Here are bricks and bouquets from Quarter-Final Friday (and being generous, it's more bouquets):
- Kevin Hanson, UBC coach. Hanson's Thunderbirds no longer have a piano on their back when they come to nationals. It was flowing like water across clean rocks for UBC in its 78-54 win over Dalhousie, as the Thunderbirds seemed nice and loose, very positive body language. That trumps any snarking that UBC was bound to win since drew the long straw with a matchup vs. Final 8 first-timers, Dalhousie.
This sort of stood out: After the post-game handshakes, UBC's players gathered at centre court and lingered for a few moments. It seemed atypical. It was almost like they were marking their territory.
- Henry and Ross Bekkering, Calgary forwards. The latter Bekkering more than lived up to his all-Canadian status, as Ross put up 26 points and 15 rebounds while his older sibling Henry had 25 and five, respectively. The two are yin-and-yang, fire and ice. It was impossible to keep a mental count of how many heady plays Ross Bekkering made.
- Josh Whyte, UBC point guard. Whyte had all 11 of his points vs. Dal in the first half and served notice he's going to be tough for Calgary to stop off the dribble in the first semi-final on Saturday. Brent Malish (18 points in 25 minutes) and Nathan Yu (14 in 23) were superb off the bench for the 'Birds.
- Matthew Curtis, Western point guard. The pass-first point guard made only 20.6% of his three-point attempts in the regular season, but canned two triples that helped buckle Ottawa's knees. Curtis finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while Keenan Jeppesen (17 points, seven rebounds) and swingman Bradley Smith (1o of his 12 points during the third quarter) also led the Mustangs.
- Kevin McCleery, Carleton forward. Hooped 10 of his 14 points in the first 13 minutes to help set the tone for the Ravens, shot 7-of-13 and also shared the team rebounding lead with eight boards. The Kingston trio are reaping a nice windfall with the media attention (as well they should), but McCleery showed he can be the man for the Ravens.
- Stephen Lopez, Dalhousie guard; Sean Nickel, St. FX guard; Ryan Barbeau, Western guard; Luke Chapman, Carleton guard: Bench players getting some burn in garbage time are often the ones who liven up one-sided games. Chapman went 3-for-3 from downtown in the second half of the Ravens' rout of St. Francis Xavier.
- Mark Wacyk, cishoops.ca. Mark helped put the SSN on-air talent (well, can't speak for play-by-play man Mark Masters and sideline reporters Alison Sandor, Joe Fishman and Chris Messina, but that other guy, well) at ease with an excellent breakdown of the early matchups. Some of us aren't so sharp at noon.
- The seeding committee. The average winning margin was 24.3 points. That is mostly testament to the teams which advanced, but it has to be said that is high compared to the past few seasons:
2008: 6.8 (none by more than nine)Imagine a 3 vs. 6 quarter-final that had put Western against Concordia with UBC-Ottawa in the 4 vs. 5 quarter-final. Ottawa would have been hard-pressed to beat just about anybody with the way it played, but those matchups might have produced closer scores.
2007: 18.3 (including a 48-point blowout)
2006: 10.0 (8.3 including the Thursday prelim games)
2005: 15.0 (15.3 including Thursday)
2004: 6.3 (12.2 including Thursday)
- The Atlantic conference. It has one of the best formats for its conference playoffs, but the optics of having its two representatives get blown out are poor. UBC roared out to a big lead over Dalhousie and X found itself down 13-2 right off the hop vs. Carleton.
- The Ottawa Gee-Gees. Many people were at a loss to explain the Gee-Gees' showing vs. Western, where they shot 27% from the field and 47% from the line. People are right to how Ottawa could lay such an egg. It could be their style of play works when they meet a team of lesser talent, but not so much when it's an even match.
Ottawa's last three losses at nationals, dating back to 2005, have been by 22, 22, and 27 points; they also lost by 17 to Brock in the OUA third-place game in '08. At some point, it's not about who they're up against, doesn't it?
Dax Dessureault had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in his final game in the garnet and grey. He and forward David Labentowicz, who's due to have off-season microfracture surgery on his knee, are the lone Gee-Gees who have completed their eligibility.
(The Ravens shot an effective 68.7% and were 2-of-5 on charity shots).