Previewing the men's basketball top-five

Started from the bottom

The return of CIS basketball is imminent, but the who's who of teams are a relative unknown compared to previous years.
The elite tier of teams — meaning those with serious contention for the national championship — is a thin group. Unlike years past, the gap between those contenders as the rest of the league is not as large. Definitely ranking the teams this early in the season is an exercise in futility, but it is worth the time to provide a baseline for who we should be paying attention to in the first part of the season.
Top five
1.     Carleton
2.     Ottawa
3.     McMaster
4.     Ryerson
5.     Cape Breton
Yeah, this is an OUA-heavy top-five, but bear with me.

Carleton gets the number one spot until they prove to be beatable. The obvious question mark is who takes Tyson Hinz’s minutes, but Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles is capable of sliding in and filling the gap. There are other key losses: Clinton Springer-Williams and Kevin Churchill are both gone. Head coach Dave Smart used a variety of guards and any regression from the guard spot should only be brief. They will miss Churchill’s passing from the post, which was an overlooked aspect of the Ravens potent three-point shooting. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Ottawa to usurp them in the rankings, but Carleton has the legacy to separate them.

Ottawa is a curious case. They’re going to be good, we know that. But the book is out on them: shoot tons of threes and play at a crazy-high tempo. Teams will be able to adjust to them, and some squads have built themselves in a similar model. The only notable major turnover Ottawa is experiencing is Terry Thomas, who went pro after the season. He has been replaced with Alex Ratte, a pure scorer out of Laurentian.

Ratte is a transfer after graduating from the Sudbury, Ont. university. He has two years of eligibility remaining and should provide head coach James Derouin with some interesting options. Suiting up for the Gee-Gees will be a welcome change for Ratte, as the number of offensive options is a 180 from his time at Laurentian. This team is a national contender, but have teams figured out how to beat them?


McMaster sits third, but an upset over Carleton or Ottawa (or, possibly but unlikely, both) in the opening weekend of the season would vault them into the top two. Mac is easily the deepest squad in the OUA, and more importantly, continuity. Depending on how the coaching staff allocates minutes, they will have added one or two major pieces - David McCulloch and Troy Joseph. The benefits of continuity are showing already, as McMaster has rolled their preseason opponents. On paper, Mac deserves the third spot. We will not have to wait long to see if their on-court production justifies the ranking.


And now, we move to Ryerson, one of the more intriguing teams in the league. The Rams made the Final 8 by upsetting Lakehead in the 2012 OUA Final Four. Since then, well, there has not been many positives. Ryerson will be back in the national championship, hosting the tournament at the fantastic Mattamy Athletic Centre. How much noise they make there? Well, that is tough.

Roy Rana’s roster is laden with veterans. The guard core of Jordan Gauthier, Jahmal Jones and Aaron Best play at a high tempo and love to shoot. But … they are known entities. You can’t dance around this fact. That group is solid and not the problem.

The forward crop is thin. Kadeem Green, Bjorn Michaelsen, and Juwon Grannum are the main front court players from last year, but they do not offer the same level of contribution as bigs on elite teams. Green’s 23.5 minutes per game lead the team - not a good sign considering the options behind him are not good.

Cape Breton

Cape Breton’s preseason has given them a bit of steam heading into the first poll. They have beaten St. FX (twice), UNB, Dalhousie, UPEI, UQAM and Calgary. Their only loss came against McMaster in the final of the Cape Breton exhibition tournament, but they dropped 90 points on a team that will be in the Final 8 conversation.

The Capers were 9-11 in AUS play last year, but they return all of their main roster pieces. Young players like Seth Amoah have stepped up, showing improvement you would expect from a guard entering his third year. He earned an All-Star spot in the CBU tournament.

Scoring was their issue last year, finishing 40th of 45 teams in points per game. There were some RSEQ squads and Algoma below them, which is a damning sign.

Their preseason numbers suggest they have shored up the offensive woes. Through eight preseason games, they have averaged 89 points per game.

Cape Breton deserves some top-ten recognition and there’s a ton of transition around the league. I expect them to land at fifth due to a combination of a) OUA voter fatigue (Windsor has a claim to the fifth-spot, but an all-OUA top five is unlikely) b) consistent preseason work c) no serious competition from any other conferences (yet).

The season opens on Oct. 31, with a slate of Canada West games tipping off on Halloween. More so than in recent years, the league is up for grabs. Enjoy.


Ed. note: I will be attempting to create a Google Doc sheet with offensive and defensive ratings for teams. It’s a better metric for judging teams. The reality is, points scored and points against are antiquated measurements and we want to push conversations forward.

I’m hoping that other student newspapers or CIS hoops outlets can use this info. If you have other metrics that you would really like me to crunch, please let me know at scott1hastie at gmail dot com.
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  1. Looking forward to more ranking breakdowns in the future.

    1. Thanks, William. I'm hoping to do deeper dives on top-ten teams once the season starts. Now that video of games are archived, it will be easier to do analysis.

  2. The list might actually not be OUA heavy enough. Windsor has shown they also belong in the top 5, as reflected in the first official CIS ranking that came out this week.

    1. This was written ahead of the first rankings.

  3. I'm not saying I disagree because the official rankings were different. I'm saying that I disagree because the five OUA teams showed themselves to be a cut above the rest in the pre-season.