Ilana Shecter is a colour commentator for McGill basketball games on SSN, and will be covering QUBL women's basketball for us. Her first piece takes a look back at the season so far, with some predictions for the 2011 portion of the schedule.
The 2010-2011 season in the QUBL has the potential to be the most exciting one in the past decade—if only because, for the first time in ten years, the Laval Rouge et Or aren’t a lock to win it all. The league has finally gained some parity, and it seems to be anyone’s guess who will raise the QUBL banner come playoff time. Below is a recap of what’s been going on this season, and a prediction of how the second half will end up.
After seven seasons at the helm of the McGill Martlets, Head Coach Ryan Thorne has finally found a group who have a seemingly perfect combination of offensive output, defensive tenacity, and team chemistry. The Martlets are playing the best basketball in the league and most of the credit goes to their defence. They have held five of their six opponents to 60 points or fewer, and have a league-leading scoring margin of +14.6 points. And all this success comes with a very young team who only have three players with more than two years of experience. This young squad plays with a lot of confidence and were able to hold off Concordia and UQAM when they each made a push late in the fourth. They also boast arguably the best combination in the QUBL with Marie-Eve Martin and Anneth Him-Lazarenko. Have I mentioned that they are undefeated?
Prediction The Martlets are playing great basketball. If McGill wants to stay on top, they need to continue to play tough defence. They have been fortunate enough to be shooting at a league-leading 47.1% effective field-goal percentage, but that number will surely drop. The true test for these Martlets will be how their young players overcome the adversity when their offence drops off. Expect the Martlets to finish first in the league, but certainly not undefeated. 1st place.
The 3-2 Citadins currently have the league-leading scorer in Michelle Bellemare. Unfortunately, it's not scoring that the Citadins need. It's defence, and they need it badly. Any team knows that they can’t be taken seriously if they are classified as the worst defenders in the league, and that is where the Citadins currently are, ranked last in points against (72.4 per game), and second to last in the defensive rebounding category (grabbing just 57%). Head Coach Jacques Verschuère needs to turn his attention to the defensive end. There’s no doubt that they have the offensive capabilities in their starting five rotation to make any defence wary. But in this league, it isn’t enough to simply score.
Prediction: There is no doubt that Verschuère will be focusing on defence during this winter break. Their explosive offence had one off game against the Rouge et Or where they only made six baskets in the first half and ended up losing. That certainly won’t happen again. If the Citadins can get in a defensive mindset, expect them to finish second at the end of the season. If not, they could very well finish fourth behind McGill, Concordia, and Laval. 2nd place.
The Stingers know they should be undefeated this season. A tough overtime loss to the UQAM Citadins and a loss to McGill (where they came within two points of coming back from a 13-point deficit with four minutes left to go in the fourth quarter) leaves them in second place with a 3-2 record. Their offence is led by Yasmin Jean-Phillippe (14.6), but she has plenty of help with four other players averaging at least nine points. If anything, the problem the Stingers face is that they are on the verge of being great but they haven’t been able to reach that tipping point. Their inability to beat the top two teams in the league (so far, at least) might be worrisome for Head Coach Keith Pruden.
Prediction: Pruden doesn’t have many adjustments to make during the break. He knows that his team has all the right ingredients to be considered a prime contender. Their second game coming back from the break is against UQAM, which is shaping up to be one of the most important games early on in the season. If the Stingers can beat them, they’ll show that they have what it takes to be considered heavy favorites to hoist the QUBL banner. If they lose yet again, this Stingers squad might have to settle for being mediocre in the 2010-2011 season. 3rd place.
LAVAL ROUGE et OR
The back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back champions (that’s six in a row and nine out of the last ten years) are a dismal 1-4 going in to the half time break. A lot of it has to do with the departure of Chanelle St-Amour, their point guard from the 2009-2010 season. No player this season has been able to replace her ability to protect the ball and control the offense. Their record isn’t a result of a deficiency in talent. They have plenty in Marie-Michelle Genois and Elyse Jobin. Instead, their record is a direct result of averaging a league-worst turnover margin (averaging a whopping 25.8 per game) and allowing, on average, 70 points per game. This combination of sloppiness on offence and weak(er) defence means that they have a lot to work on over the break if they want to regain their usual form.
Prediction: Even if they improve their defence, protect the ball, and find a much-needed leader, the Rouge et Or are unlikely to finish in the top 3. The top teams in the league are simply too good. Head Coach Linda Marquis finds herself in a position that is foreign to her: second-last place in the league. You can be sure to see a revamped team after the break, but at the end of the season, I don't see them hanging up their 7th banner in as many years. 4th place.
The Bishop's Gaiters are a lowly 1-3. What looked like a promising team for these Gaiters has turned into a nightmare. They are getting badly outrebounded, grabbing only 42% of available boards (and just one in four on the offensive glass). Their top two rebounders, who also happen to be their guards, are averaging just four per game. The Gaiters also happen to have one of the tallest teams in the league which makes this deficiency all the more perplexing. Head Coach Alex Perno can’t be happy that the most fundamental aspect in basketball – boxing out – is not being utilized by his players.
Prediction:If these Gaiters want to salvage the 2010-2011 season, they are going to need to show some physical toughness, get in the paint, and box out their opponents. Lost rebounds lead to fewer offensive chances, which lead to fewer points, and considering the Gaiters sit last in offensive output (61.3 points per game) it’s pretty evident that they need to start crashing the boards. Expect them to finish last in the league even if they manage to get their rebounding game together, though. 5th place.