Men's Basketball: National Top Ten Tracker - Thunderbirds roll

Since taking over the No. 1 spot in the CIS rankings, the Carleton Ravens have done absolutely nothing to show they should be considered anything but the nation's top team. But if somehow the mighty Ravens should fall, Josh Whyte and the UBC Thunderbirds are looking like they'll be up for a challenge to the top-10 throne.

The No. 2 T-Birds capped their season with yet another pair of blowout wins over Lethbridge (94-58 and 98-54) and made it six straight home victories to close out 2010.

But hold on a second Brian, why is it significant that the second best team in the country beat three Charles Barkley-turrible teams? After all, Winnipeg, Fraser Valley and Lethbridge, the teams UBC walloped, have a combined 8-23 record in conference play.

It's not that UBC beat these teams that counts, or even that they have won those six games by an average of 25.8 points. Rather, it's the machine-like efficiency with which the Thunderbirds' offence is operating that should have the rest of the nation worried about UBC. In their past five contests, the 'Birds have been averaging a staggering 97.2 points, 51.6% shooting and 23.8 assists. Against any team, those are numbers symptomatic of a team with a severe case of being really good at basketball.

One of the keys to UBC's high-octane style has been the play of their point guard tandem. 2009-10 Player of the Year Whyte obviously gets the attention of most teams, but fifth year guard Alex Murphy has been a more-than-solid contributor, totalling 11 assists in each win over Lethbridge. Whyte is a talented scorer who does his best with the ball in his hands, but Murphy has been giving the Thunderbirds another ball handler and a look on offence that has really helped this offence reach new heights.

With half the conference season to go and a return trip to the Final 8 a long way away, the Thunderbirds haven't earned much yet this year. But if there is one thing they have, it's the respect of the rest of the league for being a veteran group that can score at will.

Other top 10 scores:

#1 Carleton Ravens:
Ho-hum. Still undefeated after beating McMaster and dismissing Lakehead. The Mac game was much more of a blowout than it appears, with the Marauders only able to muster a charge after the Ravens built an insurmountable 30-point lead in the third quarter.

#3 Laval Rouge et Or:
Enjoyed an off week and will look to close out the season with wins at McGill and no. 6 Concordia this week.

#4 Saskatchewan Huskies:
Will have plenty of time to get over their fellow green prairie team's loss before their next conference game on Jan. 7 against Brandon.

#5 St. Francis Xavier X-Men:
I have only seen the X-Men play once (last season in Hamilton), but I was not impressed with them when I did. So when they were ranked no. 2 in the country earlier this year, it was with a dose of skepticism that I evaluated the X-Men's status as a top Canadian program. That status has to at least be somewhat in doubt after the Antigonishers dropped their second straight game to an AUS contender, despite the return of guard Christian Upshaw, who went just 4-16 in the loss. St. FX recovered with two wins over UPEI, but at just 3-2, will need to return to better form in the new year if they want to stay among the national title contenders.

#6 Concordia Stingers:
Downed McGill and scraped out a win over a winless Bishop's Gaiters team, despite shooting just 36% and making 19 turnovers. The Stingers have their sights set firmly on a Dec. 4 matchup with #3 Laval for a battle of Quebec supremacy.

#7 Trinity Western Spartans:
Once again, Jacob Doerksen is chugging along in producing quality performances each night. The Spartans took care of lowly Winnipeg twice (93-70 and 93-77) by dominating the glass 92-51 over the Wesmen, while Doerksen had his way in the paint, scoring 54 points and grabbing 23 rebounds over the two games.

#8 Windsor Lancers:
I gotta say, the constant coaching advice coach Chris Oliver gives out over his Twitter feels like I've got my own Red Auerbach App on my phone. It's too bad there isn't an app to make a team full of Isaac Kuons, though. Kuon, who appears to be back to early-season form after an ankle injury, led the Lancers with 28 points as the Lancers beat Queen's and then rolled over RMC a day later.

#9 Toronto Varsity Blues:
Must have done something right in holding Waterloo's Cam McIntyre to 6-18 shooting in an 89-74 win over the Warriors, one night before McIntyre went for 42 points against Ryerson. Yet the Blues fell to the Laurier Golden Hawks the next day. Overall, though, going 6-2 against a very tough OUA West division is nothing to sniff at, and the Blues are looking good heading into the new year.

#10 Cape Breton Capers:
As mentioned above, defeated the St. FX X-Men behind 25 points from Paris Carter and posted a perfect 7-0 record in the 2010 half of the schedule.
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  1. No Lakehead again this week, and not that I'm any kind of authority, but they're certainly. deserving of a top-10 spot (maybe even top-5).

    I don't get it. They have the same regular-season opponents as Western, but with a better record, and the Mustangs played a creampuff preseason schedule. Yet some votes went to Western this week and the GGODs got nothing.

    This seems very similar to last year, when they got no respect into January. (I at least realized I was wrong in November.)

  2. And I didn't even notice Laval at 3, blinded as I was by the Lakehead slight.

    Laval's opponents this year, by RPI: 39, 38, 32, 36, 29, 25, 1 (all pre-season), then 7, 31, 41.

    They have played just two games against decent teams, and for that they get ranked ahead of everyone but Carleton and UBC. Amazing.

    It's almost like the voters are not looking beyond W-L record in these polls.

  3. It's going to be tough for all the OUA West teams this winter. Lakehead and Laurier have been great and haven't even sniffed the top-10.

    The funny thing is, as the OUA West teams beat up on each other in January and February, it's likely going to be their inevitably similar win-loss records that keep them from getting votes.

  4. Laurier has impressed me as much as any team in the OUA West.
    They played Carleton tougher than anyone, holding the Ravens to their only single digit win.
    They soundly beat a good Toronto team and would have been divisional co-leaders but for an upset loss in Sudbury.
    There overall record is 9-5 better than Cape Breton.
    I agree Laval is totally over rated.
    I saw them play Algonquin in Ottawa and while they beat what is one of the best college teams in the country, I certainly didn't think they were top 3 material.
    Carleton ripped them to pieces in their own building and in their own tournament.
    Top to bottom the OUA West is the strongest conference in Canada no question and because of that the teams from there tend to be undervalued because SOS is not considered nearly enough.