Well, it's about time a French-language school in Québec started a women's hockey program ... it's a niche that needed to be filled.

The Université de Montréal, with former national team coach Daniele Sauvageau and ex-player France St-Louis, is going to begin CIS play in 2009-10. It means a possible way, in the long run, to address the, uh, competitive balance issues in the Québec women's league, which McGill is dominating.

Obviously, language isn't the only issue in choosing an academic program and a team, but this has potential. It's worth noting that two top scorers on the only other francophone team, Moncton, Valérie Boisclair and Mariève Provost, are both Quebecers. So there's a fair bit of talent there.

University of Montreal launches Quebec's first francophone women's hockey team (The Canadian Press)
The Waterloo Warriors have put an end to a great running joke by seeking to have their own football field.

UW students used to refer to rival Laurier as the "high school down the street," to which Laurier students would retort, "So why do you have to play at our football stadum?"

Point being, Waterloo coach Dennis McPhee and the admins probably feel a change of scenery could help improve the program's image. Imagine being a player and having to bus over to play at the other school's stadium. It also looks bad, to an observer, when you read game reports for Waterloo's home game and see the attendance reported at 800 fans, knowing that on the previous Saturday, Laurier had 4,000-5,000 people out to the same stadium.

Plans are preliminary, but Waterloo is talking an intimate setting, with capacity for 1,500 fans. It's a chance for Waterloo to create a unique setting for CIS football, so wish them well.

UW ditches stadium for its own digs (Christine Rivet, K-W Record)

No. 2 Alberta at No. 4 Saskatchewan this weekend is the big showdown in CIS hockey; however, they'll be hard-pressed to match the ol' how's she' goin' that Queen's centre Brady Olsen pulled en route to scoring a shortie against rival RMC last week. In RMC's defence, they apparently had a forward, Roman Srutek, playing point on the power play, and you know what can happen in those situations.

At least Srutek, a Kanata, Ont., native, tried to make a play while defending against a short-handed rush, unlike a fellow Kanatan against the Sabres in the Stanley Cup playoffs two years ago.

Tyler King from CFRC Sports not only provided the link, but that's him on the play-by-play. He does weddings, too.

Atlantic University Sport executive director Phil Currie and Alexander Keith's Customer Marketing Manager Bill Scollard announced an expanded partnership today at meetings of the region's university athletic directors in Halifax. Beginning in February, special 8-pack cases of Keith's cans will include a selection of AUS collector cans that celebrate and promote Atlantic University Sport and its championships. Two million collector cans will be distributed across Atlantic Canada over two phases in 2008.
— AUS release
The CIS Blog also supports free samples for media representatives.
The emergence of a blog culture among CIS followers might, lord willing, might force the national assocation and the conferences -- actually, one conference in particularly -- to update its record-keeping.

Our man Mr. Mirtle has a story at globesports.com that touches on the CIS' inability to verify when Saskatchewan Huskies hoops star Andrew Spagrud will break the national men's basketball scoring record.

In the same vein, Greg Layson from the Guelph Mercury has been very vocal on his blog about inaccurate and incorrect statistics impairing his ability to do his job professionally. CFRC Sports, which is dedicated to covering Queen's teams, is also starting to beat the drum, pointing out that between the CIS and OUA websites, there are basically two sets of statistics for each team. Basically, anyone who cares enough about university sports to write about it has griped about it at some point, if not publicly.

So, memo to the people in charge, wake up! You're essentially cutting a hole in your own pocket by ticking off the people who are passionate about your league and by not making better use of your website. Go spend some time over at U.S. College Hockey Online or D3hoops.com and see how it should be done.

The current cisport.ca was a fine website in 1996, but in 2008 it looks dated. Considering that websites are becoming big moneymakers for NCAA schools, it's curious why there is no apparent move to address this.
The value of cishoops.ca launching a weekly media poll is borne out in the second half of the duelling Top 10s.

The U of T Varsity Blues, who are bit of an upstart team, swap spots with a more traditional power, UBC, in the 5-7 slots. The writers and TV guys also bumped Windsor and Cape Breton up up a slot, while giving more credence to Laval, which is playing the best basketball in the Quebec conference.

For the record, here's the media and coaches' polls, side by side:
  1. Carleton / Carleton
  2. Brandon / Brandon
  3. Calgary / Calgary
  4. Acadia / Acadia
  5. Toronto / UBC
  6. Ottawa / Ottawa
  7. UBC / Toronto
  8. Cape Breton / Brock
  9. Windsor / Cape Breton
  10. Laval / Windsor

Also receiving votes in the media poll: Brock (49), Alberta (27), UVic (15), St. FX (7), Concordia (7) and Saskatchewan (1).

Also receiving votes in the coaches' poll: Laval (62), Concordia (53), Alberta (15), Western (5), Guelph (4)

The media only ranks 12 teams, while the coaches rank 15, which explains the disparity in support for Concordia.

Again, a hat tip to Mark Wayck, Wayne Kondro of the Ottawa Citizen and Neil Foshay from St. FX for pulling this together.

Mark Wacyk, with yeoman's work from professor Dr. Neil Foshay at St Francis Xavier and the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Kondro, among others, is launching a weekly cishoops.ca Top 10 that will be voted on by the media ... it's about time.

Needless to say, it will be worth looking to see how much variance there is between our poll (full disclosure: I do have a vote) and the NABCC poll that the CIS publishes each week. It should look different, but if it looks too different from how the coaches voted, will it be given credence?

What's up for the top teams (cishoops.ca and RPI rankings in brackets), updated after Saturday's games:

  1. Carleton (1, 1): Knowing Dave Smart's style, he'd say the 70-66 win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the Capital Hoops Classic was the next-best thing to a loss. The Ravens, now 15-0 in the OUA, evidently got exposed, but there's no exposure like the exposure that comes with a loss.

    The need for a night off from sports meant passing on the game, but as was the case back in the day, the Ernestown Eagles didn't need much help from a one-time backup-to-the-backup named Sager. Former Eagles Aaron Doornekamp (20 for the Ravens) and Donnie Gibson (19 for the Gee-Gees) were the game's top scorers. Stu Turnbull, whose dad Tom coached at the school for many years, was player of the game.

    Ryan Bell had 21 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting Friday in Carleton's 71-58 over Queen's. That's one of the closer contests between the Golden Gaels and Ravens in the past few years.
  2. Acadia (2, 12): Sunday's 92-63 thrashing of St. FX on Sunday is probably enough to keep the Axemen at No. 2 in the coaches' poll.
  3. Brandon (3, 4): No problems for BU, who got by Manitoba by double-digit margins in both games this weekend.
  4. Calgary (4, 2): Is it true that people who appreciate low-post scoring start salivating when they hear the words "Henry Bekkering?" Hank The Tank had 72 points, 18 rebounds over a weekend sweep of Fraser Valley and Thompson Rivers.
  5. Ottawa (7, 7): A close loss to Carleton on Saturday probably won't hurt the Gee-Gees' ranking terribly, although they will have a quick turnaround to play at Queen's on Tuesday. The Golden Gaels won in Ottawa last season.
  6. UBC (9, 8): The T-Birds got through a weekend series with Trinity Western were 112 fouls were called. A good inter-division matchup vs. Alberta awaits next Friday.
  7. U of T (6, 5): The real action for the Varsity Blues comes next weekend: Carleton on Friday, Ottawa on Saturday. York deserves a mention for playing the Blues tough in a 70-64 loss.
  8. Concordia (NR, 19): Now who's naive -- those who kept the Stingers in the top 10, or the gomer who thought he'd look prescient for calling a UQAM win? The Citadins won in a 96-75 blowout (17 points from sharpshooter Mario Joseph), meaning the Stingers will probably fall out of the top 10. There's still time left for them, however.

    Former Saskatchewan guard Levi Vann had 22 points in 28 minutes in Friday's 77-64 win over Bishop's.
  9. Brock (NR, 15): The Badgers head into their McMaster/Windsor road weekend on a high after a 96-70 rout of Guelph. They shot an absurd 36 free throws vs. the Gryphons and even more absurd, made 33. Mike Kemp scored 24 points on just 11 shots from the field.
  10. Cape Breton (5, 9): 66-53 over Acadia, what's the cliche? Chalk it up to a character win for the Capers.
  11. Windsor (8, 10): By process of elimination, the Lancers, who swept Lakehead will be back in the Top 10 in the coaches' poll. Point guard Ryan Steer was two steals shy of a triple-double on Friday.
  12. Alberta (10, 3): The Golden Bears got a split of a two-game series in Saskatchewan, which was enough to lock up second spot in the division. The Huskies will rue having star Andrew Spagrud miss six free throws in Friday's 79-75 loss.
  13. Laval (AC, 17): Big man J.P. Morin had a 34-point, 15-rebound night in Saturday's win over McGilll as the Rouge et Or opened a three-game lead over Concordia in the Quebec conference. Point guard Xavier Baribeau, never left the floor in either game all weekend.
  14. Guelph (NR, 14): The Gryphons might have to concern themselves more about staying ahead of Western for third in the OUA West than catching second-place Brock after Saturday's spanking in St. Catharines. They're a youngish team; maybe Guelph just needs time to mature.
  15. Saint Mary's (NR, 13): The Huskies lost 76-75 to St. FX, their second defeat against the X-Men in less than two weeks, but you haven't heard the last of them.

Teams in the top 15 in RPI who didn't get much support in the poll are St. Francis Xavier (sixth) and Victoria (11th). Mark Wacyk has the X-Men as an "also considered" team.

A couple other games to keep an eye on...

Western 84, McMaster 66:
The Mustangs' experience, plus a 25-point night from Brad Smith, was the first step in getting them to 8-7 in the OUA West. No one will want to face the Mustangs in the playoffs; they might even have an outside shot at winning the conference.

There was a nice feature in Saturday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Queen's professor Dr. Joan Stevenson, who was the first coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers women's basketball program in the early '70s.
"...the arrival of Title IX as federal law in 1972 opened the door for women's sports in ways that seemed unimaginable when Stevenson coached the Gophers with no assistants, no recruiting and barely any money.

" 'I drove the bus,' she said. 'Literally.' "
It goes without saying that today's players owe a debt. Stevenson, who's in U of T's Hall of Fame as a basketball player, also coached at York and at Lakehead during the days of the old GPAC in the '70s, when the Thunder Bay school were part of a fierce rivalry between the three Manitoba universities.

At the same time, there's still progress to be made with media coverage of women's hoops on both sides of the border, as Dave Zirin points out.
Our own James Mirtle's eponymous hockey blog is in the final round of the Canadian Blog Awards for best sports blog, so go and vote for him if you're so inclined.

Don't let the corporate site win!
Darryl Boyce was recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday to fill the roster spot left open when left-winger Alexei Ponikarovsky hurt his right shoulder during the first period of a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.
The native of Summerside, P.E.I., spent the last two seasons playing at the University of New Brunswick.
It's always terrific to see a CIS player make the jump to pro hockey, let alone the NHL. Hopefully Boyce's quick route to the top is one more university players can take in the future.
Just a quick note: Queen's wide receiver Rob Bagg has been signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the coming season.

Bagg was close to winning a job with the 'Riders last season. Ultimately, he opted to return and play a fifth season with Queen's (you know how it ended, so don't bother to ask). Bagg might have had the greatest year statistically, as he was limited to about six conference games by injuries, but he's a player, whether it's on offence of special teams.
I'll be completely honest — I'm no expert on the calibre of teams playing NCAA Division II. Should UBC or Simon Fraser or any other Canadian school make the leap next season, I personally don't have much of a handle on how big of a jump that is or how they'll fare.

This week's assignment, then, was to find someone who did.

There really isn't a lot of movement between CIS and the NCAA in any respects, but one Canadian who was on the American side of the NCAA annual general meetings last week was Ian Newbould, a Guelph native who is now the president of N.C. Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Newbould was Mount Allison's president for 10 years before going south, and saw that small school compete for national titles in football at the CIS level. Now at the helm of a Division III school, he had some interesting thoughts on what it would mean for a Canadian school to play in the NCAA.

"Most schools in the States are smaller," Newbould said. "I mean some of the biggest names in the States – Duke, for one, has only got about 6,000 undergraduates … it's not big at all. UBC would dwarf most of them.

"Division 2 is not that different from Division 3. We don't give athletic scholarships, but we give financial aid. Division 2 can call their financial aid a scholarship. They use athletics as a tool to recruit students to the schools, which Division 3 does, and athletics is an important component of our college. They don't get TV revenues, they don't get gate receipts… there's no big money and it's not the big time in that sense."

He also said local Division II schools such as national champion Barton College generally only draw about 1,000 spectators for men's basketball, which isn't that far off from CIS teams.

N.C. Wesleyan College is a small liberal arts college right in the thick of some pretty big Division I powerhouses like Duke and the Tar Heels, and Newbould follows the developments there quite closely. He talked about the scale of what it costs to finance a program like Blue Devils basketball and if the Thunderbirds could make the jump to Division I.

"[Duke basketball head coach Mike] Krzyzewski — He goes out and raises a million bucks to fund one athlete's scholarships, and that's big big money. But it's private," he said.

"UBC wouldn't have that problem because their tuition is very low. So scholarships there wouldn't require the same amount of money at all. So sure they could do it."

Pretty interesting stuff.

So how would they fare in Division II? Probably not bad at all, especially if the size of the school's athletic budget will increase. Size is certainly an advantage, as is low tuition.

Now we're just going to have to wait and see if UBC actually applies to play Division II for this coming season.
It probably doesn't qualify as a raid, but attention should be paid to Jeff Stead leaving the Vanier Cup-winning Manitoba Bisons after a decade-long tenure to become the new offensive co-ordinator of the Alberta Golden Bears.

Stead is a native Albertan, so this is more like a guy finding work close to home in his field. As the OC and quarterbacks coach for the Bisons, he groomed some pretty good quarterbacks. Alberta needs an overhaul of its passing game; they averaged just more than seven yards per pass in 2007, and had a pretty dismal 7-to-15 TD-to-INT ratio.
For continuity's sake, this Top 10 thread that will be updated as close as possible in real time throughout the weekend:

Math problem: If Brandon beat Calgary, who beat Acadia, who beat Brandon, then who should be ranked No. 2 in the country? Calgary did keep it close in their second game of the weekend, losing 81-77 to the Bobcats who got a 38-point night from Dany Charlery. Brandon played great, but it's a worrying sign when you need so much out of one guy. There's a case Calgary should still be No. 2 in the country (it's just not necessarily the strongest case).

Rouge alert: Laval is officially playing the best ball in the Quebec conference after decisive wins over McGill and Bishop's. They probably were among the best 10 in the country this week, although they won't be in the Top 10 poll.

Climbing: Brandon, Toronto, Alberta, Windsor, Victoria

Down a peg: Ottawa, Cape Breton

Dropping out: Brock, Concordia (OK, probably not), Guelph

Sick, wicked and Wallis: Sadly, there's no footage on YouTube of the dunk that Simon Fraser's Greg Wallis threw down against UBC on Tuesday that caused the basket to collapse to the floor. Dibs on this joke: Apparently the dunk was NCAA-worthy.
  1. Carleton (1, 1): cishoops.ca is reporting that Aaron Doornekamp was scratched from Saturday's win over Laurentian (not that it hurt the Battlin' Blackbirds any) with a "suspected sore back." Carleton won't play again until next Saturday's showdown with Ottawa.
  2. Calgary (2, 2): The loss at Brandon and a close win at Regina (Foul trouble kept Robbie Sihota to 18 minutes vs. the Cougars) reminds us that the Dinos are still a work-in-progress. A four-point loss to Brandon
  3. Acadia (3, 14): The Axemen gutted out a 64-63 win over Cape Breton on Sunday thanks largely to their Ottawa connection, Achuil Lual and Leonel Saintil, shining glass: They combined for 28 rebounds, half of which were offensive. With the win, the Axemen opened a two-game lead in the Atlantic conference. No rest for the wicked, though: They have a return game in Sydney vs. the Capers next Saturday.
  4. UBC: The T-Birds should be dropped behind Brandon, but Friday's 79-76 road win over Victoria was a bit reaffirming. Chris Dyck returned with 25 points, while the T-Birds got two crucial baskets inside of three minutes (an open layup for Bryson Kool, who had a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double) and a putback. That was enough to keep the Vikes at bay.
  5. Brandon: The Cats could be anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4 come Tuesday.
  6. Ottawa: The reaction to the Gee-Gees' weekend is lukewarm. Seriously, a 23-point first half vs. York? Granted, as a resident of the capital, sometimes I overcompensate by judging them harshly. This probably ensures more focus at practice with for their upcoming Carleton-Queen's week. The added focus is good with that Scotiabank Place tilt on Saturday vs. the Ravens.
  7. Concordia: Not having a league game gives the Stingers a week off from the slings and arrows.
  8. Brock: It's a short stay in top 10 after a home loss to Windsor. The Badgers were sporadic on offence, as so often happens when you take 39 threes. (Two-word explanation for that: Greg Surmacz.) Big man Mike Muir played just eight minutes and went scoreless, which might have hurt the chance to run much offence through the post.
  9. U of T: The Varsity Blues beat short-staffed Queen's 83-76 on Saturday to stay a game back of Ottawa for second place in the OUA East and home court for a semi-final game. They came into the week No. 3 in RPI, but seeing them ranked No. 6 would be nice.
  10. Cape Breton: In the light of the day, the Capers might well realize they almost won at Acadia while getting outrebounded and getting literally no scoring from frosh point guard Tremaine Fraser, who was 0-for-8 from the floor in the loss. Every good guard will have games like that early in his career.
  11. Guelph: Big Man on Campus is the source for all things Gryphons, but man oh man, break out the "fragile" stamp. They were up after three in Saturday's 71-66 to Western. Mustangs point guard, Matthew Curtis, had one turnover in 36 minutes. It was ugly; the Gryphons had 15 turnovers after the half, according to Mark Wacyk's report. This was basically a reprise of the Yates Cup in short pants.

    Really, Guelph's had one great quarter in the past week or so, a 36-point fourth vs. Laurier last Wednesday. Chris O'Rourke is a good coach. There's a lot of time, but they'll be the under-the-radar team for the OUA West playoffs. Maybe that's where they function best.
  12. Alberta: Friday's decisive win over Simon Fraser puts the Golden Bears on the cusp of returning to the Top 10.
  13. Saint Mary's: Only winning by three over UPEI, 88-85 on Sunday, might be a good wake-up call for the Huskies. Falling 86-75 at home to St. FX on Tuesday (only some a window-dressing 28-point fourth quarter made it look close) guarantees SMU of not moving up., but a Ross Quackenbush team shouldn't be written off too soon.

    St. FX gave the Huskies a little "Run TLC" on Tuesday with Tyler Richards, Islam Luiz de Toledo and Christian Upshaw combining for 62 points.
  14. Windsor: The Lancers aren't in a bad spot in the event of tiebreakers, since they've had a nine-point road win over Brock and only lost to Guelph by a bucket. Surmacz had 22 in the win over Brock on Saturday, while Ryan Steer had a 21-point, 11-assist night.
  15. UVic: The Vikes were right there against the T-Birds on Friday. They just didn't get a couple stops down the stretch and missed a tying three in the final seconds. Guard Tyler Hass had a great night shooting the ball, as near as I could tell watching the webcast.
Guelph athletic director Tom Kendall was, um, rather candid with Greg Layson today over the CIS-vs.-NCAA debate.
"Aside from the want of "full ride scholarships," Kendall thinks there are other reasons UBC and SFU want out of the CIS.

"Maybe it's because UBC and SFU simply can't compete in the high-profile sports in the CIS. They're crappy at football, they're crappy at basketball and they're crappy at hockey," he said. "In Division II, maybe they'll be able to compete."
-- Big Man on Campus
Please do go over for the full remarks from Kendall and Gryphons men's hoops coach Chris O'Rourke. (Kendall isn't exactly parroting the CIS party line.)

The overarching argument, what is so much better about being a NCAA Division 2 school as opposed to being a CIS school that makes it worth it to take this step, is pretty solid. It was also clever for Kendall to frame it as a lock-stock-and-barrel issue where the schools "can't have it both ways" by keeping a few teams in Canada.

Look, it's complicated. This is on one level about the NCAA trying to get its meathooks into what it sees as an underdeveloped market (which it is). On another, it might be a smoke screen to try and force some changes in how the CIS operates in order to reverse the "brawn drain" flowing South.

Either way, it's plenty entertaining.

(Yes, I am aware it's an exaggeration to say Simon Fraser and UBC are "crappy" at some sports, but does everyone always have to be so literal?)

U of G AD Tom Kendall Sounds Off (Greg Layson, Guelph Mercury's Big Man on Campus)
What to like about the Top 10:
  • Calgary is No. 2, at last.
  • Cape Breton stayed in despite a loss last weekend to Dalhousie. The Capers look like a very solid team
  • Toronto is finally ranked.

What not to like about the Top 10:

  • Concordia stays in at No. 7 while Alberta gets the boot. The Golden Bears were dropped after losing to Manitoba, but as cishoops.ca notes in reference to No. 3 Acadia, a loss to the Bisons should be "less impactful on the negative side. )

    Guelph, which was No. 6 last week, probably had to be dropped after losing twice. However, their game were both decided by single digits, while Concordia lost its only game by 23 points to Laval. So why do they fall so much farther than the Stingers
  • Where is Victoria?

Worth noting

  • Brock appears at No. 8 -- and they are one of the top 10 teams in the country this week -- but they did lose earlier this season to No. 9 Toronto.

Five games to circle:

  1. Tuesday: St. FX-Saint Mary's
  2. Friday: UBC-Victoria
  3. Saturday: Windsor-Brock
  4. Saturday night: Calgary-Brandon
  5. Sunday: Cape Breton-Acadia

Here's the full list, with each team's cishoops.ca and RPI ranking in brackets. The "AC" stands for the teams that Mark Wacyk also considered in his top 10.

  1. Carleton (1, 1): at Laurentian, York
  2. Calgary (2, 2): at Regina, No. 5 Brandon
  3. Acadia (3, 14): UPEI, Cape Breton
  4. UBC (6, 7): Simon Fraser, at Victoria
  5. Brandon (5, 6): Lethbridge, Calgary
  6. Ottawa (8, 5): at Laurentian, York
  7. Concordia (NR, 18): Has a bye, which could help them heal
  8. Brock (AC, 15): Waterloo, Windsor
  9. U of T (7, 3): RMC, Queen's
  10. Cape Breton (4, 9): Dal, at Acadia
  11. Guelph (AC, 13): at Laurier, home to Western
  12. Alberta (AC, 4): Simon Fraser, Trinity Western
  13. Saint Mary's (9, 11): St. FX, UNB and UPEI, all at home
  14. Windsor (10, 12): at Western, at Brock
  15. Victoria (AC, 10): home to UBC

Wacyk also considered St. FX (8th in RPI) and Laval (20th).

In a landmark decision the NCAA has voted to allow Canadian universities to apply for membership and the University of British Columbia is set to do so. The vote was 97% in favour (258 for, 9 against, 2 abstentions).

The move paves the way for Canadian schools like UBC to join the Division 2 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association within the next three years.
How's this for a portrait of dominance in women's hockey:

Since 2000-01
















































Let's just say Canada West has needed a little bit more competitiveness at the top end for a while, something they're finally getting with Manitoba's rise to 15-2-1 this season under coach Jon Rempel.

This is only Year 11 for women's hockey in CIS, and before 2000-01, there wasn't much of a real schedule to speak of. Canada West teams played only a handful of games before going to nationals, and the majority of coaches were of the part-time variety.

And the Alberta Pandas feasted on everybody, even at nationals.

"Howie runs a great program there – he designed a system where his young players play and they take an added role in the second, third, fourth and fifth years, and that's the way he sort of gravitates players to the program," Rempel said on Friday.

He also talked about the difference between having a part-time or full-time coach running a program. Rempel, now in his fourth year, is the first full-time women's hockey coach the University of Manitoba's ever had.

"It makes a huge difference, it really does. It just gives more legitimacy to your program, you recruit better, and it allows you to do more of the things that a coach should be doing in a university program. As a part-time coach, it's very difficult to make it all come together. That's been a big part of it."

In Canada West, Saskatchewan and Lethbridge still play with a part-time coach. The Calgary Dinos are coming back into CIS play next season after several years away and will have a full-timer at the helm.

Nationals this year begin March 7 in Ottawa, meaning our man Neate will be reporting live from every game.*

(*- I have no idea if that's true or not.)
Remember Dean Smith's fondness for wholesale substitutions, five in, five out? That could describe what's going to happen in the CIS Top 10 coaches' poll this week. (Just kidding, but not really.)

Nos. 5 through 10, Concordia, Guelph, Ottawa, Brandon, Alberta and Cape Breton each lost (of course, the No. 8 Bobcats also beat No. 2 UBC, as the RPI anticipated). This validates the objections some had when the poll came out last Tuesday. It's either that or regular-season hoops is totally random, unless you look down at the front of your jersey and it says CARLETON.

It's getting harder to hide that Calgary is the No. 2 team in the country than it was for Alison Scott to conceal her pregnancy by the third reel of Knocked Up. UBC, who currently holds that slot, was without scoring ace Chris Dyck for much of their home loss to Brandon.

Two teams will have to be nudged out to make room for the U of T Varsity Blues, who won at home over Ottawa on Saturday night as well as the Victoria Vikes, now 12-4 in Canada West after their five-point win over Brandon. Concordia doesn't belong, certainly not any higher than No. 10, but there's the "three-spot-drop" rule to worry about.

Obviously, some of those teams are going to stay. Coach Dave DeAveiro's Gee-Gees, who lost by six points at Toronto and Don Horwood's U of A Golden Bears, who lost by seven at Manitoba (Alberta was 71% on threes, but 68% on ones and 38% on twos), as well as Brandon each took a very good RPI this weekend.

Here's a quick How They Fared from the weekend:
  1. Carleton (beat U of T and Ryerson): Early in the season yours truly e-mailed to one of the basketball writers at a Toronto daily, telling them that given all the ink spilled over U of T's epic football losing streak, it would only be fair if the successful hoops team Mike Katz has built got more media coverage. It was hard not to imagine the same writer coming away from Friday's foul-filled Carleton-U of T game (as per cishoops.ca's description) saying, "This is why people don't bother with Canadian university basketball." It was a whistlefest.

    Carleton has clear sailing straight through to the Jan. 26 Capital Hoops Classic vs. Ottawa at Scotiabank Place (unless Queen's has ideas about pulling a Grand Fenwick the night before).
  2. UBC (beat Simon Fraser and Regina, lost to Brandon): The benefit of the doubt extended to the T-Birds for losing at home to Brandon is just a matter of degree. Does not having Dyck (jumper's knee), who's not a big-time rebounder, excuse getting pounded on the boards?

    The T-Birds face a fun week with a return game vs. the Clan and a game against UVic on Friday with first place in the division up for grabs.
  3. Acadia (beat UNB twice): Next weekend's game to circle in the AUS is the Axemen at home vs. Cape Breton on Sunday afternoon. Leonel Saintil, a grad of Ecole Secondaire Publique Louis-Riel in Ottawa, is the runaway conference player of the year.
  4. Calgary (swept Lethbridge): Get ready for a new No. 2. The Dinos deserve it based on their body of work. A trip to Brandon looms next weekend.
  5. Concordia (lost by 23 to Laval, only game): The Scrum says, -- "Take Concordia out of the Top 10 already." The kindest comment about the Quebec loop is that their conference playoffs will be the most unpredictable by far, since someone's going to win. For what it's worth, Bishop's students are most likely to make a weekend in Ottawa out of a Final 8 trip.
  6. Guelph (lost to McMaster and Brock): The Gryphons, like the team ahead of them, are deep in the January blahs, even though it's been unseasonably mild in Ontario. Big Man on Campus notes that Nick Pancherican and Jonathan Moscatelli each missed Saturday's 87-79 loss vs. Brock.
  7. Ottawa (beat Ryerson, lost to Toronto): There's been enough subtle hints that the Gee-Gees were cruisin' for a bruisin' like Saturday's 71-65 at Toronto. Josh Gibson-Bascombe was put through the ringer and scored just seven points in his hometown.
  8. Brandon (beat UBC, lost to UVic): A season of following the Raptors is enough to create a new appreciation of the concept of cresting. By January, a team is what it is, no coulda-woulda-shoulda. It's arguable that the Bobcats have settled into being on the second level of the pantheon, although Dany Charlery did have a good look at a three-pointer to take the lead in the final seconds of the 65-60 loss to Victoria. Brandon is going to be heard from in late February and March.
  9. Alberta (beat Winnipeg, lost to Manitoba): The Golden Bears will probably drop out, although their RPI and recent win over Calgary suggests they should still be ranked.
  10. Cape Breton (beat St. FX, lost at Dal): Rookie point guard Tremaine Fraser had a big night in the win over the X-Men, setting up a first-place showdown next week vs. Acadia. Coach Jim Charters' Capers might fall out of the Top 10 in the wake of their three-point loss to Dalhousie, though.
  • Newcomers: Toronto and Victoria
  • Should be stepping out: Concordia (which won't), Cape Breton (which has a stronger case to stay)
  • Getting warmer: Brock
  • Sorting out the OUA West: Lakehead will have so much sway over the standings that we could save time by simply asking Thunderwolves coach Scott Morrison to pull playoff matchups out of a hat.

    The Thunderwolves (6-6, after being 1-21 last season) have two-game series left vs. Brock, Guelph and Windsor, the trio tied for first. They will host McMaster and Western, two traditionally strong teams each at risk of missing of the post-season.
Just a very short notice that I'll be on CFRC's Offsides around 4 p.m. Eastern. You can listen here, or at least you could last time I checked.
Monday is D-Day for Simon Fraser and UBC, the Canadian schools who are exploring joining NCAA Division 2. As the Van Province reports, that's when the NCAA will take a vote on the schools joining.

Time was, I would have been dead-set against this, but not anymore. Canadians as a rule, unless it's curling, aren't so big on watching our own compete against each other. Speaking strictly in the abstract, what could be better for raising the profile of university sports in this country than to have a Canadian school join NCAA D-1 and be competitive? There's certainly some opportunities in hockey, both men's and women's, plus baseball in UBC's case and women's fastpitch in Simon Fraser's case. (The Clan have been national title contenders in the NAIA on the ball diamond for several years with Canadian talent.)

A couple key points are that it could happen within three years and that UBC is seeking to be full-fledged D-1 school (as it stands, D-2 schools can move up for a limited number of team sports), but it can't happen until at least 2011.

Canadian universities watch NCAA voting (Marc Weber, Vancouver Province)
There's an OUA hockey score that hasn't been seen in god knows when:

Ryerson 5, Western 2.

That is six wins on the season for the Rams and coach Graham Wise, the most they've had in some time. It might not sound like much, but Ryerson won only four games over the past three years (twice against Queen's, once each vs. Ottawa and RMC), so yes, this is big.

It's one thing for the Carleton Ravens to be at .500 and fighting for a playoff spot in their first full-fledged season (the Ravens won 3-2 at Guelph last night), but their coach Fred Parker, not to say he isn't a coach of the year candidate, had the advantage of selling players on a fresh start and a new arena smack-dab in the middle of campus. Wise has the makings of a competitive team at a school that has years of dubious baggage and where the team plays at an arena miles off campus (the U of T's arena is actually closer).
From this vantage point, it seems best to clear the floor and let OUA West dogpile sort itself out.

The first set of Wednesday night games provided about as much clarity as the first draft as the typical freshman's paper on Ulysses (see cishoops.ca for a full accounting of the games). Guelph, ranked a season-high No. 6 in the coaches' poll, went cold at home in the second half and lost to McMaster and is now only one game up in the standings entering Saturday's home date vs. Brock.

Windsor, which had been leaking oil pretty badly, stopped the bleeding with an 85-69 win over Western. Before anyone concludes the Lancers are back on track, keep in mind they have a road game against a rejuvenated McMaster on Saturday. See what I mean?

That said, Guelph Mercury scribe Greg Layson nailed it with respect to Windsor at Big Man on Campus earlier this week, noting some Windsor followers have felt the team's vets have been "sleep walking" through recent games. Ffth-year forward Greg Allin did have a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double tonight after taking just two shots in 25 minutes vs. Guelph. One standout who hasn't needed a wakeup call has been Greg Surmacz, who seems to have taken that loss to Carleton back in November personally. He's only averaged 24 points and nine boards in the four games since.

It's a heck of a division, with only 3 1/2 games separating first-place Guelph from last-place Waterloo. At least six teams have a shot at hosting a playoff game and four have a shot at the top spot. Based on their collective experience, not to mention their point differentials, Brock and Windsor should end up on top, but there's a lot of hoops to be played.
There's a certain irony to the story about some Manitoba Bisons players setting up a Facebook group because they felt the school was providing a paltry sum to pay for their Vanier Cup rings.

(Short synopsis: The U of M promised $45,000 to subsidize rings for 109 people, which works about to about $419 per index finger. It is a very generous gift, but you know what some people are like. Some players are giving another digit to that idea, saying maybe coaches and players should be taken care of first.)

Now, the hypocrisy is that during the U of M's run to the Vanier Cup, Bisons coach Brian Dobie and some sympathetic hometown reporters did a fair bit of a lily-gilding in response to the hubbub over the advanced age of several of the team's players. The coach was portrayed as a noble educator, Henry Higgins with a whistle, helping give young men who were a bit rough around the edges a chance at higher education, pulling themselves up by the jockstrap. The media in Winnipeg wrote it up and helped advance a feel-good story that generated tons of publicity for the university.

Dobie had a point when he said university is universal, for everyone. Who can't relate to that?

However, when the media help portray the coach as a hero to the common man, they can't turn around and get upset when a few of the players (just a few) turn to Facebook, the last refuge of the common man, to try and get their way. It's called democracy. It works better than anything else that's been tried.

True, the Bisons (if you need names, go find them yourself) behind the Facebook group should have shown more couth and tried to work this matter out privately, or been grateful for what they were getting, but let's face it, that's so 20th century. They acted like young people act, so where the's controversy?

The media who were part of that feel-good story in the final weeks of 2007 don't get to paint the Bisons players as the epitome of Everything Wrong With Sports because they got whiney. Dobie knew what risk he was taking with some of the players he took on. Remember all that rough around the edges, salt of the earth stuff? How can you say that anyone in CIS football is spoiled? Sorry, Adam Wazny, but you and your Winnipeg Sun can't have it both ways.

You love writing about these guys, you have to take them warts and all. That's fair and honest.

It's easy to say after the fact that the players could have and should have aired their beefs privately in order to make their point about how the school's $45Gs could have been distributed. (One point left out of Wazny's one-sided column: Did they really need to buy rings for 109 people? Only about 42 players dressed for the Vanier Cup.) Also, they could have been clearer with why they were utilizing Facebook. Really, who could have objected if they were simply brainstorming a way to get snazzier rings?

Let's hope this works out for the best -- with a traditional Manitoba social that would raise money for the players who are in actual need, if indeed that is the case. It's disappointing to see this.
Calgary Dinos forward Henry Bekkering, whom The Best Damn Sports Show and YouTube has turned into a phenomenon, has been profiled by SLAM Online today.

Needless to say, that is unprecedented exposure for a CIS player, so it seemed to merit being passed along. A lot has to happen over the next 10 weeks, but it's almost like the matchup that is almost begging to happen at the Final 8 in Ottawa is now the Dinos and Bekkering against Carleton and Aaron Doornekamp. It would be Bekkering with his viral vertical going up against Doornekamp, who plays that classic big man's based having on a light touch and ability to hit from outside that purists always appreciate.

(Obviously, there's much more depth to both players, but that's a good simplication.)

Meantime, if anyone wants to get Bekkering and St. Francis Xavier's Islam Luiz de Toledo together for a dunk contest, by all means do so.

The first coaches' poll of the new year provides some good grist for debate when compared to the rankings at cishoops.ca and the RPI.

How's this for a coincidence? The Ottawa Gee-Gees finally break into the Top 10 in a week where they have a road game vs. the U of T Varsity Blues, who have inherited the mantle of the country's overlooked team. The Blues are in the Also Receiving Votes zone, but are No. 6 in the country in the view of Mark Wacyk and are No. 5 in RPI.
  1. Carleton: No debate at all; everyone says the five-time champs are No. 1, although Calgary is very close in the RPI.
  2. UBC: The T-Birds are only No. 9 in RPI, but their strength-of-schedule has taken them down a bit. Mark Wacyk sees them as the No. 2 team in the country. Games this week vs. Simon Fraser and Brandon give the T-Birds and star scorer Chris Dyck a chance to live up to their billing.
  3. Acadia: Probably the dodgiest pick. Did everyone see that the Axemen lost to Manitoba, one of the weaker teams in the country, and was never in it against Calgary? They're outside the Top 10 in the other two rankings.
  4. Calgary: Speaking of the Dinos (No. 3 cishoops, No. 2 RPI), they have gone 14-4 playing the toughest schedule in the country. Their RPI of .623 is a smidge lower than Carleton's .637; they might very well be first if not for their holiday-tournament loss to Brock. From afar, they're scary good.
  5. Concordia: The coaches are probably giving the Stingers the benefit of the doubt after a shaky weekend.
  6. Guelph: By all accounts, coach Chris O'Rourke's Gryphons (No. 5 cishoops, No. 7 RPI) are legit. They have a tough one on Saturday vs. Brock.
  7. Ottawa: Some shuffling with the Gee-Gees (No. 4 RPI, No. 4 cishoops), Acadia and Calgary might be in order, but let's hold off until Ottawa faces Toronto.
  8. Brandon: Not unlike Concordia, the Bobcats started the season ranked up high.
  9. Alberta: See the Calgary comment. Alberta is 13-5 and three of those losses have been against the rival Dinos.
  10. Cape Breton: The only team other than Carleton whose ranking perfectly matches their standing in RPI. The Capers have a show-us game this weekend vs. St. FX (No. 8 cishoops).

Also Receiving Votes -- St. Francis Xavier, Brock, Toronto, Saint Mary's, Western.

UPDATE: Mark Wacyk has a strong take on this week's vote that touches on a big problem with the process in the coaches' poll -- there seems to some inefficiencies in getting the information out about the results from non-conference games. There are some questions about how much the coaches take those games into consideration when they vote.

As part of a piece on the Simon Fraser Clan's impressive recent run in women's basketball, I put together a look at the regular-season records of all 43 CIS programs since 2001-02 (when Bruce Langford took over at SFU):

Totals W L W%
1 Simon Fraser 123 14 89.8%
2 Laval 89 11 89.0%
3 Memorial 104 24 81.3%
4 UBC 105 32 76.6%
5 Cape Breton 99 31 76.2%
6 McMaster 106 35 75.2%
7 Laurentian 103 36 74.1%
8 Western 101 40 71.6%
9 Brock 95 46 67.4%
10 Regina 90 44 67.2%
11 Toronto 94 46 67.1%
12 Winnipeg 89 45 66.4%
13 York 89 50 64.0%
14 Dalhousie 78 50 60.9%
15 Queen's 82 57 59.0%
16 Bishop's 58 41 58.6%
17 Guelph 82 60 57.7%
18 Calgary 74 60 55.2%
19 Saskatchewan 73 61 54.5%
20 Alberta 72 62 53.7%
21 UNB 69 60 53.5%
22 Laurier 74 67 52.5%
23 Manitoba 69 65 51.5%
24 Victoria 69 68 50.4%
25 Ottawa 61 78 43.9%
26 Saint Mary's 56 72 43.8%
27 Fraser Valley 16 21 43.2%
28 Concordia 41 59 41.0%
29 Waterloo 57 84 40.4%
30 StFX 46 82 35.9%
31 UPEI 43 85 33.6%
32 Ryerson 41 98 29.5%
33 McGill 29 70 29.3%
34 Carleton 40 98 29.0%
35 Lethbridge 38 95 28.6%
36 Windsor 38 102 27.1%
37 Lakehead 37 104 26.2%
38 UQAM 17 52 24.6%
39 TWU 30 106 22.1%
40 Acadia 18 108 14.3%
41 TRU 4 52 7.1%
42 Brandon 4 129 3.0%
43 RMC 0 98 0.0%

Still ranked No. 1 in the country, the Clan are looking to win their fourth national title in seven years, which isn't quite Carleton territory (on the men's side), but still pretty impressive.

And what on earth is going on at Brandon and RMC?

Something to keep in mind is that Canada West is the conference to beat each and every year, as they've won the national title the past 16 years in a row. (Something that makes Simon Fraser's record all the more daunting.)
With all five conferences resuming play this weekend, here's a short survey of how it went down:
  • Atlantic: Acadia and Cape Breton remain the only one-loss teams in the conference entering the Capers' game vs. P.E.I. today.

    The Axemen, who got a combined 55 points from Leonel Saintil and Shawn Berry in Friday's road win over Saint Mary's, have a trip to winless UNB coming up, so they are in the driver's seat to move into first place.

    The Halifax Herald's Chad Lucas has an odd note from that Acadia-SMU game:

    I'm almost certain Acadia got credit for an extra point in the fourth quarter. Leonel Saintil went to the line with the Axemen up 72-68, he hit one of two but I looked up and the score was 74-68. If a mistake was made somewhere, it's potentially a huge one: SMU beat Acadia by six points in the season opener, so if they really only lost by five tonight they should own a potential tiebreaker over Acadia.
    The Capers (14-4, 7-1 AUS) and freshman point guard Tremaine Fraser will be trying to win at St. FX for the second time this season. Steve Konchalski has brought the X-Men (5-2 in the conference) have come a long way since November, though.
  • Quebec: Concordia's foes are smelling a little blood in the water after McGill's Norman conquest of the Stingers on Saturday. The Redmen beat Concordia 77-76, their first win over their cross-town rivals under coach Craig Norman and first since 2002-03.

    It would be hasty to say the Quebec race has been thrown wide open. The Stingers are missing guard Dwayne Buckley and while they've split their past four games, the two losses were by a combined five points. Regardless, Bishop's (Junior Nicolas), Laval (J.P. Morin) and McGill (Sean Anthony and Moustafa El Zanaty, who had 20 vs. Concordia) each have a scorer who can take over for long stretches. That can be dangerous on any given night.
  • OUA East: It was kind of a dry weekend, but don't fret. Carleton and Ottawa, ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the RPI, each travel to Toronto next weekend.

    The Varsity Blues at home are a tough matchup for the Gee-Gees. Toronto would need to keep the score down, but they have more than a fair shot.
  • OUA West: Take an all-things-considered approach to Guelph's 86-84 win over Windsor. The Gryphons were full value for the victory, but the country's top three-point shooting team did go a gaudy 18-for-36 from downtown (including 5-of-6 from Jay Mott). That kind of proficiency isn't sustainable, but to their credit, the Gryphons did it without one of their best shooters, Jonathan Moscatelli, who's expected to be back next week.

    Windsor was perfect from the foul line, was almost turnover-free and had a 41-35 edge on the boards. Yet they lost, which is pretty damning. Guelph was up double digits much of the way. Coach Chris Oliver's Lancers now need some road wins to get back in the race.

    Guelph is now two games clear of the pack heading into next weekend, where they'll face Brock on Saturday afternoon.

    Coaches and fans on this side of the OUA must be wondering whether there should be a cross-over playoff format similar to the CFL's. The worst record in the OUA West is 4-5. Meantime, in the East, York and Laurentian, both 1-9, are tied for the final playoff spot.

    Prediction: It will become an issue if Western is in danger of missing the playoffs.
  • Canada West: Calgary came back on Saturday to earn a split of a road series vs. Alberta, which might have effectively decided first place in the Central Division five weeks early.

    The glass-half-full outlook for the Golden Bears: Their primary scorer Alex Steele had a tough night (6-of-16) in Saturday's 98-87 loss and they do have a win over Calgary to their name. The Dinos, though, control their own destiny for playoff positioning.

    The other division leaders, Brandon and UBC, got through the weekend with little difficulty.

    Tip of the cap goes Trinity Western, which upset UVic 66-64 on Friday night. (Thanks for the catch, vigilant readers; someone needs to get to bed earlier... it wasn't Thompson Rivers.)
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