Unfortunately, business at my day job prevents me from being around the Final 8 today (and meant I had to drive back to Kingston late last night), but I thought I'd offer a few of my observations from games and interviews yesterday. The other guys will be handling the live-blogging duties today; I'll be back to join them courtside tomorrow.
Calgary - Concordia
- The Bekkering brothers are unbelievable; they have a perfect combination of size, athleticism and basketball sense. It will be interesting to see how they do against UBC tonight.
- Jamal Gallier is key to Concordia's success. He's listed as 6'7'', 270, which sounds about right, but he's incredibly quick and athletic for his size. He was the only Stinger who seemed capable of defending the Bekkerings and he played a huge role in keeping Concordia close through halftime. Once he got into foul trouble, they were done.
- The Stingers are quite small compared to most of the teams in this tournament. They often relied on outside shooting against Calgary, which was fine as long as the shots are falling, but cost them later in the game.
- Calgary doesn't have a lot of depth. It looked like Concordia was done when they trailed by 16 going into the fourth quarter, but the Calgary subs couldn't defend or score regularly against the Stingers and Concordia almost pulled off a comeback. The Dinos' starting five is amazing and has more size than anyone else (6'9'' guard Tyler Fidler, anyone?), but their bench didn't give them much against Concordia. That could hurt them against the deep Thunderbirds.
- Dalhousie is even more undersized than Concordia, which was very noticeable against UBC. They're good at moving the ball quickly and getting decent outside looks, but they didn't display a lot of lane penetration.
- UBC is one of the deepest teams in the tournament. They went to their bench guys early and often without a noticeable drop-off. That might be the key to victory against Calgary tonight; I give the Dinos' starters the edge, but UBC has much better depth.
- UBC head coach Kevin Hanson told me believes in playing subs as much as possible, which goes a long way towards explaining their depth. Only three Thunderbirds averaged less than 10 minutes per game during the season, and most of their team played in every game. That bench experience looked valuable against the Tigers.
- This was yet another example of an outside-shooting team getting toasted by a team with several talented big men. Ottawa was creating great looks for much of the game, but star guards Josh Gibson-Bascombe and Josh Wright just couldn't get the shots to drop. Dax Dessureault was a key threat inside for the Gee-Gees, but he was the only one to do much against Western's bigs. Once they figured how to counter him, Ottawa was history.
- On a regular day, this game should have been much closer. As mentioned above, Ottawa was playing quite well at times, but they couldn't get the shots to fall. Western certainly deserved the win, but the magnitude of the loss was deceiving thanks to Ottawa's shooting touch going MIA.
- However, Western proved they're a real threat. They'll have a tough time with Carleton, but if they play as well as they did against the Gee-Gees, they'll have a shot.
- This game was over even before it was announced that Tyler Richards wouldn't play. Carleton is just too good for X.
- However, the aforementioned absence of Richards (and two lesser lights) made things much worse for the X-Men. With them, it might have been a little closer.
- Kevin McCleery has very quietly developed into a great player. He may take over in a starring role once Carleton's Kingston Trio graduate this year.
- The Ravens don't take their foot off the gas. Yes, Dave Smart used subs throughout, but their subs play with the same killer intensity.
- If Carleton plays the way they did last night for the rest of the tournament, I don't think anyone can stop them. If they fall off and their opponents have a perfect game, we could see an upset, but that doesn't seem too likely at the moment.