Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Men's Basketball: Playoff Matchups

With the final edition of the CIS Top-10 here, March has arrived and Madness is certain to follow. We'll take a look at this week's playoff matchups and see who will be continuing their chase for the Final 8 and who will be cleaning out their locker rooms. Each matchup will look at how regular season matchups went, which players could make a big difference, and what each team needs to do to win.


(Official CIS Top-10; RPI rankings)


QUBL:

UQAM Citadins (5-11) at No. 10 Concordia Stingers (12-4) - Tonight at 7 PM (Eastern)

Season Series: Concordia 4, UQAM 0

Important players: Recently-crowned co-QUBL Player of the Year Kyle Desmarais for Concordia (19.3 points/game, 4.2 assists/game) and Éric Côté-Kougnima (10.2 points, 6.6 rebounds), whose 17 points against Concordia on Feb. 12 was the best any of UQAM's top scorers fared against the Stingers this season.

Keys to victory: For Concordia, they need to remember one team ingredient got them from worst-to-first this season - Desmarais. Find him the ball and let him make plays to raise his team's level of play. And for UQAM, they'll need to pick good shots to take. At just 41% on the regular season, they'll need to be smart if they want to stay in this one.

UPDATE: Concordia wins 89-74 thanks to a huge 4th quarter. Desmarais lived up to expectations with 26 points and seven assists. Côté-Kougnima? Not so much: 3 points on 1-of-7 shooting.


McGill Redmen (10-6) at Laval Rouge-et-Or (11-5) - Tonight at 7 PM (Eastern)

Season series: Laval 3, McGill 1

Important Players: For Laval, Jérôme Turcotte-Routhier, the other half of the QUBL co-Player of the Year winners (16.8 points, 6.6 rebounds) and standout rookie Simon Bibeau (13.6 points, 4.2 rebounds) for McGill.

Keys to Victory: The Rouge-et-Or went 7-1 at home this season, and McGill will need to make smart passes, knock down shots and keep turnovers low if they want to keep Laval from getting the home crowd - and momentum - pushing them to victory. Conversely, Laval can gain an edge by turning up the defensive pressure and forcing McGill - who shot just 40.3 per cent from the field this year - to have a lights out shooting night.

UPDATE: Laval shot 50% and held the Redmen to 36%, winning 85-75. Turcotte-Routhier was dominant with 28 points on 10-of-13 with seven rebounds and five assists.


OUA:

Ottawa Gee-Gees (11-11) vs. no. 6 Lakehead Thunderwolves (17-5) - Friday at 6 PM (Eastern)

Season Series: 1-0 Lakehead

Important Players: For Lakehead, senior guard Jamie Searle (13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds) is the heart and soul of a very deep team team. And for the Gee-Gees, it's all about "Worldwide" Warren Ward (16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds).

Keys to Victory: When these teams met before the Christmas break, they combined to shoot 50 three-pointers and both shot poorly from the field and foul line. The team that smartens up their shot selection best and can knock 'em down will be playing in the Wilson Cup final the next day.


No. 1 Carleton Ravens (22-0) vs. Laurier Golden Hawks (13-9) - Friday at 8 PM (Eastern)

Season Series: 1-0 Carleton (88-80 was the smallest margin of victory for the Ravens all year).

Important Players: For Carleton, let's go with scoring reserve guard Willy Manigat (11.4 points, 2.4 assists) and Laurier jack-of-all-trades Max Allin (14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6 assists).

Keys to Victory: The Hawks are no doubt going to double-team Tyson Hinz. It will be up to capable players like Manigat (as well as shooters Elliot Thompson and Mike Kenny) to make pick away at the Laurier defence and make defenders pay for playing too far off their man. And though the Hawks own one of the CIS' best scorers in Kale Harrison, it's Allin who plays the biggest role distributing the ball and helping Laurier take flight. As a second year player, he needs to have one of the best games of his young career in this contest.



Canada West:

No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies (20-4) vs. No. 4 Trinity Western Spartans (21-3) - Friday at 9 PM (Pacific)

Season Series: Saskatchewan 1, Trinity Western 1

Important Players: For Saskatchewan, everyone knows about Jamelle Barrett and his 25-point, 10-assist schtick. But like Mike Linklater last year, Rejean Chabot (21.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) is a guy who can really make the Huskies a nightmare to guard. And for the Spartans, everything starts and ends with former CIS Player of the Year Jacob Doerksen(21.6 points, 7.8 rebounds).

Keys to Victory: When these two teams met in Langley in January, the Spartans were one half away from a two-game sweep and some major bragging rights. A 10+ point comeback by Saskatchewan turned the tides, however, giving the teams a weekend split. After TWU was surprised in Game 1 of last weekend's series with UFV (the Cascades ended the game in a 15-0 run to win), it wouldn't be a stretch to say the Spartans need to close out games a little stronger. The Huskies need tons of production from their dynamic duo of Chabot and Barrett, and the Spartans need to play like they're going home if they lose.


Alberta Golden Bears (16-8) vs. no. 2 UBC Thunderbirds (22-2) - Friday at 7 PM (Pacific)

Season Series: UBC 1, Alberta 1

Important Players: For Alberta, standout forward Jordan Baker (17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds) and for UBC, reigning Player of the Year Josh Whyte (18.1 points, 4.2 rebounds)

Keys to Victory: It's hard to imagine UBC, who have won a bazillion in a row and all but one at home, going down before the final. But I have to think their front line, which makes up for a lack of size with great team rebounding and hustle, might have a hard time handling a beast in the paint like Baker. UBC will score plenty, but they'll need to stop Baker (as well as Alberta leading scorer Daniel Ferguson) from getting buckets inside if they want to keep moving on. For Alberta, it's all about slowing down the penetration and passing of guards like Whyte, Nathan Yu and Alex Murphy, who keep UBC's offence running smoothly.



AUS:

Note: The first round of the AUS Final 6 takes place on Friday, with Cape Breton and Dalhousie receiving first-round byes and taking on the winners on Saturday.

Saint Mary's (7-13) vs. No. 7 St. Francis Xavier X-Men (15-5) - Friday at 8:15 PM (Atlantic)

Season Series: St. FX 2, Saint Mary's 0

Important Players: No surprises here: for St. FX, All-Canadian guard Christian Upshaw (18.1 points, 4.8 assists), and for Saint Mary's, CIS leading scorer Joey Haywood (28.8 points, 5.2 rebounds).

Keys to Victory: How many can Haywood score? X has been railed on all season for falling below expectations, but I can't see them falling to a 7-13 team in the postseason unless "King Handles" Haywood goes absolutely wild (he's scored 46 in a loss this season, so I mean really, really wild).


UNB Varsity Reds (8-12) vs. Acadia Axemen (7-13) - Friday at 6 PM (Atlantic)

Season Series: UNB 1, Acadia 1

Important Players: For Acadia, oft-injured but sublimely talented forward Justin Boutilier (11.0 points, 6.1 rebounds) and for UNB, double-double machine Alex DesRoches (10.5 points, 8.8 rebounds). A healthy Boutilier makes the Axemen that much more dangerous, while DesRoches will be a big part in determining who wins the battle of the paint.

Keys to Victory: When UNB pulled off a dramatic 74-71 victory in February, they held the balanced attack of the Axemen to 35 per cent shooting. If they can shut down Boutillier and beastly forward Owen Klassen like they did then, the Axemen will be seeing Varsity Red. And for Acadia, riding the momentum of a late-season push (they needed to sweep Memorial to get in - and did) will be huge in determining the winner.

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