With conference play underway in all conferences, it’s time for our first Top Ten Tracker of the year. We’ll check in with how the nation’s best teams have fared in the (very) early stages of the 2011-12 campaign before resuming the usual “who’s up, who’s down” tracker.
Here are the RPI numbers and all that jazzy stuff.
1. Carleton Ravens (2-0 OUA, No. 1 RPI, +28.9 SRS [!!!])
I had a chance to see the Carletons in person on Friday (as they brushed McMaster aside), and it’s pretty clear they’re a step above the competition. The numbers are certainly eye-popping and I think it’ll be hard for anyone to beat them in the regular season, but for what it’s worth, McMaster gave them fits with some pesky, physical defence and Phil Scrubb bailed them out of that game with a monster performance (get ready to hear the last two words in reference to Scrubb a lot this year).
It was also pretty sweet to see the level of competition that is demanded by Dave Smart and his team. After prized recruit Justin Shaver, who is a physical monster but didn’t see the floor until garbage time, let a rebound fall easily to a Marauder, fifth-year veteran Cole Hobin came over immediately following the next whistle, slapped Shaver’s chest and ripped into him for not boxing out. It ain’t easy playing for Smart and co.
Carleton also smashed the Brock Badgers by 42 thanks to the hot three-point shooting of Willy Manigat and Elliot Thompson (again, you’ll hear that a few times this year).
2. St. FX X-Men (2-0 AUS, No. 2 RPI, +16.3 SRS)
Handled a pesky Dalhousie squad 85-71 thanks to solid performances from Terry Thomas, Jeremy Dunn and Rodrigo Madera. X looks to have a pretty versatile, deep lineup that could simply outrun and outlast the rest of the AUS this year.
3. Lakehead Thunderwolves (2-0 OUA, No. 16 RPI, +11.2 SRS)
The last thing any CIS Basketball commentator should do is draw anything in the way of conclusions from a team’s trip to Kingston. Sure, the Thunderwolves caused Queen’s to make more turnovers than the Pillsbury doughboy (that’s my one allotted use per year for that one) and made their bench boys look like beasts against RMC, but that’s pretty much expected. This weekend’s visits by Toronto and Ryerson should be a better indicator.
4. UBC (2-0 Canada West, No. 18 RPI, +8.4 SRS)
So it looks like this year’s Alex Murphy (5th year guard who goes from role player to lights-out shooter and quality distributor in his fifth year) is Nathan Yu, to the surprise of pretty much no one. With Murphy and Josh Whyte gone you knew UBC needed a heady guard to take the reins and Yu was always the candidate for the job. It also looks like UBC has a stud in rookie guard Malcolm Williams. The T-Birds handled Brandon 91-55 and Regina 100-71.
5. Alberta (3-1 Canada West, No. 3 RPI, +9.4 SRS)
After dropping one of two early to Manitoba, the Bears responded with a very strong weekend in beating Saskatchewan twice. This was exactly the kind of weekend they needed to serve notice that they’re ready to compete with the traditional Canada West contenders. With a 77-71 win on Friday and a 74-69 triumph the following night, the Bears showed they’re ready to roar this year.
6. Windsor (2-0 OUA, No. 14 RPI, +2.7 SRS)
I feel like it’s going to take a while to put a finger on how good this team really is. Enrico DiLoreto (33 points in an 86-81 win over Laurentian) and Josh Collins (15 points and 9 assists in that same game) are two top-tier guards that carry the scoring load while Lien Phillip blocks shots and grabs all the rebounds ever. But it’s just such a high turnover from last year’s team that once teams get some more film and adjust, I wonder if they’ll still be as dangerous.
7. Saskatchewan Huskies (1-2 Canada West, No. 8 RPI, +11.5 SRS)
After opening the season with a win over Regina, the Huskies were beaten on back-to-back nights by the Alberta Golden Bears, and all of a sudden it’s pretty clear that Saskatchewan isn’t going to run away with the West this year. It’s still early in the season so it’s easy to look into these losses too much, and I expect the Dogs to turn things around and get on a roll. But if they want to re-establish themselves as the favourite, they’ll need to limit turnovers and the MVP-type performances they expect from Jamelle Barrett – things they didn’t do last weekend.
8. Victoria (4-0 Canada West, No. 4 RPI, +6.5 SRS)
Victoria has showed this year, as they did in an 86-66 win over Regina and an 87-76 defeat of Brandon, that they’re a dangerous team from the perimeter and aren’t afraid to hoist it up. They shot 45% on (a lot of) threes in their two wins, with Ryan McKinnon leading the attack and averaging 24 points per game.
9. Fraser Valley (3-1 Canada West, No. 6 RPI, +12.9 SRS)
A balanced attack (six players scored in double figures in an 89-69 win over Winnipeg) has led the Cascades to a 3-1 record and it looks like the preseason expectations for this team weren’t out of place. They also took down Manitoba easily, 101-70.
10. Wilfrid Laurier (2-0 OUA, No. 11 RPI, +6.2 SRS)
Took down Ryerson 85-65 and followed it up with a nice 84-79 win over Toronto. Kale Harrison (2-for-14 for 5 points against Toronto) is prone to the occasional off performance, so it’s nice to have Max Allin being able to carry the load as he did with 26 points and nine rebounds against the Varsity Blues. I’m really excited to see how versatile big man Patrick Donnelly develops this season.
UBC coach Kevin Hanson says he’s happy his team finally played two good basketball games.
One Windsor newspaper became the latest to be confused by the spelling, or in this case the order, of Lien Phillip’s name.
Mac’s Amos Connolly calls Carleton “hands down, the best team in the country.”
Former Saint Mary’s Huskies guard Joey “King Handles” Haywood is tearing things up in the NBL. It’s almost as if there are Canadians good enough to play in the league and justify more than two mandatory Canadians per roster.
THE UPPER DECK TOP 10:
1. CARLETON: An easy pick until the evidence proves otherwise.
2. ST. FX: A re-tooled and deep roster looks to be the class of the AUS.
3. ALBERTA: A little high? Maybe. But it’s going to be hard to beat this team.
4. UBC: Depth will continue to be a concern, but when healthy, these guys can play.
5. LAKEHEAD: They play the Carletons Nov. 26. Let’s see how they do then.
6. WINDSOR: Good athletes + coach Chris Oliver = BASKETBALL.
7. SASKATCHEWAN: Alberta’s a good team. The Huskies got beat.
8. VICTORIA: The team most likely to lead to ‘threes’ puns by me.
9. LAURIER: Kale Harrison needs to get going if they’re going to move up.
10. UFV: Show me an extended streak before I move these guys up.