will include a No. 1 seed.

Talk about a talking point that shows the depth of good teams in the country. That's the positive light to put it in. It should be leavened by pointing out that this is an off-shoot, as well, of having a very empirical, linear criteria to decide the tournament seeding. Even that is a good thing, since it should be a prompt for the observers to really focus on the matchups.

Anyway, here is what we have today:

  • Women's basketball: (4) Ryerson vs. (2) Saskatchewan, in progress, SN360 — Central Canada finesse against Prairie functional strength. Carly Clarke against Lisa Thomaidis in the coaching matchup; always great when the women's basketball final involves a pair of head coaches who are women.
  • Women's hockey: (4) UBC vs. (2) Montréal, 2:30 ET, SN360 — The West Coast first-timers, by the margin of the Haneet Parhar decider in the eighth round of the shootout, ousted No. 1 Guelph. Their reward is a matchup against Les Bleus, who have been in this situation previously.
  • Men's hockey: (5) UNB vs. (3) St. Francis Xavier, 5:30 ET, SN360/TVA2 — An all-Maritimes matchup that reprises the AUS  final where the chaser, Brad Peddle's X-Men sweep Gardiner MacDougall's Varsity Reds to get the higher seeding. It arguably worked out that the V-Reds sliding to 5 helped, since they played the second-best OUA team, then Saint Mary's took care of Trois-Rivières.
  • Men's basketball: (4) Calgary vs. (2) Carleton, 8:30 ET, SN360 — Dinos reserve Jasdeep Gill pouring in 24 points off the bench in the semifinal was a microcosm of U of C coach Dan Vanhooren being willing to fly by the seat of his pants with a hot hand. Carleton is Carleton; the dynasty doesn't die, it just regenerates with new cogs.
That is wild. Should go create a spreadsheet to see if there was ever that much diversity, in terms of where the teams hail from, in the finals. Ontario, of course, is the only province with more than one school going for gold, but Carleton is in Eastern Ontario and Ryerson is Southern Ontario, which are two very different corners of the country.

Men's basketball had the B.C. Interior involved with that splash of Thompson Rivers orange, too. This is a good reminder there is a lot of good out there, even when CIS sometimes seems like a logistical impossibility: trying to create a fabric out of 56 schools spread about 6,000 km apart, and on budget.

Based on this, the law of averages would dictate some CIS gold and silver is lurking for Brandon, Manitoba, Memorial, UPEI or Winnipeg.
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