We're right in the heart of the season, and with only a few weeks to go in most conferences, we're getting a better idea of who the contenders and pretenders are. Here's our evaluation of the teams moving up, moving down and staying put in this week's CIS top ten.
RPI and other numbers here; CIS top ten here.
Carleton Ravens (15-0 OUA, 21-0 CIS, RPI #5, SRS +23.6)
Despite being quite obviously the best team in the country, Carleton is no. 4 in the RPI, a little tidbit that has rankled some of the CIS faithful. This is mainly due to their strength of schedule being ranked 38th and the fact that RPI doesn't consider margin of victory (SRS does; they're doing pretty ok in that department, way ahead of everyone else), but I won’t spend any time trying to justify the RPI’s merit – I’ll leave that to Rob, or at least someone who won’t make a fool of themselves trying to explain math.
Instead, I’ll try to make my own case that Carleton is, in fact, the best team in the country.
- Since beating McMaster on opening night by 16 points, the Ravens have won every single game they’ve played by an average of 39.8 points (including a 3-point win over Lakehead and an 82-point win over RMC, the latter of which shouldn’t really count). Again, RPI doesn't care by how much they've won.
- The Tyson Hinz-surrounded-by-shooters routine that the Ravens play so well is even more terrifying than we thought. Hinz is shooting nearly 62 per cent from the field with his crafty post game while having also developed excellent three-point range (40 per cent). Meanwhile, two high-volume shooters (Phil Scrubb and Elliot Thompson) are shooting better than 50 per cent from long range, followed by Willy Manigat’s 44 per cent and Cole Hobin’s terrible (note: not terrible) 39 per cent. Forget that this team has superb defensive schemes and rarely has lapses in focus; they have a simple, effective offence with the right personnel in place to make it terrifying.
- This is a little rock-jock, but they’re the national champions and have showed no signs of slowing down. So, eat it, RPI.
Lakehead Thunderwolves (12-2 OUA, 20-2 CIS, RPI #10, SRS +12.4)
One of the McMaster poo-bahs told the Sil’s sports editor before the Marauders’ impending visit to the Thunderdome for two days last weekend that his young team had “no idea how intense it would be playing there.”
If there’s a better home court advantage in the CIS, including the flights/long drives to Thunder Bay, and passionate/slightly crazy local fans, I don’t know where it is.
UBC Thunderbirds (10-2 Canada West, 16-3 CIS, RPI #6, SRS +12.5)
An OT win over 6-8 Manitoba and a one-point squeaker over Winnipeg suggests the Thunderbirds aren’t exactly cruising right now, and they’re depending on their few veterans more than ever. On the bright side, Malcolm Williams somehow scored 10 points in four minutes.
St. FX X-Men (9-2 AUS, 19-2 CIS, RPI #2, SRS +9.3)
Beating Cape Breton handily despite Jeremy Dunn shooting 2-17? That’s pretty cool, I guess. But if X is going to keep this going into the playoffs, they’ll have to do better from long range: They’ve taken fewer than 19 threes in a game just once this season, but have shot worse than 35 per cent on those attempts in eight of their 11 games. That kind of inefficiency is tough to depend on when the games matter.
Saskatchewan Huskies (9-4 Canada West, 14-5 CIS, RPI #3, SRS +13.0)
Can we say Jamelle Barrett is back yet? In his past three games (all Saskatchewan wins) he’s shooting 63 per cent from the field while averaging 39.5 points per 40 minutes. The Huskies go as Barrett does, and if he keeps it up they’ll be a team to watch out for.
Laurier Golden Hawks (12-2 OUA, 18-6 CIS, RPI #8, SRS +10.2)
Despite having a few issues giving up turnovers and the occasional slow night from three-point range, Laurier has found a way to find the bottom of the bucket pretty consistently. Since their, 88-83 loss to Lakehead on Jan. 13, they’ve shot between 48.6 and 49.4 per cent from the field in each of their three games – all wins.
Fraser Valley Cascades (9-5 Canada West, 13-5 CIS, RPI #14, SRS +5.0)
The Cascades are breathing easier about their playoff chances, but they’ll have to finish strong to lock up a spot in the postseason dance: their four remaining games are against UBC and Trinity Western, who sit at 8-6 having won six games in a row.
Alberta Golden Bears (10-4 Canada West, 12-5 CIS, RPI #1, SRS +11.0)
The object of ire for RPI haters looks to have found some consistency, having won four in a row and vaulted themselves to the top in said statistical ranking. They’ve done it despite struggles from last year’s top scorer Daniel Ferguson, who has averaged just 15.3 points on 36 per cent shooting in those wins. But hey, if you’re number one, I guess that doesn’t really matter.
Concordia Stingers (7-0 QUBL, 14-4 CIS, RPI #4, SRS +6.0)
They shot 33 per cent and still didn’t lose to McGill? Instead of the Kyle Desmarais show, Decee Krah and Evens Laroche have turned Concordia into a three-headed monster, or stinger, or whatever has three heads and is really good at basketball.
Victoria Vikes (11-3 Canada West, 12-5 CIS, RPI #7, SRS +10.6)
Three losses in the new year, the latest being a 75-71 defeat at the hands of the suddenly resurgent Winnipeg Wesmen, have the Vikes wishing 2012 never came around. They’ll have three games on the road and one at home to try to figure things out before the playoffs; those will also tell us whether the Vikes’ hot start was a flash in the pan or a real turnaround.