Last season, the Quebec conference was very close, mostly due to a home-and-home schedule which had very few sweeps, and the splits led to a very tight conference both on the men's and women's side.
This year, the schedule is no longer that format, but after the first weekend of games in 2010, it doesn't look like there will be any teams running away with the conference, which while exciting for the fans of conference play will not have any of the teams climbing the National rankings.
First, we'll take a look at the men's side where it's tight at the top like last year. Laval (21st nationwide in RPI) and UQAM (24th) are tied at the top with matching 5-1 records (their losses coming against each other as they have split their two games so far).
Then, you have the other three teams tied with four points each, with Bishop's at 2-4 (35th in RPI) and McGill (36th) and Concordia (27th) both at 2-5.
UQAM's play so far shouldn't surprise anyone. They had a very talented, young team last year and took a much more experienced Concordia team to the brink in the Quebec final.
Led by Adil El-Makssoud, Arthaud Plesius, Gregory St-Amand, Thierry Justin and Eric Cote-Kougnima the team is very talented. Jules Diagne is probably the best sixth-man in the conference, and would be starting if he had been healthy over the summer. UQAM has the talent to make some noise. They finished 8-8 a year ago before beating Laval in the semi-final.
Laval is led by returning players Xavier Baribeau, J.F Beaulieu-Maheux and Etienne Labrecque who all average over 10 points per game. The Rouge et Or have a great amount of depth and balance. Eight players average 20 minutes or more, and a ninth, Richard-Kwaku Addai averages 5.5 points in 11.8 minutes.
Laval and UQAM still have two games remaining between each other, and if any team wins both that team would have to be the favourite to take the regular season title. A more experienced Laval team is poised to improve upon their 10-6, second place finish last year.
Bishop's missed the playoffs last season after finishing tied with McGill for essentially last place in the conference at 5-11. This year, however, led by rookies Oraine Green, Onnex Blackwood and fifth-year player Hermon Tesfaghebriel, the Gaiters are poised to return to the post-season.
Green and Blackwood average 14.5 and 13.8 points per game while Tesfaghebriel averages 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds.
They have beaten both Concordia and McGill - the two teams tied with them at four points - have a game in hand, and brought Laval to the brink losing by only five.
Concordia is realizing what it's like to be rebuilding. In their first season without Damian and Dwayne Buckley as well as Jamal Gallier, the Stingers are battling for a playoff spot instead of first place.
The Stingers are being led by two returning players in Decee Krah and Evens Laroche. Laroche turned heads as a rookie last year and is now leading the conference in rebounding. He has also led the Stingers in scoring in four of their seven games.
Krah has taken his starting position to lead the Stingers with 13.8 points per game and newcomer Vali Lazarescu averages over 10 as well.
For the Redmen, Matthew Thornhill has established himself as one of the conference's top players, a reputation he started last year especially in the postseason when he played an outstanding game against Concordia in the semi-final.
Thornhill leads the conference in scoring at 18.2 points per game. Michael White also has over 12 points per game and made his presence known in that semi-final last year.
Pawel Herra and Jesse Woods returned to bigger roles this year and Olivier Bouchard and Jeff Cumming have taken the job of distributor.
Later on this week, we'll take a look at the women's side of the Q.