Friday, November 05, 2010

Our basketball preview series continues with a conference-by-conference look at the contenders in the men's game. Some explanation of the stats: The RPI ranking includes all 2009-10 games (exhibition, season, playoffs, Final 8). "Offence" and "defence" are points per 78 possessions (the average number in a CIS game) and can be thought of as adjusted points-for and points-against averages. The difference between the two is the number in parentheses, serving as a plus/minus of sorts. These numbers are rounded and may not add up precisely. Top 100 players refers to the Player Efficiency Rankings for 2009-10. Other statistics referenced can be found at the CIS site. "Wacyk Wisdom" is our way of deferring to the authority on CIS basketball, for teams Mark has previewed so far. Just in time for the OUA’s season openers tonight, here are the previews for the top Ontario squads.

WESTERN MUSTANGS:
Last year's results: 12-10 regular season, lost OUA quarterfinal to Laurier Golden Hawks, 16th in RPI
Offence / defence: 77/77 (+0)
They return: 7 players, 47% of minutes, 41% of points
Top 100 players: Andrew Wedemire (12)
Outlook: After a rebuilding season in 2009-10, the Mustangs enter 2010 looking more like the team that came up one Stu Turnbull buzzer-beater short of playing for a national championship. With only a few parts departing from last year’s squad and a pair of very solid additions, Western boasts a team with all the pieces in place for a deep playoff run. Chief among them are Andy Wedemire, a fifth year forward who garnered second-team All-Canadian honours last year, and Adam Jespersen, a transfer from Hawaii with a polished offensive game. The frontcourt duo recalls the days when Brad Smith and Keenan Jeppesen patrolled the paint and made life a nightmare for opposing defences, and should feast on the relatively size-deprived frontcourts that populate the OUA. Also key to the Mustangs’ success will be fourth year guard Ryan Barbeau, who spent last year learning to be the chief ball-handler and court general, and Peter Scholtes, a 6’5” freshman who has the ability to contribute immediately. To be sure, Wedemire and Jespersen will be top-quality options. If Barbeau, Scholtes and the other purple horses can keep up, Western has a chance to return to the upper echelon of OUA squads.

Wacyk Wisdom: “The Mustangs welcome two of the best newcomers in the conference, led by 6'8" Adam Jespersen, who should provide more space to Wedemire… expect the Mustangs to contend for the race to grab one of two first-round byes in the OUA West playoffs.



WINDSOR LANCERS:
Last year's results: 17-5 regular season, lost OUA Championship game to Carleton, lost in first round of Final 8 to Saskatchewan, fifth in RPI
Offence / defence: 81/71 (+10)
They return: 6 players, 46% of minutes, 35% of points
Top 100 players: Nolan Brudehl (67), Michael Lieffers (44)
Outlook: With a talented roster and pair of scoring studs, the Windsor Lancers are ready to take the step up from being quietly solid contenders to one of the favourites to take home the OUA title. Led by Isaac Kuon and Andre Smyth, Windsor is a team that every other OUA squad will be preparing for long before they face off on the court. Kuon is a speedy, crafty wing with a nice shooting touch, and Smyth is a ferocious offensive rebounder who can score inside and out. The two will be depended on heavily for scoring and leadership, but are more than able to carry the load for an otherwise young squad. The Lancers may struggle initially to replace the quality play of Nigel “Megatron” Johnson-Tyghter, Corey Boswell, John Woldu and Matt Handsor, but should be able to stay afloat with a host of talented younger players. Two intriguing components to Windsor’s arsenal include sophomore point guard Josh Collins, who performed admirably in learning to run the offence on the fly last year, second-year combo guard Enrico DiLoreto, who has a knack for penetrating defences to get into the paint. Additionally, the Lancers boast the player with the coolest name in the league: sharp-shooting guard Monty Hardware. With two horses to carry the load and a solid supporting cast, Windsor has put together a championship-caliber team.

Wacyk Wisdom: “Winners of two of the past four OUA West championships, the Lancers program can now be comfortably referred to as a perennial Top 10 team under Head Coach Chris Oliver...there is as much raw talent with this group as any in the nation.”



CARLETON RAVENS:
Last year's results: 20-2 regular season, won OUA Championship, lost to Saskatchewan in second round of Final 8, third in RPI
Offence / defence: 91/67 (+24)
They return: 9 players, 78% of minutes, 78% of points
Top 100 players Tyson Hinz (16), Elliot Thompson (33), Mike Kenny (70), Willy Manigat (94)
OutlookIt seems that every year, the Ravens are the consensus no. 1 before the season begins. With six CIS titles won in the last eight years, it’s easy to see why - coach Dave Smart runs a tight ship and consistently recruits high-quality players. But with a handful of stars having graduated in recent years, many OUA squads may be licking their chops at a chance to ground the mighty ravens and soar above them to OUA glory. Whether that happens largely depends on how Smart integrates a group that, for the first time in a few years, has no clear focal point on offence. This year, there is no Kevin McCleery, Aaron Doornekamp or Osvalto Jeanty to draw defenders and get the defence moving before the ball even hits the floor. There is, however, a high quality group that still gives Smart enough ammunition to contend for another national title. Key pieces include Mike Kenny, a scrappy point guard with deep shooting range, Cole Hobin, an athletic wing who is arguably the league’s best defender, and Tyson Hinz, a second year wing who was lighting up the opposition last year before hitting a bit of a rookie wall. Count Phil Scrubb, a former junior national team player, and Willy Manigat, an undersized but athletic off-guard, among the intriguing characters of the Carleton lineup. Scrubb is coming off an impressive preseason and Manigat showed last season he is more than capable of creating plays with the ball in his hands. This is not a classic Juggernaut Ravens squad, but with some solid players under the direction of one of the greatest coaches in CIS history, Carleton is once again a legitimate title threat.

Wacyk Wisdom: “Still, there is plenty of quality, experienced depth and as long as Carleton's staples of defending, rebounding and playing hard on every possession remain, expect them to dominate most nights.



MCMASTER MARAUDERS:
Last year's results: 14-8 regular season, lost in first round of playoffs to Waterloo, 11th in RPI
Offence / defence: 74/67 (+7)
They return: 8 players, 77% of minutes, 75% of points
Top 100 players: Cam Michaud (76), Victor Raso (95)
Outlook: This year’s version of the McMaster Marauders is a decidedly different one than in years past, chiefly due to the absence of Joe Raso on the sidelines. The 18-year veteran coach was replaced in the spring by Amos Connolly, a former player and assistant coach with the team who has the task of taking a diverse and somewhat untested group of players together and trying to produce a contender. Last season, All-Canadian Keenan Jeppesen and guard Tyrell Vernon dominated the ball and controlled McMaster’s success this season will be whether they receive contributions from a handful of inexperienced players, especially 6’8” rookie Taylor Black. Black is an athletic, explosive big with loads of potential, but Mac will need him to learn on the fly how to play at the CIS level if they want to keep up with the best OUA squads. Connolly urges his team to play a deliberate, cerebral style of play, and with fundamentally sound wing players in Cam Michaud, Scott Laws and Jordan Tew, the Marauders have the depth to exploit different match ups. However, for McMaster to keep up with bigger teams, Connolly’s boys will need to grow, learn all season long.


LAKEHEAD THUNDERWOLVES:
Last year's results: 17-5 regular season, won OUA Bronze Medal, tied for 8th in RPI
Offence / defence: 72/68 (+4)
They return: 8 players, 74% of minutes, 73% of points
Top 100 players: Jamie Searle (42), Ryan Thomson (98)
Outlook: Last season, the Thunderwolves seemingly came out of nowhere to surprise nearly everyone with their play. The westernmost squad in the OUA had little preseason hype, but proved to be a very dangerous team with outstanding guard play and the uncanny knack to close out games with excellent fourth quarters. This year, it seems unlikely any coaches will overlook coach Scott Morrison’s squad, which has no significant losses and adds a few talented pieces. Leading the team again this season will be a plethora of talented guards, including Greg Carter, Jamie Searle and Joe Jones, who each gave headaches to opposing defences last year with their ability to knock down threes and create offence off the dribble. In the paint, two rebounding beasts return in second-year forward Ryan Thompson and glue guy Yoosrie Salhia. This group has had time to grow together, and with no losses this core of players will only learn to play better together. It may have been a surprise to many to see Lakehead reach the Final 8 last year. If they return once again in 2011, no one will be surprised this time.

Wacyk Wisdom: "Last season's group matured together very rapidly and with more significant talent added over the off-season, the Wolves project as a Top 10 team for several seasons.".


OTTAWA GEE-GEES:

Last year's results: 18-4 regular season, lost in Bronze Medal game to Lakehead, tied for 8th in RPI
Offence / defence: 84/68 (+16)
They return: 8 players, 74% of minutes, 73% of points
Top 100 players: Warren Ward (17)
Outlook: Like many of their OUA East counterparts, the Gee-Gees saw the departure of one of their best players last season, as Josh Gibson-Bascombe played out his final year of eligibility. This season, Ottawa will turn the keys over to Warren Ward, a scoring wing who might be the best pure scorer in the OUA. Like Gibson-Bascombe last year, Ward will force opposing defences to set up double teams and create opportunities for his teammates. However, the Gee-Gees will sooner or later feel the absence of ‘JGB,’ as his versatile passing and ball handling skills are not as evident in Ward. Also providing a change in scenery will be coach James Derouin, a first year bench boss taking over from longtime coach Dave DeAveiro, who left to coach the McGill Redmen. Ottawa’s supporting cast consists of shooting big man Nemanja Baletic, 2009-10 rookie standout Ryan Malcolm-Campbell, and returning guard Jacob Gibson-Bascombe, Josh’s brother who took last season off to improve academics. All three are experienced players who can fill the roles Derouin will need to support Ward. However, losing the kind of talent and coaching experience Ottawa did this offseason is difficult for any team to overcome, and it will be difficult for the Gee-Gees to resume their status as perennial Final 8 contenders.

Wacyk Wisdom: “With the graduations of All-Canadian Josh Gibson-Bascombe and five-year stalwart Donnie Gibson, the young Gee-Gees will have to keep the games low scoring and rely on one of Canada's most talented scorers 6'6", Warren Ward, to make another run at the Nationals.”

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