Our 2011-12 Men's basketball previews continue, heading over to the OUA East. With Carleton clearly being the team to beat, are some of the other squads ready to make a challenge?
Some explanation of the stats: The RPI ranking includes all 2010-11 games (exhibition, season, playoffs, Final 8). Top 100 players refers to the Player Efficiency Rankings for 2010-11. Other statistics referenced can be found at the CIS site.
Here's a look at the teams with a shot of coming out on top.
Last year's results: 22-0 regular season, lost OUA final to Lakehead, won CIS Championship (1st in RPI)
Top 100 players: Tyson Hinz (9), Phil Scrubb (34), Elliot Thompson (73), Willy Manigat (81), Kyle Smendziuk (83), Cole Hobin (88)
Outlook: As always, the defending national champion Ravens have a lot going in their favour. Sure, losing to the Thunderwolves in the OUA championship game may have been some mathematical anomaly, but they shrugged that off like they have shrugged off the many challenges over the years. Coach Dave Smart, in his 13th season as head coach, and the many returning stars—the likes of Phil Scrubb, Cole Hobin, and Elliot Thompson—should have this engine steaming by the time they face the McMaster Marauders on Remembrance Day. Therefore, the burning question that we have for this Raven squad is: what can’t they do? Here is something to think about: the Ravens lost to Lakehead because the Wolves shot the lights out. The three-point defense had a one-quarter collapse, allowing 31 points. Maybe that is what opposing teams are hoping for, but this Raven team has a pretty good memory.
TORONTO VARSITY BLUES
Last year's results: 14–8 regular season, lost OUA quarter-final to Ottawa 85–60 (13th in RPI)
Top 100 players: Andrew Wasik (31), Alex Hill (53), Drazen Glisic (65)
Outlook: The Varsity Blues have had a great stretch of winning basketball since Coach Mike Katz took the helm in 2004—a win-loss record of 98–56. But, as last season was any indication, they were successful only to a certain extent. They were notoriously fearsome for their offence, as they were near the tops in multiple offensive categories. Defensive woes provided a different narrative—where they either lost by a drumming or uncomfortably close. With nine players coming back from last season, including team leaders Alex Hill, Drazen Glisic, Andrew Wasik, and Justin Holmes, that narrative should tell a different story, one that is war-tested and able to win the ugly games. The Blues should fare well - and they might need to. They could lose a load of vets in the 2012–13 season.
Last year's results: 11-11 regular season, lost OUA semi-final to Lakehead 71–69 (18th in RPI)
Top 100 players: Johnny Berhanemeskel (17), Warren Ward (40)
Outlook: The Bad Luck Gee-Gees: they really had a bad luck regular season in the OUA last year, getting punked out by the likes of Lakehead and Toronto. They served some justice to the Blues in the playoffs, but a tough loss in Hamilton (Lakehead's Venzal Russell with a heartbreaker, anyone?) proved to cut the season short. Whether it was a lack of momentum or an injury issue, this season should be a better one. With the likes of Johnny Berhanemeskel and Warren Ward back this season, they’re healthy and they’re ready to pick themselves up. For the GeeGees, who rallied in the second half of the season after a 1–6 start last season, particular attention should be paid to their offensive production. They ranked in the middle of the conference in points scored, turnovers, and free-throw percentage.
Last year's results: 7-15 regular season, missed playoffs (33rd in RPI)
Top 100 players: Mike Hull (47), Isiah Pasquale (49), Manny Pasquale (78)
Outlook: A dark horse pick early on, this could be the year the Voyageurs extricate themselves from the basement and become a contender. With a few key returning players with well-defined roles, the Voyageurs have the makings of a solidly built team - not a ton of firepower, but a few guys who know how to play their roles. They showed some signs of life last year - a comeback win after trailing by nearly 30 points to McMaster on the road comes to mind - and could be a serious threat this year.
Last year's results: 11-11, lost to Queen's in first round of OUA playoffs (22nd in RPI)
Top 100 players: Jahmal Jones (16), Ola Adegboruwa (48), Jordon Gauthier (80)
Outlook: Can a hot second half translate into a contending season this year? The Rams certainly hope so. After a 2-8 run to open the 2010-11 campaign, Ryerson found its rhythm before a first round exit at the hands of the Queen's Gaels. Jones, who played a significant role on Canada's FISU and Pan-Am games teams this year, is one of the best athletes and craftiest guards in the conference and is going to draw his fair share of attention from opposing defences. If the youth movement continues to gain experience for coach Roy Rana, Ryerson could be on its way up again.