Men's Basketball: The final tracker, looking at the Final 8 teams

The banners have been claimed, the conference season is over and eight lucky (also, really good) teams are in Halifax for the CIS Final 8. After an awesome weekend of thrilling basketball and considerable debate, we'll be ditching the traditional Top 10 format and taking a look at the remaining top 8 — the teams who'll play for a national title this weekend in Nova Scotia.

Here's are the RPI, SRS and other methods which may or may not measure how good a team is at basketball.

  1. Carleton Ravens (31-0 CIS, no. 4 RPI, SRS +26.5)

    I was fortunate enough to see Carleton play this weekend against overmatched McMaster and Ryerson teams that had their moments, but simply succumbed to the relentless Raven attack. Simply put, there just isn't much they don't do well. It's hard to imagine any team winning any matchup battles with Carleton because of their depth and versatility. Here are the three things that most impressed me about last week's Wilson Cup victories.

    • Tyson Hinz was held in check and it hardly slowed Carleton down. The reigning CIS Player of the Year went just 3-for-11 for eight points against McMaster and 4-for-6 for nine points against Ryerson, the former of which was due to some career defense from Mac's Taylor Black while the latter was mainly due to foul trouble. Yet still, Carleton was able to find secondary options and play very efficient offense. I expect he'll be better in Halifax, and that's terrifying.

    • The Ravens' defensive rotations are just so, so good. Against two of the quickest point guards in CIS - Ryerson's Jahmal Jones and Mac's Adam Presutti - Carleton didn't let any penetration hurt them, with quick help and even quicker rotations. Their offense was alright by Raven standards last weekend, but their defense won them the title.

    • Cole Hobin should be illegal. He can guard anyone, including Jones, his main assignment in win over Ryerson. A 6'6" player with that wingspan and lateral quickness should not be trusted in the hands of Dave Smart.

    Now, if Carleton doesn't win it all this weekend, it will be a failed season, so there's plenty of pressure on their shoulders. But beating them is going to require the Ravens not to play so well, and right now, that looks unlikely.

  2. Alberta Golden Bears (20-7 CIS, no. 1 RPI, SRS +12.9)

    Lost in the hubbub over Saskatchewan getting royally hosed: the Golden Bears did something no one else did all season, beating the Huskies in front of a raucous home crowd. They did it with defense, keeping the Huskies to 35 per cent shooting and forcing Jamelle Barrett to take 16 of his 24 shots from beyond the arc. Sahr Saffa continued his brilliant playoff run, scoring 20 points and helping quiet the Huskie faithful with four triples.

    Their CWUAA title came in nail-biting fashion too, so it's fair to point out, as coach Greg Francis did, that the Bears head into nationals battle-tested and ready to go. They'll also have arguably the easiest path to the final, facing an underdog Ryerson team and the winner of X-Concordia should they get past the Rams.

  3. Concordia Stingers (23-6 CIS, no. 6 RPI, SRS +5.5)

    Coach John Dore is wary of X having a loud hometown crowd in their first round matchup. But if it's anything like last year, that shouldn't be a problem because their voices will be lost in the cavernous dungeon of empty seats that is the Halifax Metro Centre.

    But seriously, if Concordia can 'put a cover on top of the basket' like they did in the RSEQ final against UQAM last weekend, they should match up well in round one against X. The 3 vs. 6 first round battle has the potential to be a really good game.

  4. Lakehead Thunderwolves (30-3 CIS, no. 11 RPI, +11.6 SRS)

    The 'Well, this is kinda awkward' Team of 2012 is Thunder Bay's Lakehead Thunderwolves, who earned their wild card spot based on the selection criteria of the seeding committee.

    First off: Lakehead is a great team that suffered one bad loss at an even worse time, a big part of which was the absence of three-point shooting forward Ryan Thomson. They fully deserve to be in Halifax this weekend. And our issue wasn't about Lakehead. It was about Saskatchewan.

    Nonetheless, the GGOD[T]s will be the team that enters nationals with a decent shot of making some noise (especially if Thomson can play, though it seems like he won't) while being unable to avoid the back ends of jokes about not deserving to be there in the first place.

    Through it all, the Thunderwolves-Cascades matchup should be pretty good, too. Fourth-year forward Yoosrie Salhia had a period of about five minutes in the loss to Ryerson where he absolutely dominated on the glass and defensive end, and Lakehead went on a 15-2 run to make the halftime score respectable. He was totally exhausted after and it was the only good run LU made all game, but it was nonetheless pretty impressive and could be a key to beating UFV.

  5. UFV Cascades (20-7 CIS, no. 5 RPI, +8.2 SRS)

    It would have been too perfect for the Cascades to win the CWUAA title on a buzzer beater, right? With their rise from fringe contender to nationals participant, that would have helped lock up 'team story of the year' honors. (I'm all about these made-up awards, apparently.)

  6. St. FX X-Men (27-5 CIS, no. 3 RPI, +7.8 SRS) 

    Did anyone other than Lakehead get a better gift from the selection committee than X? They've been good in spurts this year, but it seems to be X gets the 'body of work' benefit of the doubt every year. As Andrew Bucholtz said, their regular season record (and overall SRS) was only marginally better than Acadia, the team that beat them in the AUS final and now gets to play Carleton. Whereas X will face the winner of the weakest conference with a home crowd behind them. Sweet. 

  7. Ryerson Rams (18-13 CIS, no. 20 RPI, +1.5 SRS)

    Thanks, Ryerson, for screwing up everyone's bracket by beating Lakehead. Everyone, including myself, gave them a pat on the back for making the OUA Final Four, said 'good job' to a developing program and thought they'd be a tough team next year.

    All they did after that was play their hearts out and remind us why we play the games in the first place.

    Jahmal Jones made Lakehead look like they were playing in snowshoes, Bjorn Michaelsen was everywhere and Aaron Best decided he'd play better than anyone to take the floor that night (non-Phil Scrubb division). It was a hell of a performance. 

    Also, they got a shout-out on The Basketball Jones, which is awesome.

  8. Acadia Axemen (20-13 CIS, no. 7 RPI, +6.9 SRS)

    I really hope the Axemen put up a solid fight against Carleton. All they did was have a solid regular season, build momentum towards the playoffs and win their conference title. That deserves a surefire first-round loss, right?




Carleton def. Acadia 92-55
UFV def. Lakehead 67-65
Concordia def. St. FX 71-65
Alberta def. Ryerson 85-65


Carleton def. UFV 82-66
Alberta def. Concordia 76-70


Carleton def. Alberta 84-72

(daring, aren't I?)
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