Men's basketball: Top 10 tracker: A story of the (OUA and Canada) West

Continuing our look at the top 10 teams in men's basketball. Our team rankings are here.

There is not quite a sea change, but at least a pond change in the OUA so far this year. Ryerson's appearance in the top 10 is the first time a second OUA East team has been ranked since January 2011, and the first time in two years we've had more teams from the East than the West. (And when was the last time Laurentian topped Lakehead in SRS?) OUA East teams are 31-11 so far this year, or 26-10 (.722) without Carleton; last year it was almost exactly the reverse: 12-32 (.272), ignoring both Carleton and RMC games.

Meanwhile, in Canada West play, UBC, Alberta, and UFV all are national contenders again, a year after they were only eliminated once they lost to the eventual CIS gold or silver medallists. Yet each has some imperfections that may keep them from repeating that success.

  1. Carleton (11-1, 4th in RPI, +25.2 SRS) — Remember how they were shooting just 38% on two-pointers after their first two games? They're at 57% now. Best in the country. It's almost like outlier performances in small samples are unsustainable. Someone just needs to tell TSN now.

    The Carletons have won games by 40, 49, 41, and 50 in their six-game conference schedule so far, the exceptions being their opening loss to Windsor, and merely a 12-point win over McMaster. The 41-point game was a 94-53 takedown of the Slightly Depressed Group of Dudes, who are 1-4 in conference play but remain top-10 in RPI due to the third-highest strength of schedule in CIS and an 8-3 record in non-conference games.

  2. Acadia (9-0, 6th in RPI, +5.3 SRS) — Like McGill, are probably ranked high because they are undefeated; unlike McGill, they have not won as convincingly as a No. 2-ranked team does and should (like a nine-point win over UPEI that was a two-possession game with a minute left). What's happened so far for the Axemen is a midpack offence boosted by a killer defence ... but as we learned with Carleton, just two paragraphs above, these things have a way of not lasting very long. Acadia's defensive percentages are very low (effective field-goal percentage at 34.1%, for example) and their defensive rating of 69.7, best in CIS, will likely go up another 5 or 10 points by the time the season is over.

  3. McGill (10-0, 1st in RPI, +11.0 SRS) — Vincent Dufort. That's it. That's all I got. Just "Vincent Dufort."

  4. UBC (12-2, 3rd in RPI, +13.1 SRS) — Losing to Alberta by two points (in Edmonton, the day after playing in Saskatoon) dropped them one spot in the top 10, but RPI-wise they remained unchanged at third after this weekend. They missed "five straight shots in the final minute, including three attempts from three-point range", any one of which would have (obviously) at least tied it up.

    Our estimates show San Jose State transfer Brylle Kamen has grabbed 28% of available defensive rebounds for the T-Birds, accomplishing two things: (1) replacing Kamar Burke and (2) providing an example of how individual statistics, rebounds especially, can be affected by usage and role. Not to take anything away from Kamen, but you could probably drop any above-average big man into the UBC defence and he would have 20% or 25% just by virtue of standing there.

  5. Cape Breton (9-4, 5th in RPI, +12.2 SRS) — After years of waiting for them to play St. F-X, we're now waiting for them to play Acadia.

    Side note: only seven players saw the floor for SMU when CBU beat them 90-86, and only six played more than five minutes.

  6. UFV (8-3, 11th in RPI, +12.0 SRS) — Beat Manitoba by a lot, Winnipeg by less. The Wesmen's results are actually respectable this year, unlike say three years ago when they finished behind RMC in RPI. Kyle Grewal, one of the most fun players to watch at the 2012 Final 8, has hardly left the court but also is shooting quite poorly by his standards. A 2-for-13 night against Winnipeg (and 0/7 vs. Manitoba) is more palatable for the Cascades given that they won, but it's not encouraging regardless.

  7. Alberta (9-3, 2nd in RPI, +12.9 SRS) — A sweep of UVic and UBC at home pushed them up nine spots in RPI, and three in the coaches' poll. Presumably if they keep doing this, they might be considered on-par with teams who did not make last year's national championship final and are not top-3 in both RPI and SRS.

    Jordan Baker shot an effective 50% on the weekend, improving his numbers—he was at a 40% clip previously—which is good news for Alberta if he is going to continue to use nearly a third of their possessions, approaching what is now known as the Pasquale Line.

  8. Windsor (6-3, 14th in RPI, +10.6 SRS) — The RPI rank will take some time to stabilize: they went from 33rd to 4th to 14th in just three weeks. If they finish the crossover portion of the schedule as the only team above .500 (and since 2-3 Laurier has Carleton and Ottawa coming up, they will be), by how much are they going to win the OUA West? They're shooting an effective 45%, so how much better are they going to be against Guelph and Western and Waterloo and Laurier and Brock and ... you get the idea.

  9. Saskatchewan (9-4, 15th in RPI, +8.8 SRS) — Owners of the best non-Carleton offensive rating in the country, the Huskies couldn't do what Alberta did the next night and knock off UBC in a close game. In that game, Stephon Lamar went 5 of 20 overall and 2 of 11 on threes. Probably not what he intended. Had he merely shot to his season averages so far, he would have scored 27 points, not 16—more than enough to win.

  10. Ryerson (8-2, 5th in RPI, +12.5 SRS) — Finally in the top 10. Have played much the same schedule as Carleton, with the same number of points allowed, but the Ravens' slow pace factor (no, slower than that) means the Rams are ahead on defensive efficiency: 80.6 points allowed per 100 possessions compared to Carleton's 86.9. (The 24-point spread offensively is what keeps the Carletons in a different tier.) Bjorn Michaelsen is having an excellent start to the year on both sides of the court.
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