Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The first week of the CIS postseason was certainly dramatic, with buzzer beaters, close games and breakout performances. Some of the nation's top 10 teams have already said goodbye to the 2011-12 season, and with this week being the final edition of the official CIS rankings, we'll take a look at what's gone right and wrong so far this year for the nation's best teams.

Here's this week's CIS top 10; and the RPI, SRS and other relevant metrics.


  1. Carleton Ravens (23-0 OUA, 29-0 CIS, no. 4 RPI, SRS +22.6) - NO CHANGE

    The Carletons didn't look all that dominant in their 2012 playoff debut, letting a scrappy Laurentian team stick around for the first half on the strength of CIS-leading scorer Manny Pasquale's 34 points. They went an uncharacteristic 6-for-24 from downtown, and though that wasn't enough for the Voyageurs, one has to wonder if they can get away with that kind of shooting performance against McMaster on Friday or (presumably) Lakehead on Saturday. This season the Ravens have lived by the three-ball, and they'll need to do better from range if they want to keep their dominant season chugging along.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Kinda everything. Phil Scrubb has been dominant with the ball, Tyson Hinz is continuing to make defensive scheming a nightmare for opposing coaches and Willy Manigat and Elliot Thompson have spread the floor with their solid shooting. They're also pretty good on defense.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: I'm reaching here, but Justin Shaver, who could be an impact player in this league, hasn't cracked Dave Smart's rotation over dependable veterans Kyle Smendziuk, Kevin Churchill and Thomas Scrubb. Sometimes to send a message to other teams they're already beating that the Carletons are really, really good, Smart will have a veteran player give a rookie a slap on the chest or a stern warning to box out or defend better. I saw Cole Hobin do exactly that to Shaver earlier this year and it doesn't look like he's improved enough to the point Smart feels comfortable playing him over his trusty vets. Again, I'm nitpicking here, but this also says a lot about how good Carleton expects everyone to be.


  2. Lakehead Thunderwolves (21-2 OUA, 30-2 CIS, no. 7 RPI, SRS +12.9) - NO CHANGE

    Like their eastern rivals in Ottawa, the Thunderwolves also left a bit to be desired in their OUA quarterfinal, letting a surprising Guelph team hang around a while longer than expected. They'll be facing a high-energy Ryerson team on Friday that could give them similar problems, although it was a total drubbing when the teams met in the fall.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Ben Johnson has emerged as a deadly three-point shooter (54.5 %) and Lakehead's balanced attack has been tough to adapt to for defences all year.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: They've lost two games by a total of six points all year, so not a whole lot.


  3. Saskatchewan Huskies (18-4 CW, 23-5 CIS, no. 1 RPI, SRS +15.3) - NO CHANGE

    It wasn't necessarily the way they wanted it to happen, but Barry Rawlyk's Huskies are through the first hurdle and will now host the Canada West Final Four on a court they've lost exactly zero games on this year. The Huskies beat Trinity Western thanks mainly to two hero games from Jamelle Barrett, who looks absolutely terrifying coming into the playoffs.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The Huskies are peaking at the right time behind Barrett, who is playing some obscenely efficient ball on the offensive end. In the two wins over TWU, Barrett scored a Carleton-like 1.22 points per possession, going 29/44 for 77 points while adding 19 assists. After struggling with some nagging injuries earlier in the year, a now-healthy Barrett is playing arguably better than any single player in the CIS.

    In addition, Michael Lieffers has become arguably the best rebounder in the country and Matthew Forbes has adjusted beautifully to his new starting role.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Forward Nolan Brudehl's season-ending injury. The veteran big man was a huge part of Sasky's brilliant runs the past two seasons and will be missed in this year's attempt.


  4. UFV Cascades (15-5 CW, 19-6 CIS, no. 5 RPI, +8.0 SRS) - NO CHANGE

    Well this was pretty freaking awesome, perhaps the play of the year in the CIS so far this year.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The Cascades have gone from a fringe Top-10 team to start the year to a legitimate national contender. They've won 9 of 10 games over a very tough schedule coming into the Final Four and look so, so tough to beat. Their top-4 ranking is an all-time high for the program.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A 5-4 record away from home. Granted, they've played three top-10 teams for four of those games, but they'll have to deal without the friendly confines of home for their season to continue.


  5. Victoria Vikes (16-5 CW, 17-7 CIS, no. 8 RPI, +9.3 SRS) - NO CHANGE

    If Friesen's game-winner for UFV above isn't the play of the year in the CIS, Terrell Evans' series-winning tip-in might be. The Vikes survived a suddenly formidable challenge from the Calgary Dinos and their fifth-year duo of Tyler Fidler and Boris Bakovic and punched their ticket to the prairies. The all-Pacific matchup of Vic and UFV in the first round should be a doozie.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Ryan MacKinnon's All-Canadian-caliber season has been phenomenal and the reason Victoria's got a chance to return to nationals this season.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A shaky start to the second semester (2-3, including a loss to Winnipeg) brought up questions about the team's ability to defend, though it should be mentioned they also beat Alberta and UFV in that stretch.


  6. St. FX X-Men (16-4 AUS, 26-4 CIS, no. 3 RPI, +8.0 SRS) - NO CHANGE

    All is well in Antigonish as X has won seven straight to lock up a first-round bye and the top seed in the AUS tournament. After a shaky start 4-4 to January, they look like the top dog out east.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The loss of graduates Charlie Spurr and Christian Upshaw has been eased by the rise of Jeremy Dunn and Terry Thomas as well as the steady presence of point guard Tyrell Vernon. Also, coach Steve Konchalski won his 1,424,567th game as coach.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A little bit of mini-turmoil when Thomas and others went to the bar within three nights of a game, leading to a suspension and a blowout loss against UPEI.


  7. Alberta Golden Bears (16-6 CW, 18-7 CIS, no. 2 RPI, +11.9 SRS) - UP FROM NO. 8

    Another team that's unbeaten at home this year (in a fancy new arena, too), the Golden Bears return to the Final Four for the second consecutive year with their eye on taking their season a step further thanks to a drubbing of UBC that hasn't been seen in a long time.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Jordan Baker and Daniel Ferguson have been really good at playing basketball. Recently, Sahr Saffa has joined them, slaying UBC with 41 points on 16/29 shooting in the two playoff wins over the Thunderbirds.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: A 4-6 away record and the occasional off night from Baker and Ferguson has dotted Alberta's record every now and then.


  8. McMaster Marauders (18-5 OUA, 20-7 CIS, no. 10 RPI, +9.6 SRS) UP FROM NO. 9

    It's too bad the Marauders will have to face Carleton in the first round of the Final Four - much to the chagrin of Chris Oliver - this Friday, because if they lose (and they probably will; I can't be that much of a homer) their remarkable second half run will come to an end. Their playoff win over Windsor was their ninth victory in a row, and the development of Amos Connolly's young team has been one of the surprise stories of 2012. Six of Mac's rotation players are in first- or second-year, including OUA West Rookie of the Year candidate Adam Presutti.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The rookies have been solid and the defence has been tenacious.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Victor Raso, who has had a solid season shooting threes and being Mac's most vocal player, still hasn't played since suffering a concussion on Feb. 8 against Western. They'll need his smart play and ability to spread the floor if they want to give Carleton a run for their money on Friday.


  9. Concordia Stingers (14-2 RSEQ, 21-6 CIS, no. 6 RPI, +5.3 SRS) NOT PREVIOUSLY RANKED

    The Stingers hop back into the top-10 this week thanks mainly to Laurier's collapse and UBC's playoff exit. Still, they're clearly the class of Quebec and are now "looking to win the war" that is the RSEQ playoffs.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: The Stingers are less of a one-man attack led by Kyle Desmarais than last year, with Decee Krah and QUBL Player of the Year Evens Laroche making Concordia some kind of three-headed, venomous insect of doom and three-point shooting.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Not much, and the Stingers are on cruise control heading into the postseason. Outside of Carleton, they might be the best guarantee to make nationals.


  10. UBC (13-5 Canada West, 22-10 CIS, no. 17 RPI, +8.4 SRS) - DOWN FROM NO. 7

    Well, this is an unfamiliar position. Outside of Carleton, the Thunderbirds have been the most consistently great program over the past few seasons, including runs to the national championship game in 2009 and 2011 and the national semi-finals last year. To not have UBC in the Canada West Final Four this year is weird.

    WHAT'S GONE RIGHT: Nathan Yu did it all for UBC this year, scoring, distributing and playing solid defense. He was basically a poor man's Barrett, winning games for the Thunderbirds sometimes on his own.

    WHAT'S GONE WRONG: Yu is a nice player, but the fact he had to do so much is an indictment of the lack of depth UBC had this year. They really missed Alex Murphy's stead hand at the point and Josh Whyte's ability to move defences.

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THE "UPPER DECK" TOP 10

1. Carleton - The season begins, in earnest, now.
2. Saskatchewan - Barrett is on a mission.
3. Lakehead - Will get a chance to defend their OUA title (remember that?) this weekend.
4. UFV - Joel Friesen's shot was awesome.
5. Victoria - Terrell Evans' shot was also awesome.
6. Alberta - Can they win away from home?
7. McMaster - Can they bring enough fans to Waterloo to make a difference against Carleton?
8. St. F-X - Right where they should be - atop the AUS
9. UBC - They took one on the chin against Alberta.
10. Concordia - Are they better than Acadia or Ryerson? Maybe.

--

THE "YOU WANT ME TO SHOOT? OKAY." LINE OF THE WEEK: Barrett's beast mode game to oust Trinity Western was a classic: 15/23, 41 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds with just three turnovers. That's an all-time great line.

--

CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND:

1. Carleton gets revenge on Lakehead, beating them 75-65 in the Wilson Cup game.
2. Saskatchewan runs away from UFV in the Canada West final, 110-88.
3. Acadia upsets St. FX in the AUS title game and punches a ticket to nationals.
4. Concordia edges McGill in a tight battle for RSEQ honours, 65-61.


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8 comments:

  1. im not sure saskatchewan will win against alberta in final four this weekend?

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  2. They're undefeated at home and Barrett is playing out of his mind. I think they'll be okay.

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  3. alberta is playing well right now, and lumoro has to play better this weekend then he did against Trinity Western

    but i hope sask wins

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  4. I'm not saying it's a done deal. That's why the play the games, etc. But the GBs struggled away from home and Saskatchewan is clearly playing the best they've played all season.

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  5. do sask automatically qualify since they are hosting final four?

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  6. No, they beat Trinity Western in a best-of-three series, as I wrote above.

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  7. Great article.

    As one who goes to a lot of Carleton games I have to think that their biggest problem is that their regular season schedule, where they went 22/0, is their biggest obstacle. Seriously, RMC would have trouble competing in a beer league and, with a couple of exceptions, Lakehead comes to mind, Carleton would have been 20 plus faves in every game they played this season.

    I think that is one of the reasons that Laurentian gave Carleton a wee bit of a scare last week and is a reason that the teams in the West may be a bit more prepared for Halifax.

    Thx for being here.

    Dan Shields

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  8. sure hope saskatchewan gaurds the three point line on fri or it could be a long night

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