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.