The Tiers of the OUA: A Men's Basketball Season Preview

For the 2013-14 OUA preview, I've divided all the teams up into tiers. Ontario is deep this year with four teams being in the conversation for nationals. There are other teams who could surprise too, if they get a few lucky bounces and some transfers pan out. Then, we have some programs floundering in the basement without a shred of hope of making noise. For each team, I've given a projected finish and a player to watch. That player is a combination of on-court entertainment while also being a barometer for the success a team will have.

CIS Title Contenders

Carleton Ravens

There is no weakness in the Ravens’ game. Sure, their jerseys are lacking in creativity, but that’s the most significant criticism I can find. The team that claimed its ninth CIS title in 11 seasons this past year, Carleton will put more distance between themselves and the rest of the pack come March 2014.

Behind Tyson Hinz, the Scrubb brothers, and transfer Victor Raso there is just no way another team beats these guys. We’re talking about a team that nearly beat the Syracuse Orange.

Phil Scrubb is the best player in the country — this much is tough to debate and until he shows any signs of slowing down, Carleton is a lock to compete for the W.P. McGee Trophy. Scrubb led the conference in PER (with Tyson Hinz and Thomas Scrubb right behind him) and he shoots 47 per cent on two point shots and 41 per cent on three point shots. (Unless otherwise specified, all statistics refer to the 2012-13 season.)

Last year, Dave Smart orchestrated the best offence and defence in the country. Not just the OUA — the entire CIS. The Ottawa Gee-Gees had an offensive rating of 107, second in the country to Carleton’s 122 (!). The gap between the Ravens and the field for defensive was closer — Carleton put up a defensive rating of 84, with the next closest figure being 89 from the Ryerson Rams.

Carleton owns the best REB% in the league at 41 per cent. They get to the line at a great pace – second to McMaster – and shoot the highest 78 per cent at the charity stripe. The Ravens hold teams to a 40 per cent eFG% too.

If you haven’t caught on yet, Carleton can do it all and their key players all fall somewhere in the top ten in the nation. Expect another dominating season from the Ravens.

Player to Watch: Phil Scrubb. I just want to know what this guy’s ceiling is. He opened the year with 38 points on 13 shots through two games.

Projected Finish: CIS Finals – Wilson Cup Champions

Windsor Lancers

This is a veteran team. Josh Collins, Enrico Diloreto and Lien Phillip are all in their fifth year of eligibility. They are this year’s version of the 2012-13 Lakehead Thunderwolves, relying on experience through the long season.

Windsor’s strength lies in their defence, which plays a suffocating press that forces turnovers at the highest rate in the conference. Phillip grabs 28% of the Lancers’ defensive rebounds, good for No.1 in that category. He’s also a highly capable defender on the block and while not a player who blocks shots (he only had 14 blocks last season), Phillip can bother shots in a help situation.

The concern for this team will be how they function on offence. Michael Petrella played a ton of minutes at guard for the Lancers last year, but with his departure, Windsor has to look elsewhere to get the ball moving on offence. Collins is a top-level point guard, great at distributing the ball to his teammates. His average of 4.1 assists per game put him at 15th in the country. But the issue here is his turnovers.

The talented teams in the OUA prey on turnovers, and if you can’t control turnovers — as Collins has shown — you’re not going to win. Last year, take a look at the OUA teams who made it to the CIS Final 8: Lakehead, with Greg Carter and Dwyane Harvey leading the charge; Carleton, with the Scrubb brothers and Clinton Springer Williams wreaking havoc on ball-handlers; Ottawa, with Johnny Berhanemeskel and Warren Ward finishing top-five in total steals, and the Lancers. Windsor as a team has a low TOV% (20 per cent) but Collins owns a 24 per cent TOV%. It’s tough to build a successful offence around that, proven by their lowly 98 O-Rtg.

Another key to shoring up their offence will be reigning in Diloreto. He’s a talented offensive player, but he shoots an abysmal eFG% of 44 per cent. His shooting is only compounded by his USG%, which ranks 13th in the league among qualified players. If coach Chris Oliver can move some of those possessions to Rotimi Osuntola Jr. - a hyper-efficient guard with range - Windsor should be able to come out on top of the OUA West.

Lastly, they need to improve in all areas of free throws — both getting to the line and knocking them down. Their free throw to field goal attempted ratio is second worst in the OUA (to Western), and their free throw percentage is the worst, at 65%. If they can do a better job at getting to the line and setting up that hellacious press that Oliver has crafted, the O-Rtg should improve greatly.

Player to Watch: Lien Phillip - Professional-level talent, will be key to maintaining their defence.

Projected Finish: Medal at the CIS Championship - potential Wilson Cup finalist

Contenders for a Final 8 berth

McMaster Marauders

The talk in Hamilton has been about nationals, and I think that’s a fair conversation to have.

Adam Presutti had a rough sophomore season, riddled with injuries causing him to never catch on in the lineup. Outside of that, McMaster’s roster all made significant strides; Joe Rocca become a reliable offensive weapon, Taylor Black emerged as one of the best players in the conference (and nation), Rohan Boney won a Rookie of the Year award and Nathan McCarthy proved himself to be a top defensive big man.

With all of those players back, the Marauders seemed poised to build off a good season in 2012-13. It started off rough, with only two wins and five losses after the interlock period. But the team would turn it around and finish 13-8 and were this close to getting to the Final Four before succumbing to Lakehead in the Thunderdome.

McMaster had an average offence, but that was largely a product of Boney and Redpath having to take control when Presutti missed games. When the 2011 CIS Rookie of the Year did play however, he improved the offence with his playmaking ability. Presutti posted a 26 per cent AST% last season, good for second in the conference.

Where McMaster hangs their hat is on defense, and don’t expect a regression there. Boney is a great defender, Black and McCarthy can handle nearly any frontcourt and head coach Amos Connolly has added some other talent to beef up the defense. Trevon McNeil, Hamid Nessek and Leon Alexander — all in their first year with the program — are solid players who are overwhelming when defending the perimeter.

Black could take the next step and be in the conversation for an All-Canadian spot. He posted the best PER for players not from Carleton and has shown a knack for scoring at the right time and taking over quarters.

I’m very high on this team because I’ve already said a couple hundred words about them and haven’t even talked about some players who won't be playing major minutes for them. They lost Scott Laws, an emotional leader for the team, but as the team matures, they should have been able to replace the void.

They’ll need to knock off a ranked team to get to the CIS Final 8, but don’t be surprised if they do. This team is ten players deep and capable of playing with any team in the conference.

Player to Watch: Taylor Black. He is only in his fourth year of eligibility and has already made noise through the beginning of this season. Just how good can he be?

Projected Finish: Second in the OUA West, potential Wilson Cup finalist.

Ottawa Gee-Gees

With the departure of Warren Ward — a player who received NBA camp invites and praise from professional hoops writers — to Germany, it’s easy to sweep the Gee-Gees out of the conversation. But there is more to the Garnet and Grey than Ward. Johnny Berhanemeskel is the league-leader in three-pointers made, Vikas Gill is an efficient option to take some more of the offensive load and Mike L’Africain has been stellar through the Gee-Gees undefeated pre-season.

To say L’Africain struggled through his sophomore season is putting things gently. Offensively, he was unable to be efficient while playing off Ward’s double teams and was an average defender with a D-Rtg of 98. But L’Africain has all the tools to be an effective point guard for an electric offence.

Head coach James Derouin has looked to increase the tempo of the game, and that lends to L’Africain’s ball handling abilities and decision-making. Last year, the second-year guard finished 16th in the OUA for assists. Playing alongside Gill and Berhanemeskel gives L’Africain two lethal weapons on the perimeter, so his assist numbers should improve this year.

I mentioned earlier that the Ottawa offence is second in the conference and while it will regress due to the loss of Ward, it will still be up there with the best. The defence is what’s suspect here.

Matt Nelson, a six-foot-nine centre, hardly played last year after suffering multiple injuries. In fact, he even doesn’t show up on the CIS roster for last year’s team. But he’ll be the key to keeping the Gee-Gees defence in the upper echelon of the OUA ranks. Ottawa played a small-ball rotation, with Gill at six-foot-seven being the largest player on the court. While this rotation led them to a CIS bronze, it’s hard to imagine this being sustainable after losing a strong perimeter defender in Ward. If Nelson can come in and become a fearsome paint presence, Ottawa’s defence could take a leap. But that’s a tall task for a second-year player with minimal on-court experience.

Another key piece to the defensive puzzle is Caleb Agada, who showed himself to have a little something during the Gee-Gees CIS Final 8 run. He has been getting a lot of minutes early in the season and I'm bullish on his perimeter defence being able to slow some offences down.

Nelson should have time to grow, however. Last year, Derouin had his team forcing opponents into difficult shots, gang-rebounding and forcing turnovers. All of those skills do not require height; they require extreme amounts of will and no player missing a beat.

With Derouin behind the bench, L’Africain poised to become a top OUA point guard and the majority of the parts from a CIS medal finish still in tact, the Gee-Gees could be in the hunt for a CIS wild card berth.

Player to Watch: Mike L’Africain. With Ward gone, someone will have to take over on offense and orchestrate. Can L'Africain pick up the slack? My quick answer is yes.

Projected Finish: potentially in the OUA bronze medal game - CIS wild card conversation

Ryerson Rams

You could make the case for Ryerson to be a CIS contender. They have the pieces; they only lost one player from last year’s team and added some intriguing talent.

But I’m pessimistic about this Rams squad. Their offence earned a pedestrian O-Rtg of 100 despite having Jahmal Jones, Aaron Best and Jordan Gauthier. Those players though, might be the reason that their offence struggled.

Both Best and Jones have been efficient on two-point shot attempts: Best shot 55 per cent from inside the arc while Jones shot 45 per cent last year. That figure from Jones is a dip in production from his first three years in OUA play, when he shot 48.3 per cent in 2011-12 and a scorching 52.4 per cent in 2010-11. His shot totals through those years were all within 11 FGA of each other.

Gauthier shot 51 per cent on non-threes last year, but 122 of 266 shot attempts were threes last year, where he only made 40 — or 32 per cent of his attempts.

It’s the three-point shots that are killing the Rams. Through twenty games last year, 38 per cent of Ryerson’s shots were threes and they only shot 29.0 per cent behind the arc. That’s a lot of threes for a team that isn’t particularly good at it.

Teams with similar three-point shot rates? Carleton with 39.5 per cent and Ottawa with 39.7 per cent. But those squads are really, really good at threes. The Ravens knocked down 40.2 per cent of threes and Ottawa knocked down 40.1 per cent.

I’m not saying that Ryerson should abandon the three-point shot. My point is that they’ll need to make better decisions in the half court. The three aforementioned guards lead the team in USG% and if they want to make it to the Final 8 tournament, head coach Roy Rana is going to have to reign their shooting in.

Instead, they should look to Bjorn Michaelsen. He is a solid big man and shoots a team-best eFG% of 56 per cent. He is polished in the post and should receive more touches than he did last year.

Ryerson is capable of making nationals, but it will take a major shift in player tendencies to get there. Can Rana change the established player styles of his three guards?

Player to Watch: Aaron Best. In his third year, he has the opportunity to climb into the top five scorers of the OUA.

Projected Finish: potentially in the OUA bronze medal game - Wild card conversation


Laurentian Voyageurs

Manny Pasquale is gone, but this team has the ability to rework itself and make noise in the OUA East. Don’t expect them to be challenging Ottawa or Carleton at the top of the standings, but they should have upset potential in the playoffs.

Georges Serresse, Jamie Weldon and Stephen Williams have all moved on from the program but Josh Budd, Nelson Yengue and Tychon Carter-Newman should have no issues filling those minutes.

Budd has already shown a scoring prowess, leading the team in scoring over Waterloo in the season opener. Carter-Newman is a defensive monster and able to clean up some plays on the offensive glass too. Nelson Yengue didn’t use a ton of offensive possessions last year, but made good on the times he did, shooting a 52 per cent eFG%.

This team is balanced, with an O-Rtg and D-Rtg of 101. Alex Ratte had a great year last year while leading the team in USG%, but it’ll be interesting to see how the loss of Pasquale impacts the defenders he faces.

I’m buying Voyageur stock because of that Sudbury advantage and returning players who are capable of filling in for the losses. The only thing that worries me about this team is what happens when Ratte has an off night or takes on an elite defender. Who takes on the shooting responsibilities? It looks like Budd, but he only averaged 7.2 points a game last year in 24 minutes per game. Will he be able to carry the offence?

Player to Watch: Josh Budd. I hinted at it before, but I’m really curious to see if the fourth-year can take these offensive units to new heights in the post-Pasquale era.

Projected Finish: Third in OUA East

Queen’s Golden Gaels

Queen’s has never made the national tournament. For a school with rich history and enough spirit to support a handful of OUA competitors, that’s a jarring fact.

But the Gaels seem to be building towards something now. Last year, rookies Sukhpreet Singh and Roshane Roberts were second and third in minutes played per game. Fourth-year Greg Faulkner led the team in minutes and scoring before going down with an injury. His strong debut in tricolour after transferring from Carleton put Queen’s at 6-3 heading into the winter break. The wheels fell off later in the season, going 1-4 in their final five games without Faulkner to finish 10-10.

It’s those outstanding rookies that put the Gaels in the up-and-coming conversation. Both were thrust into high usage situations, tasked with carrying the offence. The adjustment from high school to the OUA got the best of the two, with Singh putting up an eFG% of 46 per cent and Roberts hitting at a 40 per cent clip. Those are two sobering numbers, but there are positives.

Singh got the line at an all-OUA level. His free throw rate of 0.37 was good for ninth in Ontario. He only made 74 percent of his free throw attempts, but for a rookie to come out and make a habit of getting to the charity stripe is nothing short of impressive. Singh also has an elite play-making ability, finishing his first-year campaign with a 21 per cent assist rate to put him at tenth in the conference.

For Roberts, there are not many redeeming offensive numbers. All around, it looks pretty bleak. He’s not a great shooter from anywhere, doesn’t do well at the line (71 per cent last year) and averaged just over an assist a game. Those numbers will definitely turn around as he gains experience.

Where Roberts could redeem himself is to grow on the defensive end. He showed promise; he averaged a hair over a steal per game last year and owned an impressively low 2.6 fouls committed per 40 minutes.

Mike Mullins — brother of Columbia University and member of the Canadian development team Grant Mullins — joins the team and should take some of the scoring load off of Roberts. 

Nikola Misljencevic has had a strong pre-season, including 20 points over No. 8 McGill to lead his team to an OT victory. He only averaged seven shots a game, but it’s likely that he’ll take more possessions too.

Don’t expect a breakout season though. This team will likely be building off of last year’s success and give their young players more on-court experience.

Player to Watch: Greg Faulkner. He is a savvy player with range who has the potential to go for 30 if the defence is sleeping on him.

Projected Finish: Loss in OUA quarterfinals

Laurier Golden Hawks

This one is a tough call. Their roster screams "average" as evidenced by last year’s O-Rtg of 94 and D-Rtg of 101. Both marks are just middle of the pack, but more importantly, they are far off from the mark of teams that compete for the Wilson Cup year-in and year-out.

Still, they have a chance to make a run. Max Allin, in his final year of eligibility, is one of the best scorers in the country. He plays an efficient style; good three-point shooting and a ton of free throws. Third-year Will Coulthard has one of the quickest triggers in the conference, willing to throw it up at any second. Consistency is still an issue for him, though. He used the most possessions out of any player on his team, but only shot at an eFG% of 45 per cent.

While those two players are good on the offensive end, there are not many other players to rely on and that’s where we see the difference between them and true contenders. Allin and Coulthard combine for many of the team’s possessions per game but the others go to players who simply are not efficient enough to be deemed worthy of using a possession.

The next two leaders in USG% are Patrick Donnelly and Jamar Forde, at 20 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. Donnelly, who left the team late last year for unknown reasons but is back now, shot a horrific 39 per cent eFG%. That’s 96th worst among players that played at least one-third of team minutes. There were only 107 players that qualified. Forde isn’t much better - he ranks 85th in the category.

Head coach Peter Campbell will have to either move those shots to Coulthard and Allin or find new sources of offence. Matt Chesson, OUA Rookie of the Year, and incoming rookie Jack Simmons could give them that offence. Chesson has size and a post-game, while Simmons has put up 11.6 points through five preseason games.

Their defence is average but should be better with Donnelly back, Chesson playing more minutes and Allin maintaining a low foul rate. Turning that offence around is more important than making that defence on par with team’s in the running for the title.

Player to Watch: Max Allin. He broke the school scoring record last year in his first game back after the passing of his father. Allin can light it up with the best of them and is always worth a look.

Projected Finish: Fourth in OUA West - OUA semifinal loss

Lakehead Thunderwolves

I refuse to put Lakehead in the basement. Yes, Scott Morrison is on a professional leave of absence, scouting for the NBA D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Yes, the group of players like Joseph Jones, Greg Carter, Yoosrie Sahlia, Ben Johnson, and Matthew Schmidt who took this program to a new level are all gone. But the Thunderwolves will find a way, as they always seem to.

Lakehead had a surprising preseason, playing the Victoria Vikes tough and grinding through a game against Carleton. They dropped some games to inferior opponents, but once this team plays gets their feet wet and uses that Thunderdome advantage, they’ll be back in the conversation for the top of the OUA West.

Since the majority of players who played for this team are gone (and Ryan Thomson is sitting out the year to recover from knee surgery), I’ll shy away from putting stock in team stats. However, we can look at some players with increased roles that will try to get Lakehead back in the CIS Final 8.

Anthony McIntosh is a fourth-year player who has been asked to take on increased importance for this squad. He did not log major minutes last year — his highest minute total was in the final game of the regular season with 13 — but has already played a ton in the preseason.

Igor Lebov is a transfer from Franklin Pierce University and he has a wealth of talent. Lebov could another one of those players that Morrison has plucked out of seemingly nowhere and has potential to lead this team in scoring.

Justin Bell is in his final year of eligibility after bouncing around the OUA. He’s played for Ottawa and York but looks poised to grab a starting forward spot on the roster.

With so many moving parts, this season could go very right or very wrong for the Thunderwolves. Not having Morrison behind the bench puts a damper on my optimism slightly. What will kill this team’s chances is a slow start in the difficult interlock period.

Player to Watch: Igor Lebov. The transfer is a talented player on offensive who can hit from anywhere on the court. He could give below-average defenders nightmares.

Projected Finish: Third in the OUA West, loss in the semifinals

Playoffs, but barely

York Lions

Head coach Tom Olivieri has built a good roster here, with a lot of depth and experience. True, this team is competing in a tough conference, but I like their chances.

Aaron Rados is leading this squad as a fifth-year forward. He plays tough and led the team in minutes last year, although just barely beating out David Tyndale. Rados will be asked to take on more of the offensive load this year since Tyndale was a major source of their scoring.

This could be a good shift though, as Rados had a 52 per cent eFG% last year, a respectable mark in the top-third of the conference. He spreads his shots well; taking just under half his shots from three while shooting a decent 35 per cent and getting to the line consistently.

The Lions’ defence was respectable last year too, posting a D-Rtg of 103. A lot of that can be credited to Nick Tufegdzich, a fourth-year forward who anchors this defense. Olivieri has to hope that his presence inside can push that D-Rtg south of 100.

I’ve put this team in the "up-and-coming" section because I think their experience will pay off. But there is no time for growing pains and the loss of Tyndale can’t linger on the offence. Tyndale was an "oh no the shot clock is running down, here just take the ball" guy and did a decent job in that role. But do they have the pieces to replace that? They should, as Olivieri seems intent on playing nine guys in his rotation, according to a York Lions website video.

Player to Watch: Aaron Rados. With more possessions heading for his hands, he is one of the most intriguing players in the OUA East.

Projected Finish: Sixth in OUA East, lose in quarterfinals.

Western Mustangs

I’m expecting this team to squeak into the playoffs but only as a product of a weaker lower half of the OUA.

I’m not a fan of this team whatsoever, as they play a rough style that is not exactly fun to watch. Last year, in a regular season match-up against McMaster, the Mustangs could not hit a shot from anywhere on the court. Mac was running them out of the gym and instead of accepting that the game was lost, Western decided to just start playing dirty. They began to hit players at every possible second and it became a safety concern.

That Mustang squad is the proud owner of the worst O-Rtg in the conference, at 86. The leader for that offensive unit was Peter Scholtes, who used 27% of the possessions but put up an eFG% of 41 per cent. He is back to lead the offensive, which is not an encouraging sign. Western also turned the ball over on 25% of their possessions last year.

Alongside him on offence is Quinn Henderson. He too used a lot of possessions for them and shot a better percentage at 47 per cent, but that mark is not something to structure an offence around.

Defensively, this team was bad. They posted a D-Rtg of 106 and turned the ball over at an OUA-worst rate of 25 per cent of possesions. There is reason for optimism, though. Greg Morrow is back for a third-year and he was the strongest defensive player for the Stangs last year. He also shot a great percentage from the field with a 58 per cent eFG%, so if you’re looking for a bright spot, here it is.

Eric McDonald is a transfer from Guelph and could provide more offence for the squad. He had a strong preseason, including 18 points against Acadia.

Brad Campbell has added some recruits but it’s yet to be seen how many minutes they will play.

Western’s experience could pay off and they should prey on weaker OUA teams like Waterloo, Guelph, Toronto and Algoma.

Player to Watch: Greg Morrow. He shoots the best percentage (by far) on this team and can get his own shot. Will he be given the keys to the offence over Scholtes though?

Projected Finish: Fifth in the OUA West. Quarterfinal loss.

Guelph Gryphons

Guelph is just too young of a team to put in a category other than the basement. Zach Angus is one of my favourite players to watch in this league, but he can only do so much. Angus and Michel Clark are two returning players who logged major minutes, but the rest of the returning cast are relative unknowns. 13 (!!!) players averaged double-digit minutes per game last year too, and they need to figure out their rotation.

Their O-Rtg and D-Rtg were so bad last year, I contemplated not putting them in to save the horror. For offense, Guelph was tied for third worst in the league with 92 and for defense, they were second worst in the league, with 107. What’s scary is that Dan McCarthy — one of the team’s best defenders — is gone. Adam Kemp is a six-foot-seven forward and has a year of experience under his belt. They will need him to anchor the defence.

Offensively, McCarthy’s departure means that the team will need to look elsewhere for offence. He used a lot of possessions for the team last year and the Gryphons will miss his production. For a player using as many possessions as McCarthy did, you would want his eFG% to be higher (it was 46 per cent) but Guelph needs whatever they can get.

They have a fresh crop of rookies, with 12 first-year players listed on their 2013-14 roster. It’ll be a rough start for the season to them if head coach Chris O’Rourke spreads the minutes as much as he did last year.

Guelph has committed themselves to the development of athletics, with a new indoor complex, brand-new football stadium and revamped soccer complex. They have some highly competitive teams in soccer, rugby, football, field hockey and cross country (to name a few). Basketball has been lacking though. Could this be the year where they start to turn that around? Probably not on paper, but through the development of their first-years, it could be the beginning.

Player to Watch: Zach Angus. He is a tough player with solid stroke and ability to get to the hoop. He’ll get more touches this year and it’ll be fun to see what he does with it.

Projected Finish: Sixth in the OUA West. Quarterfinal loss.

Basement Dwellers

Toronto Varsity Blues

I’ve put Toronto here because of the conference they play in, but I’m optimistic about the future of this team.

For one, John Campbell is the new coach. He is leaving Dalhousie, where he took two teams to the Final 8. He has implemented a new system, but said that it’s been "challenging" to introduce.

Then there is the new Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport opening in 2014. If you’ve seen the promotions for it, you know that Toronto has laid the foundation to host a CIS-best athletic department.

But for this year, they have Alex Hill returning, Matt Savel should hopefully be healthy and Dakota Laurin should get more shots since Arun Kumar has left.

Last year, Kumar and Hill used a large proportion of the team’s possessions and neither was even close to efficient. Losing Kumar is a blessing for Campbell, as he stopped any and all ball movement. If he can rein Hill in a bit, Toronto will improve on offence.

The defence was an issue last year, but again that comes from Kumar. He is a short guard and let a lot of guys get by him. If your point guard can’t defend in the OUA, you’re going to have a bad time.

These guys will be worth a watch to see what Campbell can do, but you won’t see these guys making much noise in a loaded OUA East.

Projected Finish: Eighth in the OUA East.

Algoma Thunderbirds

The newest OUA team could turn into a Lakehead-lite. Their coach, Thomas Cory, casts a wide net in recruiting — he grabbed recruits from British Columbia and Michigan — and he has been the team’s coach through their college competition. Throw in the travel factor, where teams are playing in Sudbury the night before and you’ve got a distinct advantage. The two schools even share the same weird "Thunder" prefix.

McMaster’s Joe Rocca said that the team is ultra-athletic and will look to just run teams out of the gym, a sentiment Mac coach Amos Connolly echoed in a separate interview.

They’ll be able to surprise some teams too, with teams having to do so much travelling to get there.

Player to Watch: Terrell Campbell. Athletic player who can get up and down the court as fast as anyone.

Projected Finish: Seventh in OUA East.

Brock Badgers

The new head coach in St. Catharines has already called this a rebuilding season, but Brock seems to finally be having a positive rebuild.

For the past couple of seasons, the Badgers have fielded teams that struggle to mesh on the offensive end. Last year, they put up a brutal O-Rtg of 90. With Charles Kissi in charge, the offence already looks better when I watched a preseason game against Niagara College. The ball moved a lot quicker and they were playing an inside-out style instead of the iso-ball of years past.

Mike Luby, Brian Nahimana, Jameson Tipping and Mark Gibson have all moved on from the program. Tipping had two years of eligbility remaining but left the program to play for the Brampton A’s — where Tipping’s older brother is the president and his father is the owner. Tipping used a lot of possessions for this team but was a treat to watch, as he could get to the hoop with ease, back you down in the post and hurt you from outside — evidenced by his 34 per cent mark from three.

Tshing Kasamba and Issack Egueh played the most minutes of returning players and are set to lead this squad. Alongside them is Dani Egaldi, a six-foot-seven rookie with long arms and scoring touch. He doesn’t have the size to handle older players on the defensive end but his quickness is a plus if Kissi wants to switch him on to a guard.

You don’t want to look too much into last year’s team stats because the roster will be comprised of a whole new crew. I’m looking forward to seeing where this team ends up in February because they could be really coming into their own. Egaldi is a player with OUA Rookie of the Year potential and Kissi is a coach who seems intent on changing the culture at Brock.

Player to Watch: Dani Egaldi. I can’t say enough about him. He looks like he could really give defence problems with his size and ball handling abilities. Needs to find a three point shot, though.

Projected Finish: Eighth in OUA West

Waterloo Warriors

The Warriors only lost two players — Brendan Smith and Kyrie Coleman — but having so many players return is exactly what I don’t like about this squad.

Waterloo was just as bad as Western was last year offensively and marginally better defensively. Their offence lacks any balance and their defence is susceptible to foul trouble, with abysmal fouling numbers for their major players.

I’ll highlight some positives for the team, though: it’s Greg Francis’ second year with the program, and perhaps that will give the team a little more stability. Jaspreet Gill has potential to be a dynamic offensive weapon too. But I’m running low on positives.

Simply, this roster lacks the talent to compete. In losing Smith, they lost their best rebounder, a loss that is already showing signs of problems as they nearly got doubled in rebounds in their season opener.

To get back to the playoffs, players need to have worked hard at becoming better defenders and cleaning the defensive glass. Otherwise, this team is going to be lucky to reach the quarterfinals again.

Player to Watch: Jaspreet Gill. He could be asked to take even more shots than he did last year, and that could lead to some eye popping stat totals.

Projected Finish: Seventh in the OUA West.
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  1. "We’re talking about a team that beat the Syracuse Orange."

    We're not; they lost.

    1. Did you? OK. I read it twice to make sure, but there you go.

      Your point stands, as taking Syracuse to OT, even in August, is damned impressive.

    2. Actually, this was my fault, sorry: I accidentally edited that mistake into the piece, then after the first comment I didn't acknowledge my correction when I should have.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The crazy part about Carleton is the number of insane numbers you can cite. They're endless and seem unrealistic. Phil Scrubb has 38 points on 13 shots this year and an 89 TS%. I am not convinced he is a human.