Thursday, December 15, 2011

OUA West Men's Basketball First-Half Wrap-up

With exams coming to a close and the winter break upon us, it won't be long before many CIS teams are playing in mid-season tournaments and preparing for the stretch drive of the second semester season. But before we start looking ahead to the holiday tournaments and second half games, it's time to make like professors and TAs and start dishing out the first-half grades. How have the teams done in their pursuit of athletic excellence? We'll start with the OUA West and East today, with Canada West and the AUS to follow tomorrow.

Greg Colgan gets us started with his assessment of the OUA West.


Brock Badgers
Record: 6-2, 12 points; 4th place

Strengths:
Any time you can win on the road, you’ve got a chance of getting a nice playoff spot. They finished with a 4 - 0 record away from St. Catharines, which will keep any coach happy. They’ve also improved in several categories as the year has gone on including more blocks, assists and rebounds, while limiting their fouls and turnovers. This is a hard-working team that is learning to compete, but may end up giving the best in the West a run for their money.

Improvement Needed:
Winning at home has been a problem for Brock and the 84 - 60 trouncing Ryerson gave them on December 2 was embarrassing. Any team that expects to contend should have a better home record than 2 - 2. Better offensive rebounding is likely to be a priority come January. In the first-half of the year they ranked in the bottom 10 with an average of 10 offensive boards per game.

First-half MVP:
Ever since Brock got Jameson Tipping back, they’ve gone 5 - 1. Granted it’s not against the top talent in the OUA, but wins are wins the last time I checked. His 15.7 ppg have helped a lot, as has his 49.2% shooting from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. The combination between Tipping and fellow guard Andrew Kraus, who leads the CIS in assists, is a backcourt most coaches would want.

GRADE: B


Guelph Gryphons
Record: 5-3 loses, 10 points; 5th place

Strengths:
Usually teams want to play at home instead of the road, but Guelph might be asking the OUA to give more road games after the first half. They are 4 - 0 on the road, which, in all fairness, when you play RMC, Queen’s and York, you should have at least 3 road wins. Still, anytime you can go on the road and know you have a chance of winning is a big morale lift.

Improvement Needed:
Simply put, they need to win games at home. If you can win most of your road games it won’t matter if you’ve got a 25% win percentage at home when it comes to making the playoffs. After Kareem Malcolm and Daniel McCarthy, Guelph doesn’t have much to compete with other teams. They get occasional help from other players like Zach Angus and Aron Campbell, but when you’re a two-trick pony, it limits your chances. If they don’t get players stepping up more consistently, that lack of depth will hurt them as the season goes on.

First-half MVP:
It’s pretty much a toss-up between Malcolm and McCarthy, but I’ll give it to Malcolm. He finished 18.1ppg, 50.5% shooting from the field, led his team in minutes and can pull down the odd rebound to go with decent defence.

GRADE: B


Lakehead Thunderwolves (CIS no. 3)
Record: 7-1, 14 points; 1st place

Strengths:
It’s Lakehead, so defence. Next to Mac, they’ve given up the fewest points in the West. This is a good all-round team that only lost to a better Carleton team in what was one of the best games the CIS will see all year. There’s no shame in that loss. Their offence has also been surprisingly high and they’re averaging 89.4 ppg, which is good for fourth highest in the CIS. If they can keep that up, while improving slightly on defence, the OUA could be theirs for the taking.

Improvement Needed:
Despite the fact that I listed defence in the strength category, I can’t help but think that head coach Scott Morrison is a bit concerned that his team gave up 72 or more points in each of the last four games. That includes 95 points to a much weaker Laurentian, who can score, but shouldn’t be able to put up that much against the defending OUA champs.

First-half MVP:
This one is tough. They’ve got such a well-balanced team that five players are averaging double-digit points and Brendan King was only 0.2 ppg away from making it six. Since I have to give it to one of their guys, Greg Carter is much more to this team than his stats show. He’s getting 10 ppg, a little over 4 assists a game, and shooting 49.2%. He’s the team leader and the best defensive player in the West, by far. Fast forward to the three-minute mark from this game against Toronto, as an example. If there’s a guy I want on the court with one minute left and a tie game, it’s Carter.

GRADE: A-


Laurier Golden Hawks (CIS no. 8)
Record: 7-1, 14 points; 2nd place

Strengths:
I said it at the beginning of the year: this team will score. They’ve done just that all year. They’ve hit more than 100 twice and made 98 another game. Their lowest total was 68 against Carleton and Carleton has a habit of making good teams look average. They’re averaging 91.5ppg, which is good for third in the CIS after UBC and Carleton. Pretty good company, I think. Don’t be surprised to see them keep that output up in the second half.

Improvement Needed:
They’ve been pretty flawless all year, but they need to be better at their end of the court if they want to go far. They’ve got the team to challenge for the OUA championship, but when you give up more than 70 against teams like RMC and Laurentian, it’s not a great sign. I think some of that comes from the fact they can put up 100 points on almost any given night. As long as they don’t get complacent, they’ll be looking good in the second half.

First-half MVP:
Kale Harrison is one of the biggest scoring threats in the OUA. He puts up 18.4 ppg and is shooting 47.5%. He’s thrown back 30 points in two games this year, including a season high 31 points against a strong Ottawa team. His 10 points against Carleton are a little alarming, but back-to-back games on the Ottawa road trip are one of the most feared weekends for any West team. This is his last year in the OUA and the best program Laurier has ever put together, so expect an even stronger second half by Harrison.

GRADE: A


McMaster Marauders
Record: 7-1, 14 points; 3rd place

Strengths:
They haven’t faced the strongest schedule, but the opening weekend against Carleton and Ottawa isn’t the best way to start the year and to come out with a split is a good feeling. It’s impressive McMaster finished as high as they did considering they were without Kenan Etale for the first-half of the year. With Etale coming back in January, McMaster has enough depth to make every team jealous. As the season goes on, that depth will pay off big time.

Improvement Needed:
With Etale coming back, McMaster will have no problem moving the ball around. They do need someone to grab those rebounds, and it has largely been by committee this year. When they lost Scott Brittain to concussions, they lost about eight rebounds and two blocks a game, not to mention a guy with experience in the NCAA. They’ll need guys to step up every night, especially when they’re up against teams like Laurier and Lakehead.

First-half MVP:
This is another close one, Victor Raso has come through this year with a shorthanded McMaster roster. Cam Michaud has been strong, but Raso has been better, averaging 12.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg and shooting 50%. Those totals include games against RMC where he got 0 points in 12 minutes and 4 points against Ottawa. He has struggled this year against better teams, but he’s had big shoes to fill in Etale and he’s done an admirable job for a team that’s 7 - 1.

GRADE: A-


Waterloo Warriors
Record: 4-4, 8 points; 7th place

Strengths:
When it comes to shooting threes, Waterloo’s among the best. They’re tied for first with the most threes made, which oddly enough has seven OUA West teams in the top 10. They’re also among the better teams with a 45% field goal percentage, which was higher before they ended the year against Ottawa and Carleton. With one of the highest shooting rates in the CIS, they love to shoot the ball, which helps when you can sink them.

Improvement Needed:
Their defence has hung them out to dry this year. They’ve given up 691 points, the worst in the West, with Western being the next closest at 614. It doesn’t help when you give up 80 plus points in five of your eight games, and ending the year by allowing a combined 221 points in your final two games will leave any coach less than happy. If Waterloo is going to stand a chance at making the playoffs, their defence has to be better.

First-half MVP:
I chose Cam McIntyre, but not without hesitation. He’s got 16 ppg, but that 39% shooting for twos kind of held me up. The big man, Brendan Smith, is averaging 10.8 ppg, but is 15th in the CIS with 58 rebounds to go with his 56.8% shooting percentage. That being said, McIntyre is the go-to guy on Waterloo and he can put up points when he wants to while logging a ton of minutes.


GRADE: B-


Western Mustangs
Record: 3-5, 6 points; 8th place

Strengths:
Umm... Ryan Barbeau. Yeah, that about sums it up. In all honesty, this team hasn’t been as bad as their record may indicate. Full disclosure: I did my undergrad at Western and I loved it so much I’m doing a Master’s there, but what can you say... It’s been a tough year. That being said, this is a team in full rebuild mode with eight rookies and three second years. Anytime a team is in rebuild mode, I give them props for doing so. It takes a lot to dismantle a program and start from the ground up. Head coach Brad Campbell realized he needed a rebuild and if you’re going to do something, you may as well go all in. He’s got his players working hard every game and they lost two games by less than five points that they could’ve won. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that hard work pay off with a surprise win against a high ranked team that takes them to easy.

Improvement Needed:
This will be a good team in two years, but that’s a long way off right now. This is a young team, and they’ll only continue to grow as the season moves on. Granted, it’ll be some painful lessons for the young guys, but as long as they take everything in stride, they’ll continue to improve. However, unless they can bring Andrew Wedemire back from Scotland and give him a sixth year of elgibility, every aspect needs to be improved on for both sides of the court.

First-half MVP:
Finally! An easy choice. Barbeau, by far, has been the best player for UWO. He’s ranked 7th in CIS scoring with 21.6 ppg and plays pretty much every minute of the game while not getting into foul trouble at all this year. Not bad for a guy who always had some people talking that he couldn’t do anything without Wedemire. Anything UWO does this year will be because of Barbeau, but with such a young line-up I have a hard time believing this is how he wanted his last year to be. Still, those are impressive numbers, and hey, give the guy a break, he got his 1000th point in the OUA before the break.

GRADE: C-


Windsor Lancers
Record: 5 wins, 3 loses, 10 points; 6th place

Strengths:
Ok, so I might’ve given Windsor a bit more credit when I had them finishing third in the West. I still expect them to get better, but maybe third was being generous on my part. I may have been blinded by the trio of Enrico Di Loreto, Josh Collins, and Lien Phillip who are just downright menacing when everything’s ticking. Phillip is averaging a double-double every game, Collins has stepped up admirably to replace Isaac Kuon and Di Loreto is nearly unstoppable when shooting. These guys are everything to Windsor and it can’t be understated that Windsor will go as far as they can take them.

Improvement Needed:
As one of the younger teams, Windsor doesn’t have the depth to go head-to-head with teams like Lakehead or Laurier. The bench has contributed 10 or less points in half their games this year, including a pitiful five against Laurentian. Unless some of their bench guys start stepping up and putting up points, Windsor won’t make it too far.

First-half MVP:
Di Loreto is 2nd in the CIS in ppg with 23.7 to go with a 52.5% field goal and 40% from the three line. He missed the last two games of the year, which Windsor won both of, but his presence wasn’t really needed against Ryerson and RMC. If Windsor is going to make some noise, they’ll need him to continue his play in the second half.

GRADE: C+

No comments:

Post a Comment