BACK IN THE 613 — In the service of being honest and semi-unmerciful, it's best to find a fair comparable for the Final 8 men's basketball, as it was served up Vancouver style.

What is the best apples and apples match for the last weekend's men's basketball nationals, which was the first on the West Coast in 44 years and had an announced crowd of 4,415 for the Carleton Ravens-Calgary Dinos championship game?

VANCOUVER — Thomas Cooper averred he is coming back to the Calgary Dinos, and there probably will be a few more Americans following his lead to 'Canada Southwest.'

The runner-up Dinos' starting five in Sunday's CIS final against Carleton was a perfect reflection of the trend that as more Canadians go south to play, more players from outside Canada are coming north. Along with Cooper, a Chattanooga, Tenn., small forward who counted 76 points in three Final 8 games to earn an all-star nod, the Dinos ran with Australian fifth-year guard Josh Owen-Thomas and German forward Lars Schlueter.

All 17 Canada West men's teams included at least one non-Canadian this season. The trend is apparent in the women's game, too, where the Saskatchewan Huskies won the national title with Sabine Dukate, a Latvian, as a starting guard.

 Cooper, who previously played at Nebraska-Kearney, felt renewed playing in Canada, with the shorter 24-second clock.

"It's definitely fun, because you have to be in better shape, make quicker decisions, better plays," Cooper said. "All of those things, I'll definitely be back and I'll want another shot at it."

The move is somewhat a scaled version of what's happened in the NBA and NCAA.

"You can fight it or embrace it, and we've chosen to embrace it," Thompson Rivers coach Scott Clark told Krown Countdown U in January (19:00 mark).

It's also a necessity, since growth of post-secondary education in the two westernmost provinces has surpassed the pool of basketball talent. For instance, UBC and UVic long had British Columbia to themselves at the university level, but five Interior schools now play. Thompson Rivers, Trinity Western and Fraser Valley have all been tournament teams. Likewise, Alberta has gone from three to five since MacEwan and Mount Royal moved over from the college league.

"If we keep expanding and bringing other teams in, it narrows the recruiting base," Dinos coach Dan Vanhooren said. "Our populations aren't the same as Ontario or even Quebec."

With an extra season to play and only 24 seconds to take a shot, there's benefits to playing in Canada. The top competition is Division 1-calibre.

"It's been demonstrated many times, whether we play in the U.S. or they come up here, that our top 8-10 teams can compete with the NCAA teams," Vanhooren said.

Of course, a Division 1 team has a huge recruiting budget. Vanhooren was able to initiate contact with Cooper and Schlueter through former Dinos now working in the U.S. and Germany.

Ultimately, good to know how Canada West is trying to catch up. For anyone outside Canada West wondering, Calgary is the new normal. It's like Americans, Australians and Europeans are respecting the brand of b-ball here more than a lot of Canadians.

Alberta Golden BearsColey JacksonLas Vegas, NV
Brandon BobcatsDJ JordanWichita Falls, TX
Earl Thompson Jr.Henderson, NV
John PaulBexon, St. Lucia
UBC ThunderbirdsA.J. HollowayTacoma, WA
Phil JalalpoorShifferstadt, Germany
Dominic GilbertSydney, Australia
UBC-O HeatBrian AdembaNairobi, Kenya
Calgary DinosThomas CooperChattanooga, TN
Josh Owen-ThomasAdelaide, Australia
Lars SchlueterUlm, Germany
Fraser Valley CascadesNate BrownFresno, CA
Mark JohnsonPalm Springs, CA
Lethbridge PronghornsDejon BurdeauxOakland, CA
Carl HoffmanRancho Palos Verdes, CA
Brandon BrineAdelaide, Australia
MacEwan GriffinsThadius GalvezOgden, UT
Manitoba BisonsIlarion Bonhomme IIWashington, DC
Mount Royal CougarsGlen Yang*Hong Kong, China
UNBC TimberwolvesAustin ChandlerWenatchee, WA
Rhys ElliottAdelaide, Australia
Vaggelis LoukasAthens, Greece
Regina CougarsAlex IgualBarcelona, Spain
Rawane NdiayeNew York, NY
Zach MihaliczParker, CO
Saskatchewan HuskiesShawn LathanSan Diego, CA
TRU WolfPackMauricio MedranoLos Altos, CA
Gerald GoreSt. John's, Antigua
Volodymyr IegorovDonetsk, Ukraine
TWU SpartansKelvin SmithLos Angeles, CA
Pogos TrunyanSacramento, CA
Sebastien EliasenDenmark
Victoria VikesKai GreenSeattle, WA
Grant SittonBrush Prairie, WA
Winnipeg WesmenRyan OirbansMelbourne, Australia

California, not surprisingly given its population, had eight players in the league, followed by Australians and four from Washington state. I nine counties and seven U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. Mount Royal's Glen Yang did move to Canada while still in high school.

VANCOUVER — Pun time: Carleton gave a master class in Basketball 101.

The Carleton Ravens had their own Sweet 16, as in the number of three-point baskets they sank during their 101-79 CIS Final 8 championship-game win against the Calgary Dinos. It was a far cry off from the score in the previous championship game in Vancouver in 1972, when UBC defeated Windsor 117-84 without benefit of a shot clock or three-point line. Still, it's notable when a team does something that hasn't happened in the national final in 44 years.

It was a classic example of Carleton getting their players dialed in for the final challenge. Graduating guard Gavin Resch hit the first and was afforded open look after open look, making 6-of-12 triple tries for 18 points.

"I shot so poorly in the first two games that i figured my luck would have to even out eventually," said Resch, who was 4-of-15 on threes against Thompson Rivers and Dalhousie. "Once I hit the first I felt good and kept shooting."

With the Ravens setting tight ball screens, that Calgary never seemed to adjust to, the looks were wide-open. Four players tripled in the first 10 minutes. Tournament MVP Connor Wood (22, 5-of-12 from deep), centre and B.C. native Cam Smythe (2-of-4) and rookie T.J. Lall (2-of-2) all had multiple triples.

"They shot the ball well, and we didn't provide a whole lot of resistance," Calgary coach Dan Vanhooren said. "The game was going up and down, the style we played all year, We couldn't keep it in front of us, and they hit a lot of three-balls."

Calgary was 20-of-25 at the free-throw line to Carleton's 5-of-10. It still lost by 22. The Dinos shot an effective 45 per cent (19-of-38 twos, 7-of-28 threes). Carleton was an effective 59.3% (24-of-45, 16-of-36).

"We haven't had 16 threes shot against us all year," said Dinos star Thomas Cooper, who had a game-high 25 points but also was charged with nine turnovers.

The century points came when forward Ryan Ejim (12 points) tapped in a miss in the final minute. In past finals, Carleton has eased off the throttle in a semiconscious effort not hit triple digits.

The point was made to Smart that he can point out to Dave Smart that breaking 100 in a championship game occurred on his watch.

"That's a pretty good jab, I'll have to use that," the interim coach said.

VANCOUVER — Rob Smart declared that he is a one-time CIS championship-winning coach.

"He's back, he's back, there's a lot of family time for me, he's back right away," Smart coolly stated when asked about his uncle Dave Smart, who took a sabbatical from the sidelines this season.

There was speculation, of course, in August when Dave Smart availed himself of his right as an employee to have a personal leave. The 16-year head coach, who's also an assistant to Jay Triano with the senior men's national team, averred at the time that a break was essential to keeping roots in Ottawa with his spouse, Emily and two young sons, Theo and Gabriel.

It might also read like it was opportunity for Rob Smart to get his due by being the coach of record, for a season. Smart juggled the expanded role while he and his wife were having their third son, and while teaching in Carleton's Sprott School of Business.

"Rob's been fantastic this year," said Gavin Resch, the graduating guard who scored 18 points on Sunday against Calgary, making 6-of-12 triples. "The change of pace, it was good, because it made it feel like we could all stand to make adjustments, It was a really fun year. He's got a million things going on. He's a professor, his third child was born this year. It's just fantastic for him."

It would only be confirmation bias to suggest the change of messenger unlocked something for the Ravens as they went on to another CIS title, the sixth in a row and 12th in 14 seasons.

"It's tough to compare the two because they do things similar," said fourth-year guard Connor Wood, who was named tournament MVP after scoring 22 points on Sunday. "I really like the way Rob coaches. He really leads and really got us focused

"Rob will joke around a little more," Wood related.

Carleton did a good job of, to quote from Letterkenny, taking 20 per cent of the normal preseason expectations. There is no such thing as a no-pressure situation in that program, with the way the bar has been set and with the way that observers, even those who support the Ravens 100 per cent, look for any slivers of evidence that they are slipping from the perch.

There's just the outcome, that with the better-known Smart stepping away, there was a slightly different vibe, but the same result. Dave Smart stayed behind the scenes until the midway portion of the regular season, when Carleton lost thrice in a four-week span, with an 18-point loss at Ryerson sandwiched between both ends of a sweep by Ottawa. Against Ryerson and in the second Ottawa game, there were a lot desultory threes, instead of confidently flicked ones facilitated by a ball screen.

"Dave's really involved, he's involved with the mental side a lot," Rob Smart, 37, said. "He's helped our coaches with the mental side a lot. I got to be honest, I'm first-year, about halfway through I realized, 'I don't know how to win games, my team's playing differently. I really need to sit down with him.'

"As much as he drives me crazy, Dave knows how to win basketball games. As a first-year coach, his advice is unbelievably valuable.

"In the Ottawa games [both losses], our team looked mentally different," Smart added. "He just helped us with details,  little things that he's learned through hard losses, most of which I played in."

Resch and Guillaume Boucard, the fifth-years, are graduating. From the sound of it, Dave Smart will be refreshed when Carleton readies for 2016-17, with Wood and Kaza Kajami-Keane being the final-year players.

VANCOUVER — Carleton, according to the smart money, lower case, is an 11-point favorite against Calgary, which will be the crowd favourite.

They doubled that, and 'broke the board' at The Mitch with a 101-79 victory for Title XII and their sixth in succession. It is the first time in 44 seasons the season ended with a team hittin' a hundred, with only UBC's 117-84 victory against Windsor ranking as a higher point total.

Oddly enough, that was the previous time the tournament was out in Vancouver.

Carleton has won the last six finals by an average of 28.8 points. Ottawa, with the 12-point loss in '13, are the only team that has stayed within 18 of the Ravens in the final.

Comparison to the first 'peat? They had an average margin of 7.2 during the 2003 through '07 run in the Osvaldo Jeanty days.

No further explanation needed, time for a real-timey recap! Keep CTRL-R-ing and scrolling!

First quarter
  • At the first-quarter TV timeout, Gavin Resch has two triples and Connor Wood has had two clear looks, one that went, one that rattled out. Not a good portent for the Dinos.
  • Thomas Cooper registered with a drive, and a nice drop-down to David Kapinga for a back-cut layup.
  • Carleton goes right at Mitch Ligertwood to get two fouls on a spot on the bench for the 6-foot-7 Dinos forward.
  • It takes all of 6:01 of game time for Kapinga to get his second foul, as Resch draws a charge on a 2-on-1.
  • Now the 7-footer, Smythe, becomes the third Raven to triple, although Cooper answers. It's 19-9 at the two-thirds point of the quarter.
  • Calgary uses a timeout with 2;38 left in the quarter.
  • Jasdeep Gill hits an expiring-clock wing triple after Cooper smartly passes out of a contested shot. That comes between back-to-back Guillaume Boucard buckets.
  • GPB has eight, all deuces.
  • Without even checking the live stats, four Ravens tripled in the first 10 minutes. That includes T.J. Lall with two.
Second quarter!
  • In-game announcer fail: the trivia question was, "how many national championships has Carleton won?"

    Somehow, 11, the correct answer, was not an option. So, 5 + 1 + 5 = 12 in B.C. math. 
  • Carleton by 16, 90 seconds into the quarter.
  • Cooper triples, Wood misses a pair, but Cam Smythe hits one, to keep Carleton out front by 13 moving down to six in the half.
  • And, scene! Smythe sets a great up-top screen for Resch, but Calgary hedges, so Resch goes back to Smythe with about six seconds to shoot. Smythe puts it on the floor, then flicks back to Resch for the fifth-year's third triple this half.
  • Calgary gets into bonus 3:26 before the break.
  • On a that-was-way-easy ball screen set by Boucard, Resch triples for an 18-point Ravens lead.
  • Last minute, in transition with a six-second shoot-to-game differential, Wood flicks in a runner and gets fouled. Misses the back end of an and-one.
  • Carleton 54.5 per cent eFG (9-of-21 deuces, 10-of-23 threes), seven O-boards, only four turnovers. Ryan Ejim has three blocks and Boucard two.
  • The Ravens have 11 assists on 19 baskets, Calgary has five on their 10. So, yeah, this is basically a reprise of McGill against the Dinos, with Carleton having a better offence.
  • Calgary 36.4% eFG (6-of-19 deuces, 4-of-14 triples)
  • Resch's 12 is all on being 4-of-8 from downtown. 
  • Thomas Cooper has his game-high 14 on 13 shots, with a 3:3 assist/turnover ratio.
  • The Dinos who are not from Chattanooga are shooting an effective 30%.
Third quarter
  • Carleton hits half-a-hundred 34 seonds into the quarter, through Boucard, who gets into double figures.
  • Cooper splits free throws.
  • Kapinga has got to the cup twice for lefty layups in the first 100 seconds of the quarter. So Kaza Keane does one of his own, right, to get the lead out to 14. And everyone is happy!
  • Ejim  sits with his third foul, meaning Calgary will have some more ease getting to the rim. Mitchell Wood hits; 15-point lead.
  • Keane becomes the fifth Raven with a triple.
  • Reminder: next two nationals are in Halifax. 
  • Dallas Karch with a nice finish on a zippy Jhony Verrone pass; Dinos competing but after down 15.
  • It's been an even third quarter, thanks to a half-court shot at the buzzer.
  • How often does this happen: half-court buzzer shot goes for the basket ... and then there's a half court shot contest at the quarter break.
  • Mahony and Sons' servers need to learn to throw, but no one is complaining.
Fourth quarter
  • Ryan Ejim had eight in the third quarter.
  • Keane coming on strong, leaving Verrone breathing fumes.
  • Mitchell Wood just tore after his missed free throw and made it.
  • Keane gets his fourth foul with 6:45 remaining.
  • Kapinga, with two banked layups including an and-one, gets Calgary to within 14 for the first time since the opening minute of the third.
  • Resch hits his fifth triple at the midpoint of the fourth.
  • Ravens into bonus with 4:12 left, up 20. Boucard, with a double-double that includes 13 points and two tone-setting blocks in the opening minutes, might have played his way on to the all-star team in his last game.
  • Likely tournament MVP Connor Wood triples at the two-minute mark.  

VANCOUVER — The bronze medal is same old-same old for the Ryerson Rams, although the new exposure to a far-from-home Final 8 is new and needed.

Exposure is something far more vital in the clinical sense, but put toward this competitive endeavour, it means a group learning something new together that it needs its repertoire. The Rams reflect the basketball talent in Toronto, the generation who grew up never knowing the region not having a NBA team, and who had coaches to push them along. The Rams have that cluster effect, feeding to a football-free school with ideal basketball facilities.

They are as Toronto as a TTC shutdown during morning rush. Torontonians, though, sometimes forget how the rest of Canada lives. Travelling some 3,000 km to play nationals, point being, should do a lot for a group. The reality is that is Ryerson is going to deliver on the work Roy Rana started and one day win a CIS title, it will have to do it on the floor in Halifax or Ottawa, for instance.

"Bonding, and having the mentality of we're on the road and have to get this done, is going to help us learn how to get these wins," fourth-year guard Adika Peter-McNeilly said after Ryerson's 85-78 bronze-medal win against the Dalhousie Tigers on Sunday.

The Rams, who are bidding adieu to five-year guard Aaron Best, 6-foot-9 rim-protecting forward Kadeem Green, and backup guard Andy Agyepong, have a nice line of succession set up. Eleven players still have at least two years left, while McNeilly, 6-7 forward Juwon Grannum and 6-3 backup guard Derrick Allahyarian are on track to the trio of fifth-year seniors.

"Coming out to B.C., this weekend was great for the guys," said Ryerson interim coach Patrick Tatham, who also touched on the Rams' coaching question.

"I feel like I am five years ahead of my time right now, It's great, I am a student of the game just like the guys and hopefully, if the future's bright, I take over my own program. If not, I'm content to be an assistant to Roy."

Against Dalhouise, Ryerson started springy 6-foot-6 guard Filip Vujadinvoc, and relied on the fellow third-year guard, 6-8 Jean-Victor Mukama, to pick up extra work. A third third-year who's in line for a lead role, 6-8 forward Adam Voll, played through a form of pneumonia and big-manned his way to nine points, eight rebounds and three assists over 16 minutes.

"I was smiling on the inside," said Tatham, who played inside in his career. "We've been waiting to see that from Adam."

(Brief digression: the way to get much out of a Final 8, not that the quick hit-hungry, churn-and-spitters poking for a fiery quote in order to tell they story they cannot tell, is to spin a team's result into a larger narrative. That kind of comes back to three cliché sports tropes that are showing their age.

  • The idea that a one-off, a best-of-one result wrecks a whole season. Perhaps so for, say, the 1978 Boston Red Sox it did.  It is just generational, being more rational, so it would seem.

    "I don't think the guys have anything to be disappointed about," was how Tatham summed up the Calgary game on Saturday. "Yes, it was close game, Yes – we played from behind and played in a hole. Give it up to Calgary – twelve threes to our six, and they won by 11 points.

    "We made some history at the school and the success is still high."

    Bam, there's your explanation.
  • Hoping for teary losers. Millennial athletes are often stereotyped for having less passion than their Old White Man Says-genre predecessors. That's a misdiagnosis. On reflection, it's more about having grown up in a more connected world that gets smaller each day, and remembering there was a reason, even if they never heard the expression, that sports is 'toy department.'

    Indeed, Best was disappointed to lose. As a person born in the 1990s, ballers of his vintage are more attuned to always having another game.

    "There are positives in everything," Best said. "I am sure we'll pull some positives from it."

    Motivation for Sunday was easy to find.

    "Most of the guys were pretty down and everyone deals with it in his own way," Peter-McNeilly related. "I took a long shower after back at the hotel. Then we just realized we did not come all this way to come back with no medal."
  • Also, it takes the focus away from Carleton and shows what teams are doing to try to reach Carleton. So, win-win-win.
And we're back to Ryerson, and its need to keep broadening its horizons. The 2017 and '18 Final 8 tourneys are each in Halifax.)

Now, the doubled-edged part about being the team most bequeathed the overflow of Toronto talent that does not go D1 or juco, in a basketball world without borders, is that they can stay in their bubble. There is a huge convenience factor for southern Ontario teams in OUA, but it loses value at the Final 8.

Carleton and Ottawa, for instance, went to a preseason tournament at UBC. Ryerson, and perhaps this is budgetary, only left Ontario twice all season. The first was using their open weekend, a great innovation in OUA, to go all the way to Buffalo, N.Y., for a game against D1 Canisius. Their next outta-Ontario was the Harvard game in Boston in January.

So, two outta-Ontario games, albeit in Roy Rana's sabbatical season. The women's basketball Rams, the CIS silver medalist, had a B.C. tournament trip in October among five outta-Ontario games.

Of course, to get to do that, to attract that commitment to travel more, a school has to win. So a second Final 8 medal ought to help.

Ryerson's January and February got loaded with home games, and they lost at Guelph and needed a last-seconds triple to defeat Queen's by two. One could kind of see the levers turning on Wilson Cup weekend. The Rams had a great energy, and having a banner mattered to them. The combo of the win against Carleton, while UBC was losing in the Canada West semis, was good in the short run. It meant a more pressure-packed quarter-final.

"It was great to see," Tatham said on Sunday. "JV [Mukama] hitting big shots, guys getting tough rebounds, making championship plays."

In the here and now, the trip was daunting for a group that had never travelled for Final 8. If a team gives itself enough chances, though, it will get used to it and break through.
(Editor's note: In the interest of sustaining conversation, the plan for the three hockey and hoops nationals threads that I am off-site for is to have some belated Wishful Thinking Wednesday posts that pertain to each championship. Below that will be an open thread with results and whatnot.) 

The Super Championship weekend, let's get this inked in right off the hop, is a winner for CIS.

And, and I swear this occurred to me before the St. Thomas Tommies -- shunted to the No. 8 seed so the Calgary Hayley's Comet Has Gones could play the prime-time Friday quarter-final, lost to No. 1 Guelph.

Why not try to have the women's hockey and hoops championships  as close together as possible, and aim to have the men's basketball Final 8 and men's hockey University Cups in cities that are safe driving distance, for the diehards or alumni that might have a school make both?

The SCW is a great idea; this Shelbyville Idea is a next step. The regionalists will howl, but everyone will get a turn, and this gets out in front of the coming day when some of these tournaments are going to get too extensive for one school to bid. In fact, that day is already here?

The SCW should not be walked back. You need to be seen, and as it stands, wall-to-walling it with the eight semifinals and four finals in hockey and hoops makes sense.

What of having an atmosphere? 'Having a national conversation about CIS, it might make sense to somewhat tether these tentpole tournaments.

Championship Sunday UNB 3 St. Francis Xavier 1

Two goals in 17 seconds in the mid-second put the Varsity Reds on the path, with Randy Gazzola, the St. Catharines, Ont., native who helped Val-d'Or come one goal from the 2014 Memorial Cup, chipping in an assist from his D spot.

Looks like this was the usual muck-a-thon that prevails late in the season, that hockey types will tell you is tense and great and you can't get it since You Never Played The Game. This contest had 83 faceoffs, one each 43.37 seconds. So, it was a lot of souvenir pucks, and a lot of tedium.

Gazzola, like the X-Men, has played some triple overtime. He was in that record-OT semifinal at the 2014 Cup that the Ottawa Senators' Curtis Lazar ended in the third extra session, sending Edmonton to the final where it beasted the Guelph Storm and Robby Fabbri.

Bronze-medal gameSaint Mary's 5, Saskatchewan 2

Calder Brooks (Calgary/P.A./Spokane, WHL) has two goals, and he is from Emerald Park, Sask., so sick burn on his home province. Good finish for Saint Mary's, going with the bronzes in women's basketball and women's hockey. If only they could be third in AUS in football!

VANCOUVER — Everyone 4,300 km away in the capital — whom given the state of CIS coverage, probably only saw a tweet of the score and a 'chain story' from a writer who had never seen them until Thursday — will have a theory about what went wrong for the Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Which is fine and dandy, at a time where having a very finite of people who can get paid to ask the questions has begat endless opining. The Gee-Gees' denouement was definitely a 'Define Irony.' Once the results were in, it felt like the James Derouin gang, still the foils to Carleton, might have started to fray on Jan. 16 when CIS defensive player of the year Caleb Agada incurred a high ankle sprain while closing out the Ravens on the road after eventual player of the year Michael L'Africain had made the decider for the two-point win.

They pulled off their first Capital Hoops Classic win in February minus Agada in front of 10,105 fans at Canadian Tire Centre. Once everyone got back, though, they never smoothed everything over and peaked in March.

"I think the biggest thing that hurt us was Caleb's injury, and I am not saying that Caleb didn't come back well," said forward Vikas Gill, one of the outgoing fifth-year tri-captains along with L'African and defensive specialist Mehdi Tihani.

"Last year, it happened too when Mike was injured. We kind of hit the 'stall point.' When you play without someone such as Mike or Caleb, you step your game up. Everyone has to be better. Everyone has to do this. Everyone has to do that. You kind of relax — 'we have Caleb back, the best rebounder, the best defender.' The thing there is that if we keep that mentality of they're missing, we would have kept peaking. We relaxed.

"The same thing happened last season with Windsor. We beat Windsor without Mike, then played them in the OUA Final Four and we lost. Injuries are part of basketball; we're really good when a player gets injured, but not good when they get back."

Superficially, the Gees' stretch-four shuffle from Gill to Matt Plunkett on their first and second units seemed like a play to give more run to Plunkett, who might be the country's best pure shooter. In truth, the 23-year-old Gill, was limited by the back and knee issues. Basketball takes a toll on tall men's joints and fascia, you know.

"I was overtraining," said Gill, a Stittsville, Ont., native. "It took its toll."

In the four-point quarter-final loss against Dalhousie, L'Africain played the second half with a badly bruised knee. Everyone has injuries, but a healthier guard creates a possible five-point swing, no?

"It happened in the first quarter," L'Africain said after sitting out the consolation games. "I would have sucked it up for the semifinal."

A hollow finish doesn't hollow out a five-year contributor's legacy, really. Or the takeaway that Ottawa has figured out that to win, you need a balanced strength from having a group that is together 10-11 months a year, like Carleton.

"We showed here that it's cool to play for each other, cool to work hard," L'Africain added. "Not just swag out and go through the motions. Not everyone, but some guys before us did that, and it happens in other programs. We sacrificed our summers, especially Mehdi and Vik, who didn't get the same recognition as some of us. Their sacrifice speaks volumes to everyone else."

That last part touches on one of Carleton's hidden factors, that their players mostly stay together in the off-season. It's surprising that this isn't de rigeur in CIS, since Carleton has done it for years and even the anti-athlete NCAA allows summer job programs.

"I came the August I was recruited and never left," L'Africain related. "Not a lot of teams do it. It makes a difference, man. I've been in Ottawa 10 months a year, or more. It's a difference. It's why we always get off to a hard start. Everyone's together, the whole family."

Sixth place at nationals is a step back, but it's only transitory. Basketball, year over year, is not like auto racing with a race for the overall points lead. Now, it is impressive to see the Wall of Champions in the hall of the Ravens' Nest at Carleton. That is another irony, since if the people who created and sustained the dynasty listened to the 'X championships in Y years' talk (better use letters in case this piece needs to be written again in '17, '18 and '19), Carleton would lose their edge.

For the Gees, it's not that they lost, it's about matching the edge.

"Of course we wanted to finish our careers with a gold medal," Tihani said. "That was our last goal as a team after five years. It's not about the end, it's about what we did over four or five years that we were together. We made a lot of history, and that's the positive side."

Four consecutive Final 8 trips, with the 2013 bronze and '14-15 silvers. Their court CV also includes four wins against Carleton, including one in the 2014 OUA Wilson Cup. That stems from the departing trio and the '15 fifth-years, guard Johnny Berhanemeskel and forward Gabriel (Gab) Gonthier-Dubue.

"When I came I originally told Coach Jimmy, championship or not, we wanted to leave the program better than we left it," Gill said of when he arrived in 2011-12, Derouin's second season. "I feel like I contributed to that, so did Mike, so did Mehdi, Gab and Johnny. Next year I look at the roster and I'm excited – I think they're going to win."

There are tinges of Carleton in that — just reload, and treat every season as if it is a rebuild. That also quells fretting about whether the Gees are geeked out by being the 'second team' in Ottawa, where the casual sports follower is just inured to Carleton winning.

Two hilarious personal examples of that.

  • The Grantland article about Carleton on March 3, 2014, which was very well-done, was of course getting posted all over my Facebook feed, since I live in Ottawa and know a lot of people who do follow CIS. Almost none, though, seemed to know that a couple nights earlier, Ottawa had actually shaded Carleton 78-77 in the Wilson Cup when Berhanemeskel hit a last-second winner.
  • Last week outside Mick E Fynn's, the pub which is on the other side of Carlton St. in Toronto from Mattamy Athletic Centre. Falling into conversation with an acquaintance, a blind goal ball player who was in the area to play in a national blind hockey tournament. His guide, upon mention of the basketball, said, "I hear Carleton's not that good anymore."

    "They have won it all the last five years."

    "But their other teams were stronger."

    Notwithstanding that Carleton doesn't think that way, the point was the obvious. The Ravens only get compared to predecessors, and to the less than half aware, there isn't even a second place in CIS.

That would stoke the fear that the Gee-Gees' impact might disappear into the ether. It's worth pointing out that five years ago, when the novelty was wearing off Capital Hoops, the Gee-Gees started to improve, with crowds going past 10,000 in back-to-back years for the first time in the event's 10-year history.

That is a legacy in a sports that does charge admission.

"We got better over the years, and people started noticing," said Tihani, a Gloucester, Ont., native. "Moving up to this year and last year those crowds were much stronger."

At that point in 2012 when the Gee-Gees lost Capital Hoops by 40 points, one could be a little lachrymose about Carleton's competition, so-called. They went unbeaten in 2011-12, with Phil Scrubb was working on his first Moser Award as a 19-year-old second-year, and Tyson Hinz was in his third season. A past CIS rookie of the year Clinton Springer-Williams Jr. was sitting out as a transfer, too.

"It allowed other teams to see us compete and it opened some eyes across the country," Derouin said. "For a while it didn't look like they [Carleton] were ever going to lose."

Tough to prove, but Ottawa's example and a commensurate surge in the depth of talent in Ottawa have gone hand-in-hand to OUA's growth. It generally has four teams that are good enough to get an auto or the at-large berth, and there's another four teams who could tear up a tournament ticket like Steph Barrie's Queen's Gaels nearly did to Ottawa in the OUA quarter-final.

Those takeaways can be pulled into a larger point. There is more out there for CIS basketball, much more, than Carleton. It is understandable that one school having X championships in Y seasons (writing it that way in order to have this again in '17, '18 and '19, ha-ha) might glaze over some eyes.

Ottawa just has to figure out how to win the Final 8. That, and/or hope someone picks off Carleton in an OUA quarter-final.

As far as 2016-17, Ottawa has 6-foot-8 forward Jean-Pierre Emmanuel-Charles, a former Carleton contributor, coming in as a transfer. Their retention includes their Nathan McCarthy/Brody Maracle platoon. Plunkett, who hit 15 triples in the tournament, will work in at the 3 and 4-forward spots. Agada will be the fulcrum and a Player of the Year candidate. Calvin Epistola is pencilled in at point guard, although he will only be a second-year.

"The identity around Mike is probably going to be the biggest vacuum," Derouin said. "We ran stuff through Mike."

They can never totally replace Carleton, but Gill's last word shows there is a commitment to copying it. He said there was a sense of that when Derouin brought in a seven-player recruiting class in 2012-13. They were rising up to what Ottawa also had, in a different form, during the best days with David DeAviero in the previous decade.

"The second year, I remembering immediately seeing that with Caleb and Matt Plunkett, we were going to have a lot of talent," Gill recalled. "And it was not just talent but hard workers, guys who might have slightly less talent but are hard workers. They brought that great work ethic you need."

One of the years, if not next year, it will be enough.
VANCOUVER — In a real sports country with an elaborate media culture built to get casual fans to care about real student-athletes, Calgary Dinos vs. Carleton Ravens would be a dream matchup.

Instead, and this is a two-way go, it could be like that gift that took you by surprise at first. No doubt there was a priming for the CIS Final 8 to come down to Carleton and the Ryerson Rams in a rematch of the OUA Wilson Cup. Rivals who have a lot of interrelated traits, one reflecting The 613's flinty toughness and the other embodying the hunger and hoops talent bubbling up in The Six.

Instead, the 'settle' is Thomas Cooper , who's found roundball renewal as a 25-a-night scorer leading the Dinos, against Carleton in the one game that the Ravens plan to win. Carleton has that juggernaut mystique, and a victory would give it a six-peat, one away from Ken Shields' 1980-86 Victoria Vikes.

Carleton, in character is not so much in recruiting footprint, is as eastern Ontario as cheese curds. The United Nations of Southern Alberta has a top scorer from Chattanooga, an Australian two, a German four, and David Kapinga as their hometown point guard.


"First team I heard about — first team I heard about," said Cooper, that incandescent itinerant whose one-on-one game is as mellifluous as his American South accent. "They are a good program. They have won numerous championships in the past years.

"We have to treat it like it's another team," emphasized Cooper, who took two years off from basketball before joining Calgary and leading Canada West with 25.7 a game, 6.4 more than any other scorer. "No one even expected us to win today [Saturday against Ryerson]."

Cooper had the 30 points with 11 rebounds against Ryerson, but there are red flags in his line. He finished with a 47.9 per cent effective shooting (10-of-24, three triples) and 1:5 assist/turnover ratio. That was against Ryerson, which counts on length and quickness to defend the wing. Carleton is all about percentage-playing, making the drive inveigling and then springing a trap. Or forcing a shooter to put it up from a couple feet farther than he's accustomed.

A common trend at a basketball Final 8 is that teams can build strategies to stop the player of the year or big-time scorer who blew in with hype, such as it is, by default. They don't often leave with that piece of net cord tucked into the hat passed out to winning players.

"He's a walking event for us," Dinos coach Dan Vanhooren said. "All of the other guys get to respond to that and it often brings a positive outcome for us."

Through 80 minutes against McGill and Ryerson, though, Dinos point guard David Kapinga has been more of a revelation, and more integral to Calgary's success.

A point guard that can beat the up-top pressure can help a team ask questions of Carleton that Carleton has not been asked, especially if the wings are hitting the way Calgary forward Jasdeep Gill did with his off-bench 23 on 84.6% eFG. The teams that have each beaten Carleton twice since January, Ottawa with Michael L'Africain and Ryerson with Manny Diressa, each had that element.

Kapinga went for 26 points/69.2% eFG against Ryerson and drew 14 free throws, with a 6:2:4 assists/steals/turnover line. He did stuff to Ryerson that Ryerson hadn't been asked very often.
"Kapinga just made championship plays, something we haven't seen all year," Rams coach Patrick Tatham pointed out late Saturday night. He beat us off the bounce – something we have not seen all year. It was like Ryerson against Ryerson."

Kapinga also had four fouls against the Rams, and Carleton will try to foul him out, like it has sometimes done to defensive player of the year Caleb Agada. That's taking a kid's best toy and breaking it, with no hard feelings. Kapinga is the fulcrum of these Dinos as much as Cooper, but will have to keep being dogged and disciplined, a tough check-and-balance.

"Kapinga's pulling it along at the right time," Cooper noted. "He's getting it together as the games get bigger. He's hard to get in front of and he's really a hassle on defence. His playing confidently really helps us right now."

Vanhooren will try about anything, knowing that's how the tournament goes. His favorite/most frequent five, player usage-wise, is Kapinga; Cooper; Australian fifth-year Josh Owen Thomas; forward Lars Schlueter; forward Matt Letkeman. The next two 'favorite fives' reflect the rotational contributors: Jhony Verrone, 6-6 big Dallas Karch and rookie guard Torrez McKoy.

Aside: Jhony, Dallas, Torrez? These are great names! Speaking of great basketball names ...

Against Ryerson, Vanhooren turned to Jasdeep Gill, who averaged 13.5 minutes. Gill had a 51.8% eFG in conference play, including 34% on triples. The forward got 23 over 25 minutes on 9-of-13 overall and 4-of-7 on triples, for 84.6% eFG.

"I wasn't a shooter when I was younger, but you have to expand your game at the university level," Gill said. "The groove just started and my teammates supported me."

'Fly by it a little bit'

Point being, while Carleton tries to filter out the randomness inherent in a game where good shots rattle out and bad shots catch rim and count, Vanhooren will play the wild card.

"My inconsistency with my substitution pattern is geared to every guy feeling like he can have a chance," Vanhooren said. "Whether it's Jazzy, Dallas or Torrez, someone has helped us.

"If they're playing well, I will run with them a bit longer. You got to fly by it a little bit.

Those are all X factors for Calgary, which at this level, has had some awesome athleticism, going back to the high-bounding Bekkering boys, Ross and Henry, in the late aughties. Those teams were a treat to have in Ottawa the first the nationals were there.

That brings it to a theme for each team. In a 4-on-4 game on some outdoor court in July, neither this Calgary nor this Carleton might do much against their respective predecessors. They each have a good opportunity, coming up in about 5½ hours on the Sportsnet 360.

Raise a toast to Lisa Thomaidis, who will head to Rio 2016 this summer with both the CIS championship and the FIBA Americas gold medal.

Perhaps the Saskatchewan Huskies, with Thomaidis tweaking a team with nine flatlanders including the homegrown fifth-years Laura Dally, Dalyce Emmerson and Kelsey Trulsrud, plus Coaldale, Alta.'s Taya Keujer as a fifth-year cog, will even get shouted out in the Ledge for winning it all. That didn't happen in 2010 when the men's basketball team won the CIS title.

From here, it looks as if Saskatchewan's iron-woman five wore down speedy Ryerson, with Dally getting an efficient 25, Emmerson and Trulsrud producing matching 14/12 double-doubles, and the Latvian lead  guard, Sabine Dukate, having 22 points and a 7:3:4 assists/steals/turnovers ratio. Ryerson wound up with Keneca Pingue-Giles having to put up 28 shots to get her 26.

Saint Mary's won the bronze, with McGill getting the unofficial antique bronze in the touranment where the chalk picks all played for the medals.

VANCOUVER — Rob Smart would be the least affected if this turns out to be a one-shot deal.

Whether his uncle returns at 'C1' at the Ravens' Nest or Dave Smart moves onward and upward after coaching for Canada during its bid for a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the younger Smart wouldn not change. Also, regardless of who cuts down the nets after Sunday's CIS Final 8 game between the Ravens who were supposed to be rebuilding or a new challenger, one-on-one scorer extraordinaire Thomas Cooper and the Calgary Dinos, the mental framework will be the same inside the Ravens' Nest in about a week. It will be on to 2016-17.

Go figure that a team from Ottawa would know how to snow-job the lot of outside-looking-inner types. You can hear the hot takes flying off the 140-character grill: what does it say that Carleton could win the title after Dave Smart stepped out and Phil Scrubb and Thomas Scrubb, who were each a human trump card at each end of the floor?

VANCOUVER — Leave it to the football commentator to have the correct spot!

It might be the most uniquely Canada In The 21st Century set of finals. Eight teams, seven provinces, each official languages, and the X factors in making this happen where a Calgary baller named Jasdeep Gill and a UBC puck-chaser with the handle off Haneet Parhar.

Channeling 2016 Gord Miller, if he was doing the work of 1994 Gord Miller: does it get any more Canadian than this?

Pushing past the creeping Carleton net-cutting to come in the last final of the day, Championship Sunday offers a rarity. When the women's hockey Gryphons and men's basketball Rams fell on Saturday night, none of the four national finals will include a No. 1 seed.

Talk about a talking point that shows the depth of good teams in the country. That's the positive light to put it in. It should be leavened by pointing out that this is an off-shoot, as well, of having a very empirical, linear criteria to decide the tournament seeding. Even that is a good thing, since it should be a prompt for the observers to really focus on the matchups.

Anyway, here is what we have today:

  • Women's basketball: (4) Ryerson vs. (2) Saskatchewan, in progress, SN360 — Central Canada finesse against Prairie functional strength. Carly Clarke against Lisa Thomaidis in the coaching matchup; always great when the women's basketball final involves a pair of head coaches who are women.
  • Women's hockey: (4) UBC vs. (2) Montréal, 2:30 ET, SN360 — The West Coast first-timers, by the margin of the Haneet Parhar decider in the eighth round of the shootout, ousted No. 1 Guelph. Their reward is a matchup against Les Bleus, who have been in this situation previously.
  • Men's hockey: (5) UNB vs. (3) St. Francis Xavier, 5:30 ET, SN360/TVA2 — An all-Maritimes matchup that reprises the AUS  final where the chaser, Brad Peddle's X-Men sweep Gardiner MacDougall's Varsity Reds to get the higher seeding. It arguably worked out that the V-Reds sliding to 5 helped, since they played the second-best OUA team, then Saint Mary's took care of Trois-Rivières.
  • Men's basketball: (4) Calgary vs. (2) Carleton, 8:30 ET, SN360 — Dinos reserve Jasdeep Gill pouring in 24 points off the bench in the semifinal was a microcosm of U of C coach Dan Vanhooren being willing to fly by the seat of his pants with a hot hand. Carleton is Carleton; the dynasty doesn't die, it just regenerates with new cogs.
That is wild. Should go create a spreadsheet to see if there was ever that much diversity, in terms of where the teams hail from, in the finals. Ontario, of course, is the only province with more than one school going for gold, but Carleton is in Eastern Ontario and Ryerson is Southern Ontario, which are two very different corners of the country.

Men's basketball had the B.C. Interior involved with that splash of Thompson Rivers orange, too. This is a good reminder there is a lot of good out there, even when CIS sometimes seems like a logistical impossibility: trying to create a fabric out of 56 schools spread about 6,000 km apart, and on budget.

Based on this, the law of averages would dictate some CIS gold and silver is lurking for Brandon, Manitoba, Memorial, UPEI or Winnipeg.
VANCOUVER — The real-timey 'recap' of Calgary's 98-87 win against Ryerson, which means it is Dinos-Ravens for all the whiskey on Sunday night.

It is a matchup that, in a real sports country, would make great televised theatre. Thomas Cooper is the country's best one-on-one player with all due respect to UNB's Javon Masters. Carleton, Mark Masters' alma mater, is going for six in a row, and is the most All For One team that ever teamed.

Calgary, led by superstar Cooper's and Jasdeep Gill's work on the wing, had an answer every time Ryerson tried to close the gap. It never got closer than a two-possession game, five points, in the fourth quarter. A Gill corner triple with about 5:50 left finished off Ryerson.

Ryerson will try to salvage a second CIS bronze in a row against Dalhousie on Sunday. That will make a nice undercard, Ammanuel Diressa against Ritchie Kanza Mata.

Second half notes:

  • Thomas Cooper is feeling it, now into the 20s after a long contested triple. Best scorer in the country. 
  • Best just took his third foul, 5:38 left, third quarter.
  • Ottawa is finished, but Jasdeep Gill's consecutive triples from the wing have opened an 11-point lead. That has Calgary back on the right track. Do you get it? Do you get it? Because Ottawa has Vikas Gill, and because a Gee-Gee is a horse, and horses run on tracks. Do you get it?
  • Another Gill triple has helped keep the lead at ten. 
  • Manny Diressa has 16 for Ryerson, but needs to keep the other four Rams engaged.
  • Right on cue, Kadeem Green leans in, drops in a bucket and the Rams are down five, as close as they have come this half.
  • It doesn't last; Calgary scores and then the Rams put one into what would be a student section, if it was filled by students.
  • Diressa takes his fourth with 7:19 left, has to stay in. Cooper got his 25th point on the ensuing makes from the foul line.
  • Kapinga, Calgary's steal-happy point guard, has three with 6:12 left. Ryerson within five.
  • Jasdeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep Gill pockets a triple for the eight-point lead, now down to 5:15.
  • Cooper gets his 27th, then Gill alters a Roshane Roberts drive and Calgary clears. The Rams are down 10 at the four-minute mark, but with the way they play ...
  • Goaltending call ends a two-minute, 22-minute stretch without a whistle.
  • Gill again, only this time he puts Filip Vujadinovic on his hip, drops the shoulder, old-fashioned triple for a 13-point lead with 3:10 left.
  • Matt Letkeman, who used his fouls well, gets No. 5 with 2:46 left and Calgary up 11.
  • That opens up space for Green to score with 94 seconds left, so Ryerson can press and foul.
  • Not this time: Mukama misses a three from about the same spot as his icewater equalizer on Thursday. Down to 50.7 seconds when Mitch Ligertwood fouls out.

First half

Impact for/on the Dinos — The 2-of-9 mark at the line is a red flag, especially with Thomas Cooper having 18 across 18 minuts while point guard David Kapinga has 12 in 16. Calgary has been credited with assists on 26.3% of baskets, compared to Ryerson's 46.2%, which even accounting for a window 5% up or down in each direction, for either team, means Ryerson is running more of offence. It's just that Calgary is hitting, while defensively have mostly ensured the Rams are one-and-done.

Impact for/on the Rams — A 37.1 per cent effective shooting half was pretty much what was feared after that great game against UBC. Ryerson has been down by 12-plus in their last three games; these are good teams, but still. The upside is they got all eight rotation players shots, and ex-D1 guard Ammanuel Diressa took it upon himself late in the half to make two triples (one contemporary, one classic and-one) to get Ryerson back into single digits.

Aaron Best has been quiet for 65 minutes of game action: he was 2-of-6, no threes for five points. That is getting into the 'you must be playing hurt' territory, since it is below par.

Running diary
VANCOUVER — Face it, for Carleton the first two at Final 8 are the cocooning process.

Whether it is one Smart on the coaching staff, or two, the first three days before Championship Sunday are just about getting ready to hatch a perfect game. Dave and/or Rob Smart, Dean Petridis, Kevin Churchill — okay, it would be easier to introduce spectators at a conso-side game than the whole Ravens staff — just make sure they are around on Sunday. Then they spread their wings when it matters, usually with a torrent of triples from the wing.

It's presumed the entire CIS knows this, know it's tough to prove, knows it's going to feel like they're saying no one else has shot. It also tough to explain how the team renowned for never taking a play off apportions its creativity and intellect — 99 per cent composed of you-know-what, Einstein — toward having one perfect game. It is just worth bringing up after the way the Ravens' 76-64 semifinal win against the determined Dalhousie Tigers played out on Saturday. It was a slow jam that was only 24-23 at recess, until Carleton picked up the pace.

It is as if Carleton figured out that since the mind tends to work on a last-in basis, and margin of victory is often overemphasized, winning 10 instead of 30 is actually better. Margin of victory at nationals is only debate fodder, and Carleton just wants a shot at Calgary or Ryerson.

"It would definitely be nice to play Ryerson, the team that beat us twice," said guard Connor Wood, who hooped 18 points on 58.3 per cent effective shooting, including nine during a 16-4 okay-we're-done-here run that began after the last tie, at 32-32. "Whoever we play we'll look to play our hardest.

"Everyone feels like when they're going to get the ball and show what they can do," Wood added.

And meantime, buzz phrase among Vancouver media was "defensive struggle." Odd label, that for a game in which two of CIS' best defensive teams had a 52-41 second half.

The throttling-down on offence came once Carleton had waited a Dalhousie adjustment after steering clear of Tigers post Kashrell Lawrence, since they didn't want to give any tips to, say, Ryerson, about how they might test Rams 5-man Kadeem Green. Each is capable, in his unique way, of the big shot block that creates energy and run-out baskets, and Carleton doesn't want that. That was a sole actor in the last third of the opening 20, when Carleton didn't even try to go inside and their only basket during Dalhousie's 13-3 run, more like power walk, was a Gavin Resch triple.

Dalhousie defence's has been talker, but it also defended perhaps even better when it outran and outlasted Ottawa 87-83 in the quarter-final. It doesn't need to be explained that points against isn't even the best metric, does it? Someone, as the members of a running club might put it, just decided it would be a more relaxed 20, pace factor-wise.

"We knew this was how it was going to be, so we just had to dig in," Smart said.

Of course, since Carleton being in the final for the 12th time in 14 seasons, is old hat, Dal staying within 10 became the story. Smart, as genuine a fellow as you will find, filled some voice recorders.

"We saw them last year at nationals and we know what they do," Smart said, alluding to when Dal lost 57-56 to Victoria in the 2015 quarter-final round. "They're East Coast kids and the flow through everything and they play the way we play.

"Lawrence is a hell of a player," Smart added, giving classic Carleton dap to the Dal star who went for 18 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes. "I watched that kid play a lot when I was recruiting Connor [from Regional Elite Development Academy in Hamlton] and love to watch him. He is a tough, tough kid."

It is a long con, meant to create guesswork for the other coaching staffs in the well into the wee hours, between the semis and championship game. Meantime, which staff is the keenest group of film breaker downers, perhaps anywhere in North America?

Plus both games opened up very conveniently. Carleton went from level early in the third on Saturday to up by 17 by early in the fourth, after the designated human adrenalin shot, Mitchell Wood, showed his finesse with a corner three and a bounce pass to Ryan Ejim for a layin on the break.

Similarly, with 11 minutes left against Thompson Rivers, it was a one-point game that ended up 91-75. The WolfPack's lack of depth factored in, but at the same time, Carleton could surely look at how TRU plays their most frequent five-player combo 15-20% of the time, compared to 8-9% for a deeper elite OUA team. And they lay in wait.

Everyone whom Carleton will need to be a X factor got some run. Ejim's 18 was padded out by some late closeouts, including a dunk that opened a 15-point spread with about 1:05 left. Guillaume Boucard had 13 and six rebounds. Point guard Kaza Keane forced fewer shots, making 2-of-3 during a quietly efficient six-point, six-assist day. The law of averages would suggest that Keane might be due on Sunday, whether the opposing one-guard is Ryerson's Manny Diressa or Calgary's David Kapinga.

"Kaza did a great job today of getting into the lane," Smart said.

Calgary or Ryerson could win on Sunday. The point is don't read too, too much into point spreads, since Carleton is so advanced they will try to manage  the game to win by a little. It's not even necessarily proprietary, if one looks at how tight Division I games are in bracket touranments.

It's about not showing your hand. It's some game that they run. Don't tell anyone.

VANCOUVER — The recap in real time (ish), as Dalhousie tries to put up the forcefield and Carleton goes for a 17th consecutive win at nationals.

It was level at 32-all, but Carleton came alive with nine points Connor Wood with a drive, wide-open wing three and two free throws. By quarter's end, it was 56-46, then Carleton got the first seven of the fourth, including a Mitchell Wood triple and sweet transition assist to Ryan Ejim, that floor-running four. At that point, it was 63-46 and officially over, but that really started about the time Carleton had a 16-4 run when the Woods had 13 points (nine from C10, four from M22).

Ryan  Ejim also had a dunk near the end.

Dalhousie dialed up the defense as per usual, and outscored the Ravens 13-3 across the last 6:50 of the half. It wasn't really a true run, since it took so long  Jarred Reid got a steal and layin just before the halftime horn.

VANCOUVER — Since it gets late earlier on the west coast, perhaps the Ryerson Rams can make themselves think it is getting late earlier in the game.

Ahead of Semifinal Saturday,* the 'whither' is whether the Rams can avoid their propensity for putting themselves in seemingly manufactured survival challenges, game after game. Kind of like Barney Stinson with his "challenge accepted!", the Rams like to get down early, than just work their way out of it.

Sure, UBC, you can get up 15 in the second quarter, and our fifth-year guard Aaron Best will never be in the flow due to foul trouble and hotter hands. Hey, Carleton, have a 13-point lead halftime lead in the OUA Wilson Cup. Structural flaw, or just a team whose all-eight-cylinders state runs faster than everyone else's in high-leverage situations? It makes the Rams, who draw Calgary for the semifinal, a fun watch. One can go a while without having that vibe in CIS, so ride with it.

Seriously, though, can the Rams get away with it against Calgary and Carleton?
We have two more games for the season so I hope we can get off to quicker stats," Rams coach Patrick Tatham said after the 109-101 outlasting, outwitting and outplaying of UBC on Thursday. "I think our guys kind of feel too many teams out at the start of games. Hopefully against Calgary, which is going to be a tough game, I hope we don't feel them out. I hope we knock first."

VANCOUVER — Whenever the Final 8 has don't-look-away drama such as the UBC-Ryerson overtime affray late on Thursday night, even the most jaded get as much of a glow as the athletes. That can mean, about a hour later, long after everyone has gone home for the night, the mind goes to wondering whether this game can get the ball rolling to help Canadian university basketball receive its due.

Then comes the dreaded déjà vu of knowing this has been preceded by several Shining Moments that have just ended up being but a memory for a select few, since it is nigh on impossible to awaken a nation to everything right about Canadian Interuniversity Sport. There were some memories made for that UBC crowd of of 2,800 that rose and fell as two teams went for that spot on Semifinal Saturday. It had everything you would get in any bracketed tournament involving very tall student athletes.

Two teams from 3,300 km apart ended up with no separation across more than 40 minutes, with the nothing-to-lose No. 8 seed Thunderbirds coming within one score or stop of advancing; the The No. 1 seed that was 3,300 km from home — "No one on our team had ever really played on this side of the country," he Rams' Adika Peter-McNeilly noted  — overcoming to survive and advance. The bow on the evening, in a couple senses of the word, came from Rams sixth man Jean-Victor Mukama, twice: an oxygen-sucking dunk down the stretch, then that triple for the tie at the end of regulation.

"That was a high-entertainment basketball game, high skilled, high drama," said Thunderbirds coach Kevin Hanson, only nominally the losing coach after his charges refused to roll over even though this UBC collective came in with no Final 8 exposure. "I really hope the fans and the kids that came and watched that game understand how good the CIS level is. I thought that was a great basketball game."
"The fans got value for their buck. I was proud of our guys, they left it on the floor."

In sports, as the cliché goes, you must have one winner or loser. Some try to soften that to 'you have to have a winner.' The unintended consequence of that line is that feeds into Us vs. Them in society. The reality of each pastime, to quote a Mick (Jagger) in reference to a game late on St. Patrick's Day, it is about the old 'if you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need.' That was writ large on Thursday night.

VANCOUVER — Ryerson never makes it easy on themselves, until they make a run that looks easy.

Our real-time recap from The Mitch, where Ryerson overcame the last of a late seven-point deficit to put away inspired host UBC 109-101 in front of 4,900 fans. Jean-Victor Mukama hit a tying triple with 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter to mute the Vancouver crowd, then the No. 1-seeded Rams took hold of the overtime thanks after settling in due to some strong work from Kadeem Green.

If Ryerson goes on to win the tournament, this gets elevated to instant classic. The Rams needed 41 minutes to get their first lead, astoundingly, but eventually woke up on a night where they played until after 1 a.m. ET.

So that makes for Calgary-Ryerson and Dalhousie-Carleton on Saturday. Some game notes:

Story of the first three quarters: all-Canadian stars adapting, one better than the other, after sitting. David Wagner scored 15 in the third quarter after barely playing in the first half. Ryerson fifth-year guard Aaron Best was in the same jam, then didn't get a shot after the break until a breakaway dunk in the first minute of the fourth. Yet the Rams, who were down seven with 2:17 left, are back in it, with Mukama making some wow-factor plays that included a dunk.

Impact for/on the Rams — Slow-starting, as usual, and Patrick Tatham opted to sit Best after the fifth-year star's second foul with 3:58 left in the first quarter.

In the second the half, Ryerson ran mostly through point guard Manny Diressa and wing Adika Peter-McNeilly. It was bumpy for them all night, and their interior defence often leaked oil three lanes wide. The T-Birds shot an effective 65 per cent in the first half.

Two Adika Peter-McNeilly triples helped get the deficit from 15 to nine in the first half, before UBC coach Kevin Hanson took a timeout. The Rams are still coming, though. Like Costanza's shower, it didn't take.

Talking (to myself, mostly) point from this one. Ryerson seems to like a couple shots across the bow to get going. They surmounted a 13-point margin in the OUA Wilson Cup against Carleton, and overcame an Ottawa lead on Jan. 22 when they defeated a No. 1-ranked team for the first time in team history.

Those were home games. Many have wondered how Ryerson would fare out on the West Coast. Of course, sometimes it seems all that can stop the Rams, is the Rams.

Impact for/on the Thunderbirds — The 'Birds took the fight a little more to Ryerson rather than get triple-happy after an outlying 6-of-9 in the first 20 minutes. Jordan Jensen-Whyte has a big dunk, is creating, and UBC's interior passing is creating slivers of space. David Wagner, limited to four fouls-restricted minutes in the first half, has been muscling inside and had 15 third-quarter points.

German guard Phil Jalalpoor felt it early with 15 points (75% eFG). The 'Birds had a cluster of midrange twos and threes during the first quarter, quarter and half until regression kicked in. Another Jordan Jensen-Whyte triple kept them out front.

Entertainment value: A+

VANCOUVER — A turnover is fair play. Thomas Cooper was scuffling offensively much of the night, but made the late defensive play that iced the Calgary Dinos' 72-69 win against the McGill Redmen.

Calgary had to spend much of the night at McGill's tempo, and went down after a tiebreaking triple from Dele Ogundokun with 57.9 seconds left. However, the Dinos drew three consecutive fouls, including ones that Jhony Verrone made for the lead with 26.4 seconds left.

On the Redmen's last chance to go ahead, Cooper slapped down a pass to make a steal. After Cooper's subsequent pair of freebies with 9.8 left. McGill didn't get much look at a tying three, and Calgary escaped.

Also, if anyone thinks it was any solace for the Quebec conference, now an 0-11 streak in the quarters, that McGill led in the last minute ... well, it wasn't. Talking about conference strength is a good framing devicc for discussing this tournament, but Dave DeAveiro reminded us there are competitive human beings playing these games.

VANCOUVER — A different silver lining for Ottawa: hearing "nevermore" from someone other than the Carleton Ravens.

Actually, the man of the early hours, Dalhousie Tigers' Ritchie Kanza Mata, overheard his opposite number, the all-Canadian point guard also in No. 11, the Gee-Gees' Michael L'Africain, exhorting  his teammates when third-seeded Ottawa began to fray in the fourth quarter. That was while Dalhousie was blanking Ottawa scoreless for about five critical minutes as it surmounted an eight-point margin and won 87-83.

"There was actually a point, specifically, when we went on a run and Mike — Michael L'Africain — turned to his guys and said, 'we're OK,' " Kanza Mata said. "He had to tell his guys and I knew we could win this game."

The win puts Dalhousie up against Carleton in a David-vs. Goliath 6 p.m. ET semifinal on Saturday.

If one needs a simple narrative for daytime doubleheader, it might be that Carleton can never die; only the serious challengers to Carleton can. Ottawa, whose three-medal run at nationals ended, has played Sisyphus like nobody's business for three seasons. The denouement really seemed to start with a loss at McMaster one week after completing a regular-season sweep of the Ravens, who were starting to slowly regain form. It came to head with a fourth quarter where they had nine turnovers and missed all seven of their triple tries against the Dal pressure defence, which turned over possession 24 times.

Coming into the tournament, as the last Bracketology noted, Ottawa was neck-and-neck with Carleton for best in the tournament in what might be dubbed Effective Shooting Margin. Dalhousie was slightly negative in that crude, this-is-all-we-got metric. It forced them to live on the margins, and Dal seems convinced that being so stress-tested all season is better prep to try to win a three-game tournament. At least Dal-Carleton will offer some different talking points.

"I think we average 76 points and give up 74, at least in regular season," Kanza Mata said. We've been there, we've been through so many big games at crunch time."

Scheduling differences, flawed OUA playoff system hurt Ottawa, but still no excuses

Dalhousie was off for 10 days after winning Atlantic University Sport tournament title, where it had a pair of at-the-wire wins against Saint Mary's and UPEI. Then it knew it would be a No. 6 seed against either Calgary or the OUA wild card, so it could prep for a ghost opponent.

Ottawa dealt with back-to-backs at OUA Final Four, which was last Friday and Saturday. The vagaries of the OUA's RPI-offs, where Ryerson was not punished for a loss to Guelph and thus got the No. 1 seed ahead of Ottawa, meant travel on top of the two games.

C'est la vie. Or c'est le SIC. Those should be factored in before trying to figure out what happened to Ottawa.

L'Africain had a 16-point, seven-assist, zero-turnover day in the face of the Tigers' harrying, but Ottawa still had some bad decisions to lead to the 24 turnovers. They got to the free-throw line once after the break. Their effective FG% also cooled, which was likely due to Dalhousie's play with fresh legs, but also just regular regression.

"We didn't get low enough aggressively," Gee-Gees coach James Derouin said. "That's a credit to how well Dalhousie played. "We didn't handle it like the veteran group that we are.

"I thought we lost our trust together, the defense wasn't where it had been. They were all over Mike."

Ottawa was 80% eFG in the first quarter, then 70.6% in the second. They were at 40.5% for the third, when they took more shots, but used a lot of energy chasing down missed threes. Then came a 42.9%  during that 13-point fourth; 6-of-7 inside, 0-of-7 outside.

One bad game? Or, sorry to put this thought in anyone's head, is it possible that a team can only chase Carleton for so long?

Dal also got a five-point swing, covering the winning margin, at the end of the first half. Ottawa stretch-four Matt Plunkett (17 points on 11 shots) had to take an unsporting foul to stop a breakaway layup after a turnover. Off the inbound pass, Dal's Jordan Aquino-Serjue tripled. Instead of being up as much as nine, Ottawa was ahead only two despite a strong shooting start.

One of those things, eh.

The way the Tigers play under Plato makes for a compelling watch. It's not just ball pressure, or having 6-foot-2 Kashrell Lawrence holding down the 5-spot or the intensity, or having a coach who's been at 24 nationals, but will be in his first CIS final four as a head coach. In the era where the three-ball is de rigeur, they don't have much use for it. They also prefer to stay packed tighter than a row of Vancouver condo towers instead of chase long rebounds.

"The story is out about is that we're a tough defensive team," said Kanza Mata, who got his 24 on 70.8% eFG, while speedy sixth man Jarred Reid got most of his 13 on runouts. "You got to play the games.

"It will be tough against Carleton," Kanza Mata added. "We have to limit their three-point shot and play pressure defence."

The this-is-gonna-hurt-awhile for the Gee-Gees is that their window in 2015-16 was supposed to be more open than ever before during the Smart(s) era. They beat Carleton at Carleton, won their first Capital Hoops Classic since 2007, and yet, remain uncrowned after all those seasons as the foil. It's too early to think about it, but they deserve due to re-igniting some interest in the sport. It's just now Ryerson might be the Next One.

That is the void one half of sub-45% shooting can do to a team.

Now Dal gets a stab at Carleton. The Vancouver media got a kick out of Plato bringing up that his first game coaching the Tigers was a non-conference shellacking against the Ravens.

"We lost by 45 and I said, 'boys that's the best,' " Plato said. "It was about taking our lumps and learning. I don't know if anybody in the country works harder. I have so much respect for Carleton but we're going to come and work harder. Take your lumps and say 'that's the benchmark.' You work your butt off to get there. We want to get to the level of Carleton — and Ottawa."

There was a little hitch before "and Ottawa." Plato might have just making sure to observe normal post-game pieties, but in that split-second one could wonder how Ottawa's impact will be remembered now.

VANCOUVER — In the interest of killing the game story real good, the game posts from The Mitch, will be more real-timey.

FINAL — No. 6 Dalhousie 87, No. 3 Ottawa 83

Impact for/on the Tigers — With their No. 11 winning the point-guard battle against an all-Canadian, Dal dialed it up to 11 on the defensive end, reducing Ottawa to one shot per possession, which more often than not was a crooked-out-of-the-hand three. Ritchie Kanza Mata went for 24 to helm Dal's backcourt slow down all-Canadian Mike L'Africain., They also got some great wing defence from Sven Stammberger and important closeouts by Kashrell Lawrence to overcome an eight-point deficit. Dal outscored Ottawa 25-11 across the final 10 minutes.

The Tigers are through to Saturday against Carleton.

Impact for/on the Gee-Gees — End of an era for the James Derouin Gang, with  L'Africain, Vikas Gill and Mehdi Tihani graduating. A cool-off from deep will do that, and one bad quarter spoils a splendid season and ends a three-year run of medals (2013 bronze, 2014 and '15 silver).

Nathan McCarthy was completely shut down, with three points in 14 minutes.

Entertainment value — A


"Mom, make Dad tell the story right! "That's what really happened ..."

  • Ottawa ran hot early, with Matt Plunkett, who integrated into their first five last after apprenticing under fifth-year tri-captain Vikas Gill, canned a couple threes. Ottawa was up 11-2.
  • Then again, Ottawa's the great shooting team that has been below par, whereas Dalhousie is one of the power eFG% teams still playing.
  • Then the Tigers turned it into more of a track meet, as you would expect from the AUS team against an OUA team that has shifted away from its "organized chaos" of 2013. With the floor opening up, the relay team with rookie guard Jordan Aquino-Serjue, Jarred Reid and Ritchie Kanza Mata got a lot of runouts, combining to score for 17 on 7-of-11, 78.2% eFG.
  • Ottawa took only 15 shots in the first quarter, had an 80 per cent eFG% (4-of-6 twos, 6-of-9 triples), but was down four.
  • Brandon Robinson, who's getting more exposure in big games, had an expiring-clock baseline drive and a triple early in the second.
  • 6:15 left in Quarter Two, Caleb Agada gets the baseline drive, bump, and the old-fashioned three-point play to give Ottawa their first lead (39-37) since very early.
  • At 5:36, an officiating flub. Ottawa didn't hit the rim on a driving layup, but was given a fresh 14" when Plunkett ripped away the offensive rebound. It was corrected. Dal used a timeout and got a stop.
  • Sven Stammberger had more ball than man whilst trying to stop Gill, but the blocking foul was called to get Dal in the penalty. The Dalhousie bench got teed up. Believers that 'ball don't lie' likely noticed Gill went 1-of-3.
  • Gill has more than offset that with his rebounding and interior passing. Just made a sweet post-to-post pass to Brody Maracle. Gee-Gees by five at the two-minute.
  • Gill hits from NBA range to put the Gees past half-a-hundred, 52-45.
  • The Plunkett 'unsporting' foul (two in a game and you're done) came about from a missed read by Mackenzie Morrison, or so it looked like. The Gees got trapped, turned it over, and Plunkett had to wrap up to prevent a breakaway layup.

    Off the midcourt inbound, Aquino-Serjue's triple cut the spread to two points. That five-point swing makes it more of a game, but if Ottawa wants to win a championship, they won't let it bother them.
  • Ottawa is a shooting an effective 75 per cent, 9-of-15 on twos, 10-of-17 on threes. Ten turnovers and 4-of-9 at the line are why it is up only two at recess.
  • Dalhousie, with a 49.4% reg-season eFG, had a half at 56.6% eFG (14-30 twos, 5-of-8 threes). Whether that endures, we will see, but they exploited a first-step mismatch and drove the ball, with Jarred Reid getting 11 in 14 on 75% eFG.
  • L'Africain, against a very fast backcourt, was 12-6-2 in points/assists/steals whilst going a full 20. Only two turnovers. 
  • Matt (Kerr) Plunkett is 4-for-4 on triples for 12 in 12 minutes.

  • Auspicious? Plunkett and L'Africain having cooling-off misses on the first possession. Forty-six seconds into quarter, Plunkett is forced to take his third foul.
  • Each team cold early in the quarter.
  • How cold are they? Ottawa, up 59-56, just had three missed threes in a single trip.
  • How quiet is it for the Eastern Ontario vs. Eastern Canada game? When Brody Maracle made a tough catch on a low pass, I swear I heard his fingernails scrape the ball. And the play was at the other end.
  • Dal's depth getting compromised in the backcourt, with Aquino-Serjue  and Kanza Mata now each with three fouls.
  • Ottawa opted not to play 'last shot' after a steal with about 25 seconds left in the quarter. That meant that after Agada drove for a layin, there was time for another possession. Plunkett ended up getting his fourth foul, costing Ottawa someone who is 5-of-9 on triples for 15 points.
  • Suddenly it seems like Dal has mastered tele-porting, since someone keeps popping up for deflects. They get it to two, but a Brandon Robinson block, then tough D to force a late-clock cough-up, keep them in front.
  • Kashrell Lawrence gets to the rim, back to back, and now it's Dal by threee with 6:09 left. That is an 11-0 run this quarter.
  • The run finally ends, as Mehdi Tihani back-cuts for a three-point-play while getting the third foul on Lawrence.

    Dal responds to restore a two-point lead. They have traded baskets for the last two minutes, but Ottawa's never been able to get level since that 11-0 run.
  • Ottawa goes out on an 11-point fourth quarter. They needed a three to tie in the final seconds. Gill, the fifth-year, was well off the mark.

VANCOUVER — In the interest of killing the game story real good, the game posts from The Mitch (uh, no one calls it that), will be more real-timey.

FINAL — Carleton 91, Thompson Rivers 75

Impact for/on the Ravens — Through to final four for the 14th consecutive season, where they will be in the 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. semifinal against the Calgary-McGill victor. Ryan Ejim (26 and 14 on 78.6% EFG) won the Battle of Bigs against 'Lord' Volodymyr Iegorov (14/10 over 39-plus minutes, 43.4% EFG). Then there was stretch-three Tajinder Lall, who did not score in three Wilson Cup matches, scoring 15 in 23 on 87.5%.

That off-set a rough shooting day from lead guard Kaza Keane (1-of-15, but 9:5 assists/turnovers) and an intermittent day by fourth-year volume shooter Connor Wood (18 points on 51.9 EG).

Impact for/on the WolfPack — Huge. Scott Clark's WolfPack didn't have the juice for a full 40, but for 30 they played well and repped the Interior and Explorer Division. It was a one-point game until the final seconds of the third, when a Carleton basket and a Reese Pribilisky turnover that Marcus Anderson parlayed into a buzzer layup and 65-60 three-quarters lead.

Gerald Gore topped TRU with 22 in their Final 8 debut.

Entertainment value — B+

"Mom, make Dad tell the story right! "That's what really happened ..."
TORONTO — Ryerson, of course, went from zero to two in Ontario University Athletics basketball banners last weekend faster than alumnus Adnan Virk, class of 2000, can drop a great movie reference.

Officially, to quote Buzz Aldrin's self-effacing Simpsons guest appearance, coach Carly Clarke's Rams will have to say, "Second comes right after first." Time ran out in the men's basketball Rams' five-point Wilson Cup victory against Carleton a couple minutes before the horn sounded and the women's basketball Rams' could celebrate their six-point Critelli Cup conquest against the host Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Ryerson's staff deserve some love for how it worked updates from the women's final into game presentation. Hearing that the Rams were ahead at the other OUAs site heighted the anticipation. When the Rams and Ravens lined up for medal and trophy presentations, the first announcement, before anything else, was the women's score, which got a big cheer.

There was a time in CIS, not too long ago, when that would not have happened.

It was very cool that Ryerson did that, and in their first time hosting a Wilson Cup. How did that unfold on the other end? The women's basketball Rams, of course, wished they would be first. During a timeout with about 20 seconds left and a six-point lead, they were informed, however, that their MBB counterparts had got to the summit first.

The 'double shot of Rye' marked the first OUA basketball banner sweep since the 2005-06 McMaster Marauders' double. Hopefully this share isn't too 'inside baseball,' but it seems worth mentioning in light of the statistical rarity and Ryerson's sensitivity in getting both teams equal time in OUA spotlight. The Oscars should have such gender equity; really, it should.

Neither '06 Mac team was able to win that last game of the year, and to borrow the title-card coda from the Sorkinized film adaption of Moneyball, each is still trying to win the last game of the year.

Inside baseball, indeed. Oh, and the seeding is a spot-on match for the last Triple-B, meaning someone stumbled into on-basing 1.000. Another gratuitous, groan-inducing, golden-era Simpsons reference: "I know kids, I'm scared too."

  • 12 noon ET, No. 7 Ottawa Gee-Gees vs. No. 2 Saskatchewan Huskies — Probably best not mention another OUA heartbreaker from the 2006 calendar year, in another sport, that involves the Huskies and a heaping of points left on the field. It might still be a trigger.
  • 2 p.m. ET, No. 6 Alberta Pandas vs. No. 3 Saint Mary's Huskies — Works out to a noon start for the at-large Pandas.
  • 5 p.m. ET, No. 8 UNB Varsity Reds vs. No. 1 McGill Martlets — UNB should be a massive underdog, but part of hosting nationals is representing as much as winning.
  • 7 p.m. ET, No. 5 Regina Cougars vs. No. 4 Ryerson Rams — So, good thing that the U of R has not gone full Rams? 

and like Billy Beane, is still trying to win the last game of the year. The '06 Mac men also lost an 81-77 overtime heartbreaker against St. Francis Xavier 81-77 in the 4 vs. 5 quarter-final. Anyway, seemed like a fun story to share. Oh, and the seedings: 2½
TORONTO — Ottawa Gee-Gees coach James Derouin's tongue-in-cheek "75 per cent" prediction for the OUA bronze-medal game can be borrowed for a self-burn on someone's Bracketology.

By now, of course, you know that the top three seeds for Thursday is in order of Ontario University Athletics' podium, with Rams-Ravens-Gees going 1-2-3. This list's last projection had Calgary in the 3-hole with what would have been a fraught Ottawa-McGill 4 vs. 5 quarter-final.

What did I get wrong? The committee got it right in terms of weighting recent results. Ryerson defeated Carleton on Saturday, and Carleton defeated Ottawa on Friday.

McGill's 74-70 win against Ottawa at Pavilon Montpetit on Nov. 1 will be more than 16 weeks old by the time the tournament tips off at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT on Thursday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

Oh, and if someone looks at the Redmen's result on the Gee-Gees' floor getting discounted and free-associates it with the fact the Ottawa and Montreal cluster do not meet in interlocking regular-season games? And that, might, in fact, affect OUA to some extent, albeit it nowhere near as much as RSEQ? Well, can't help but feel partially responsible.

Something to enter into the minutes here, since Charron and Pettapiece and Hastie have gone onward and upward to work toward titles, is each team's offensive and defensive outputs vis-à-vis their effective shooting, and shooting defence.

By no means is this a true pace factor. There is also no controls for strength of schedule and repeat regular-season opponents, and it's only reg-season since that is what is on CIS' website. Basically, points per game (and national rank) and effective field-goal percentage for each of the floor. The last column shows the difference, which might illustrate how much margin of error each team has if they are scuffling shooting-wise and an opponent gets hot. Of course, it's not controlled for quality of conference, and do keep mind that 21 per cent of Carleton and Ottawa's samples involve OUA North games against Algoma and Nipissing.

Calgary88.650.54th77.447.225th 3.2
UBC83.652.511th7143.1t-7th 9.4
Dalhousie76.149.425th74.149.817th -0.4

TORONTO — Carleton came to play, and it took 1½ games for these new-look Ravens to fray in the face of more skilled and uniquely motivated Ryerson in the OUA Wilson Cup.

That, and the fact the first digit in the Ravens' combined 1-4 record against Ryerson/Ottawa was the OUA semifinal on Friday night, should suffice for the No. 2 seed at Final 8 for coach Rob Smart, his players and staff. The seeding, which will be will released at 5 p.m. ET Sunday, works on more a last-in basis. Recency should reign when the committee tries to create deserving and compelling quarter-finals and potential semifinals.

The way the Ravens got after it was something to share with the 'one week in March, and around Capital Hoops time' intelligentsia, since so many presumed this would be the inevitable off year without sabbatical-ing Dave Smart and the rote brilliance of Phil Scrubb and Thomas Scrubb.

Carleton, even with fourth-year shooting guard Connor Wood getting only three of his team-high 20 after recess as he fought foul trouble, and even with his backcourt running mate Kaza Kajami-Keane getting his second and third 10 seconds apart in the third quarter en route to fouling out late, was a tougher out than Eddie Yost. It was a one-possession game in the last 30 seconds. Ryerson's long 6-foot-8 super-Ute, Jean Victor-Mukama, was able to alter a driving layup by young Marcus Anderson that would have pared the spread to one point. Also in that point, the Rams pressured Wood on a sideline inbound, forcing a parabolic pass and a tough catch for fifth-year guard Gavin Resch, who stepped on the timeline for a costly backcourt violation.

"I think it's just about playing in attack mode," Rob Smart said of the Ravens' takeaway from the weekend. "In the second half, guys were getting hesitant. Even if you're playing with fouls, you cannot play the game tentative. There's just no way. Trusting our fundamentals and our base is hopefully something we can take out of it. In the second half we got away from what we wanted to do in terms of getting into some of their weaknesses. We have to do it for the full 40 minutes."

Whichever Smart is coaching, however high the talent level, Carleton can just chameleon itself into being the chaser, instead of the defender. This is also — hello, small sample size that serves a story line — the fourth time in 10 seasons it lost in the OUA final after a nationals berth was locked up. The previous three, 2007, '11 and '14, won the CIS title.

"That's the priority, that's the goal for this season," Smart said of the CIS title. "The bigger goal is to get guys playing for a full 40 minutes — representing what they do on a daily basis, for 40 minutes. That's the biggest thing you can see in the room. They have the pride."

That is a talent, to never quit and not rely on the genetically graced, made-in-gyms-and-playgrounds mechanics. The two are mutually inclusive, and the Rams and Ottawa Gee-Gees also have each.

"We expected to be in the game with them," Resch sid. "We tried to do some things and did not do them the best, at the end of the game they made some shots and we didn't. Overall, we know where we have to improve

"Things happen," Resch said of the late turnovers. "It's a basketball game and the great thing about it is we have another chance, I get to go in Sunday and get some shots up and look at film and get ready."

With Carleton having won so often, with those 11 titles in 13 seasons, as well as now 14 consecutive CIS championship berths (and they went in through the front door before hosting from 2008-10 and in '13-14), another team is always Flavour of the Week at Final 8. The flip side of that March after seemingly inevitable March, the current Carleton iteration will always convey that every season is new, although good habits and tested talent carries over.

Only 2008 Acadia and 2010 Saskatchewan have pulled it off, and equally good teams have tried. Ryerson does fit the profile of the team that can beat Carleton. It usually involves the following:

  • A huge edge in post defence — Ryerson's Kadeem Green, who had six blocked shots on Saturday and 11 across the two games, is the savvy and springy post defender, in the old-school Bill Russell mode as the rim protector whose redirects can become apposite outlet passes.
  • Quick guards, or guards who can also back down defenders — In March it is all about matchups. Ryerson's four regular guards, with Ammanuel (Manny) Diressa's dribble penetration, Best and Adika Peter-McNeilly's maturity, court sense, and shooting, and Mukama's length at 6-8 and shooting, each brings a special something to the party. Roshane Roberts, who plays like a hard-hitting football defensive back that joined the game, is a valuable energy player.

    (Hopefully Ryerson AD Ivan Joseph will not be put out by this gratuitous gridiron analogy.)
  • Feeling it from well out in three-point land — Random variance with three-point shooting does not support the confirmation-bias cliché about "you live by the three, you die by the three." The two teams that beat Carleton in national semifinals, were each hot from outside while, concurrently, the Ravens didn't get the rattles. They were 2-for-17 on triples in that 86-82 loss six years ago against Showron Glover, Michael Linklater and Saskatchewan.

Carleton has a fair bit, to borrow some more football-speak, to clean up as the drama shifts to Vancouver. Kajami-Keane and Wood cannot have the same foul trouble. The same goes for the stout Ryan Ejim, who fills the 4-forward spot that was once earmarked for the rangier Jean-Emmanuel Pierre-Charles, who is sitting out a transfer season while waiting to join the Gee-Gees.

"It's good experience," Smart said. "Connor knows he has to be smarter, he and Kaza. They have to learn how to not take the touch ones and be aggressive and draw fouls."

The best guess is that it will be the first-timers from Kamloops, Scott Clark's Thompson Rivers WolfPack, against the all-the-timers from Carleton in the quarter-finals.

A footnote for the Vancouver media covering the tournament is that both head coaches have Simon Fraser ties. Clark spent 15 years 'on the mountain' in Burnaby, B.C., before Ken Olynyk brought him to Thompson Rivers in May 2010. Smart played for the Clan in 1997-98 and 1998-99, then transferred to a certain OUA school in eastern Ontario to reunite with a certain uncle whom people often take for his older brother.

Clark likely will not have much trouble getting the WolfPack into an us-against-the-world mentality. Carleton, meantime, is getting back to their roots when they made that their thing better than anyone, and then the talent blossomed from that.
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