Basketball: Carleton secures ninth national title, over Lakehead

OTTAWA — Ibid., see the game from 364 days ago. Only this time it was not nearly as close as Carleton doubled the previous record for greatest margin of victory in a CIS final.

You might think the score was whatever the Carleton Ravens beat Lakehead by, but you'd be wrong. It is really Carleton 9, J.K. Rowling 7 since the Ravens of Dave Smart are like the Harry Potter franchise in its day, unstoppable, only Smart hasn't run out of books. To put it in fluent nerd, playing the Ravens with Phil Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb, Clinton Springer-Williams and Tyson Hinz is like showing up a Hogwarts for a Quidditch match after forgetting the brooms. Would it be be nosy to reach up and flick Hinz's bangs back to check for the lightning bolt scar? Oh, and Victor Raso is waiting in the wings as a transfer.

Even Ravens of recent vintage are fairly agog at how simple it seems for the current bunch who put in the hard work to make it look easy. They are 99-2 in CIS play during Phil Scrubb's three seasons. One loss in a season opener this year at Windsor and one against Lakehead in the OUA Wilson Cup in 2011 after a No. 1 seed at the Final 8 was already tucked away. That's it. Their three-year average winning margin is 30 points against everyone in Canada, but it jumps to 32 if you factor out contests vs. their two gamest foes, the Lakehead Thunderwolves and Ottawa Gee-Gees, who took the silver and bronze to give Ontario University Athletics a podium sweep.

There is no team which is such a confluence of caring so much and capability. As long as someone named Smart is associated with Carleton, there is no chance of the Ravens ending up in sports history's remainder bin like the Edmonton Varsity Grads, the world-beating team of the pre-World War II era that eventually gave it up when they ran out of competition. Dave Smart makes sure his teams internalize the notion that the scoreboard resets at zero when the world turns.

The big take-homes today? Carleton, whose core four is coming back last season, set a record (and then some) for the biggest winning margin in a CIS final with its 50-point win. Lakehead, which is graduating a half-dozen from the Great Group of Dudes, set the mark for fewest points scored with 42. In last year's final, Carleton kept Alberta under an effective-field goal percentage of 40%; in this one, they pushed Lakehead under 30% and made a serious game look almost comical.

There is something epochal, at least within the small world of Canadian university basketball, unfolding at the Ravens' Nest. The gap between Carleton and the Rest of Canada wasn't like this before the Scrubb boys headed east. Carleton did not lead the country in SRS in 2008-09 when it won its sixth title; runner-up UBC did.

The Ravens have also finished at least 10 points ahead of anyone else in SRS in successive seasons. Please keep in mind that, this season at least, they did so against the stronger half of the country's most competitive conference, the OUA, where teams get stress-tested twice a week for three months. If the Final 8 didn't have assigned berths for conference runners-up, either Roy Rana's Ryerson Rams or Chris Oliver's Windsor Lancers could have filled in for 8 seed Victoria without causing any drop-off in the depth of the field.

Point being, Carleton faced the toughest opponents the country has to offer this year and it still needs to play a more competitive schedule. One also wonders whether this can become catalytic for getting university hoops more on the nation's sports radar as basketball continues to increase in overall popularity across the country. Bringing three NCAA teams, including a name-brand team such as Syracuse, in for a December tournament might do it.

The announced crowd Sunday was 5,397, but you're left feeling more people need to see this.
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  1. Neate,

    Great article. Carleton is a beast. However, today's game had Lakehead's best scorer and offensive playmaker out; their centre playing with three slipped disks in his back, their defensive star playing with a separated shoulder, and their heart and soul player playing with a strained back. Take away Phil Scrubb for Ryan Thomson, make Hinz play with slipped disks, make Scrubb No. 2 play with a separated shoulder, and then Clinton Spring Williams with a strained back. Would they have made the finals? For Lakehead to make the finals was epic...a really too bad what if they could have been healthy for this season and of course for this game...

  2. I know all this. That's why we wrote the night before there was no reason to even play the game. But Carleton's physical and they didn't get beaten up. Breaks of the game (and the school's budget for physio and a strength coach).

  3. The Yahoo article was even better:

    The dis of UVic was unnecessary. They did finish 6th.

  4. The UVic dis, sure it was unnecessary, but it likely came out of an Ontarian-centrist basketball mind with lots to flaunt. Ontario basketball fans have enjoyed the highest ranked basketball in the country, but really, Q: what are rankings? A: The Coaches' weekly votes. The CanWest votes, by the way, are arranged into a block vote by CanWest coaches (to vote for CanWest teams strategically), a seemingly smart tactic, but where has it gotten them?

    Don't get me wrong- lots of respect for CanWest teams, but for an organization praised by many as the best of the regional Univ. Sport bodies, maybe there's a disconnect there. In that vein (read: vain), and i think it speaks directly to the # of CanWest teams annually in the CIS Final8 - Why has this great org. not landed the National Championships in decades? (Calgary 1980). I hope they put in an offer on the 2014-15 Final 8, and it could be likely, as CIS minimum bid requirements were rumored to be cut by over 50% since the last round went to Carleton.

    Getting back to rankings, UBC was ranked high all year (thanks to block voting), but very nearly coughed up their crack at McGee trophy late in the season. Alberta's star gets hurt, and Fraser Valley goes down to a Wesmen team that was peaking at the right time behind a point guard (Cunningham) that showed the jam to (maybe) have been an All-Star at the CIS Final8 if he actually got there. [Side note, that would have made for three of Benny Edison's (Howard College coach, Dalhousie '03) Maryland recruits at the Final 8 (Jimmy Dorsey, Joseph Jones and Benny Iko)].

    Shifting to a more historic/ironic point, I liked that Victoria was in the tournament. Yes they deserved to be there, and I thought it fitting that Carleton push the Vikes aside with a wave of their hand in the first round, the program that they would surpass for most Canadian Basketball titles two days later.

    Ryerson had its expectations, and Windsor is one heck of a team with a win on the Ravens. Both the Rams and Lancers will be back just as strong next year, if not stronger.

    1. What does hosting the National Championships have to do with the number of CanWest teams in the CIS Final 8? Western Canadian schools have done pretty well since one last hosted. Of course, not as well as Carleton.

    2. If you host the Final 8, you get an automatic bid to the tournament.

      Carleton got it this year (not that they needed it), but it meant that the next two Ontario teams got in (Ottawa-OUA 2nd and Lkhd OUA 3rd).

      If by some miracle Lakehead had beaten Carleton in the first round of the OUA Final Four, the bronze medal game would have been deemed redundant (it wasn't even played in 2012, when the OUA had only 2 bids to the Final 8 in Halifax, and Ryerson got into the Final 8 by beating Lakehead in the OUA semis). Carleton would have gotten a bid this year's Final 8 anyway, even if they lost the OUA bronze medal game.


      Last year, the Atlantic conference got 2 bids (StFX and Acadia), while Lakehead grabbed the wild card, much to the dismay of Saskatchewan fans. This year, CBU got the automatic bid by winning the AUS, and Acadia got in via the WC.

      Message: Poney up the dough to showcase your conference's talent at the Final 8 tournament!

  5. Yeah, a good Saskatchewan team would have gone to the Final 8 last year if U of A or U of S hosted. I (and many other people) thought they deserved the at-large spot. It's not very often that there are three teams from Canada West good enough to deserve to be at the national tournament but don't get there. The conference had three in 2008 and 2010.

    Does the conference help out a university that wants to host the national tournament or does the school cover it all?