#CISFinal8: A one-off Carleton Ravens title would be very Smart

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?

It says, actually, that the Ravens, no matter who coaches, are geared to hitting their stride on the last Sunday of the season. Like Doctor Who, the dynasty does not die, it just regenerates, with the same focused coaching staff that serves the players a game plan full of lean protein and no mental fat.

The best cross-sports analogy is probably swimming. Swimmers put in heavy training, and go to meets fully expectant that they will not post a personal best. It's all about that one weekend.

"We feel like we work the hardest throughout the year," said fourth-year shooting guard Connor Wood, who had nine of his 18 on Saturday when the Ravens put away Dalhousie with a 16-4 third-quarter run. "I feel like we had a couple of losses where it was just, learning. At the end is where we start to reach our potential."

The twigs, the cogs given numbers that practically correspond to their portfolio on the parquet, grow as they were bent eons ago. So Number 10, the cocksure volume shooter, goes from Elliot Thompson to Wood. For a further example Numbers 22 and Number 33 are twos and threes who bring a well-toned energy to the right, meaning that one cannot see Mitchell Wood or Marcus Anderson make an impact play without thinking fondly of Cole Hobin or Rob Saunders a half-decade back. Number 3 is the DBO, Designated Bailout shooter, with Gavin Resch furnishing what Mike Kenny once did.

The two newcomers, D1-transfer lead guard Kaza Kajami-Keane and prep-school-groomed 7-foot big Cam Smythe, transferred in and wear 41 and 21, which isn't indicative of anything. Those digits were just available for the newcomers who moved in mid-eligibility.

It is all about doing everything possible in order to truly expect to win. That is the end goal, and honestly, it must be very fulfilling to be at a level where you don't have to enjoy winning. Face it, most of us, maybe this projecting, need that confirmation of, to quote the theme song from the Shamateur Sports Hunger Games Hoops Invitational that still gives chill bumps, "just how hard you worked."

Apply that to anything, like that sports loss that still burns a little, speaking as a Minnesota Vikings fan. It would be a lot easier. Robert C. Smart, nephew of Dave, son of Rob Sr., has been steeped in that his whole life. It doesn't necessarily means losses slide by, If anything, those can be harder, since it spawns second-guessing about whether they did everything. Extrapolating, though, it does mean having a framework to get past it and start over.

Calgary, with a 25-a-night scorer in Cooper, a very good and gutsy guard David Kapinga and some Alberta beef down low, is a worthy challenger. Dan Vanhooren rates this opportunity, surely. They might pull this off. You never know, until Carleton makes it feel inevitable.

Confirmation bias is good like that.

The two turnt-up teams whose athleticism, physicality and lights-out shooting have overcame Carleton during the run each got the Ravens in the semifinal of the 1/8/4/5 half of the draw. The 2008 Acadia Axemen had Leo Saintil and Achuil Lual to harry CIS player of the year Aaron Doornekamp into a 4-of-23 night in that double-OT semifinal, and it still took the Axemen about 30 minutes of 55 per cent floor shooting to finish the job. The 2010 Saskatchewan Huskies had two once-a-decade quicksilver points,  Showron Glover and Michael Linklater, getting run-outs, feeding wing shooters and getting to the cup. Carleton hit 2-of-17 triples in that 86-82 loss, then Phil Scrubb arrived months later.

This is an instance where predictions on the championship game and the Carleton coaching deal are designed to reveal the sucker at the table, to paraphrase Rounders.

It is also not as if people who know the university game expected much different from Carleton. The Scrubbs were transcendent by their fifth season, and Carleton could pass any immunity challenge defensively or offensively through Tommy and Phil. However, they are always going to be there, with the advantages they have granted themselves in order to be a tough-out tournament team, with premium CIS-level talent.

The burn is on those who attributed that odds-defying run of titles to some Svengali effect, some keys held only by one Smart. Which is silly, since Carleton has a cadre of strong basketball minds. It's a communal culture, not a party of one staked on the iconography of The Leader. The latter group dynamic is destined to fail eventually; just look at the party now holding Official Opposition status in the nation's capital.

The only reason it seemed that way with Carleton was because the media culture around Canadian university sport is very surface level. Even after all these years, some people still need a clarification that Rob Smart is Dave's nephew, for pity's sake.

Basketball, as a game, is probably the sport that most facilitates an "okay, slide one spot over everyone" if a new lead voice has to take over. A team has a relatively small travelling party about 22 people once you tally the coaches, players and athletic support staff.

Three of the four OUA Final Four teams did so with an interim coach whilst the program-builder took his sabbatical. A couple broader examples from before b-ball south of the border was bowdlerized ... North Carolina went to the 1998 Final Four with Bill Guthridge the season after Dean Smith retired. Larry Bird's '79 Indiana State team did so under Bill Hodges, who stepped in when Bob King had a brain aneurysm.

You know what happened to Bill Hodges, eventually? He became a school teacher.

That segues to the Smarts, and that they are about teaching. Just go in when asked, wherever needed, and help people help themselves with getting a little better every day. Rob Smart, going back 20 years this month to when he was 17 going on 35, and scored 35 on 18 shots to almost will his undermanned high school team past No. 1 seed in a first round at the OFSAA AA championship before they lost by a point, seems to exude that. Dave Smart was at that same school, that season, and people never believe this when they're told, but he coached his nephews on the junior team and also coached the junior boys. Hindsight is 20/20, but that was the best situation, where he was needed.

Three seasons later, Dave was head coach at Carleton.  Perhaps Carleton just needed a little adjustment this season. They have pulled it off with aplomb. Dave Smart has only been at one game at Ravens' Nest all season, Senior Night, when Rob spoke about each player and Dave handled the presentations.

That continuity helps Carleton keep that energy coursing down that bench in one direct line, while other teams get a short in the system. They should have good energy by 5:30 local time on Sunday, know that much.

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