Our 2011-12 Men's basketball previews continue, jumping (really far) one conference eastward to the parity-filled OUA West. Could this could be the year one or two teams separate themselves noticeably from the pack?
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 in this battle, with the OUA East teams to follow soon.
Last year’s results: 17 - 5 regular season, won OUA Championship and finished fifth at nationals after beating Dalhousie (4th in RPI)
Key recruits: Forwards Adam Johnson, Joey Nitychoruk and Michael Thorne-Finch.
They return: 11 players
Top 100 players: Venzal Russell (82), Yoosrie Salhia (92)
Outlook: The Thunderwolves have strung together successful seasons with two straight appearances in the CIS championship. They have an experienced roster with seven seniors in the line-up, including four guards. The backcourt of OUA West second team all-star Venzal Russell, OUA West defensive player of the year Greg Carter, Ben Johnson and Joseph Jones will be giving teams headaches all year long.
The biggest loss for Lakehead will be Jamie Searle who finished his eligibilty last year as one of the top guards in the OUA. That being said, he won’t be too far away since he’ll be moving to the bench as an assistant coach. With Searle leaving, expect Russell to take the bulk of his minutes. Head coach Scott Morrison has won back-to-back OUA West coach of the year and gets the most out of his players year in and year out and will have his team ready for a deep run in the playoffs.
They have a strong recruiting class coming in, but with so many veterans in the line-up they likely won’t see many minutes unless games are out of hand. Forward Yoosrie Salhia is back and will look to continue his dominance in the paint as one of the best rebounders in Canada. The Thunderwolves are a team built to win the OUA West and with so many seniors likely to graduate after this year, anything less than a division championship and a Wilson Cup appearance will be seen as not good enough.
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks
Last year’s results: 13 - 9 regular season, lost to Carleton in OUA Final Four semifinal (9th in RPI)
Key recruits: Guards Stefan Arezina, William Coulthard and Forward Aiddian Walters
They return: 13 players
Top 100 players: Kale Harrison (18), Max Allin (22), Matthew Buckley (75), Patrick Donnelly (84)
Outlook: This is the year for the Golden Hawks. They have four fifth-year seniors returning, two fourth years and the majority of their team is coming back from last year. They also have Patrick Donnelly and Jamar Forde who will continue to grow as second year players after making the OUA West all-rookie team last year. This is a deep team that can count on several players to contribute at both sides of the court and they’ll compete with Lakehead all year for top spot in the West. This is likely the best team Laurier has fielded in the program’s history and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the extra pressure. That being said, this is a team that can score. And if the exhibition season is any example of how the year will go, they could have up to five players in double digits on a nightly basis. They’ll be a fun team to watch and head coach Peter Campbell will lean heavily on his experienced players, particularly Kale Harrison and Max Allin, to make a run at the OUA championship.
Last year’s results: 16 - 6 regular season, lost to Wilfrid Laurier in OUA West semifinal (10th in RPI)
Key recruits: Guards Adem Said, King Gabriel, Rotimi Osuntola Jr. and Joey Ellenberger
They return: 12 players
Top 100 players: Lien Phillip (66), Josh Collins (72)
Outlook: The Lancers will have a hard time replacing the lost minutes after three of their starters graduated last year, none more important than Isaac Kuon. Kuon averaged almost 28 minutes a game to go with his 18 points per game, which earned him a spot as a OUA West first team all-star and got him drafted by the NBL's London Lightning. Head coach Chris Oliver will be expecting returning forward Lien Phillip and guard Josh Collins make up for Kuon’s lost minutes and points. Helping the cause will be 6’ 7” forward Jahmal McQueen, who transferred from Saddleback Junior College this year and will be a fixture for Windsor defensively in the paint.
The Lancers have an impressive recruiting class coming in and they’ll be thrown into the fray right from the start. The 6’ 5” Rotimi Osuntola is the best of them and he’ll be hard to defend. The potential for him to be a dominant player in the OUA is there, but a year of experience will help him grow.
This is a young team with only one senior, but the bulk of the players will be back for the next two years. The Lancers will have a hard time pushing for top spot, but in the coming years they’ll be a force in the OUA West.
Last year’s results: 11 - 11 regular season, lost OUA West quarter-final to Western (20th in RPI)
Key recruits: Forwards Nate McCarthy and Brett Sanders, Guards Adam Presutti, Aaron Redpath and Joe Rocca
They return: 8 players
Top 100 players: Kenan Etale (20), Victor Raso (96)
Outlook: Last year didn’t end the way the Marauders wanted after they lost at home to lower ranked Western. The start to this season probably isn’t the way head coach Amos Connolly wanted it either. Forward Scott Brittain has moved to the coaches’ side of the bench after concussions ended his playing career while guard Kenan Etale won’t play until January to improve his academics. In all of this, there’s good news. OUA West second team all-star Cam Michaud is back and Mac will have high expectations for him to lead the team. They also have an excellent recruiting class with five of the top-100 prospects in Canada coming into the line-up. Taylor Black will also be healthy after ending last season injured, but still being named to the OUA all-rookie team.
They have a deep backcourt with Victor Raso, Kyle Giedraitis, Jordan Tew and with Scott Laws and Etale both expected back in January, it’ll be interesting to see how McMaster handles the season until then. Their rookies will be pushed into the line-up right away, which will help their growth. Although it’s likely they won’t challenge this year, don’t be surprised if they do some damage to top teams later in the year.