Ryerson and Carleton favoured to meet in Championship Final
Final 8 – Round 1 Previews – Thursday games (Atlantic Time)
12 Noon … #2 Carleton Ravens vs #7 Calgary Dinos
The Ravens are aiming at winning their 7th straight National title, and they beat Calgary 101-79 last March in that 6th consecutive triumph. Coach Dave Smart is the master at preparing his team for this 4 day event, and the Ravens, who are 27-1 against U-Sports teams this season are a daunting foe.
Carleton are led by the OUA Player of the Year, Connor Wood, a 6-4, 5th year shooting guard, who pulls the trigger on the long ball as well as anyone in this field. His back-court partner, Kaza Kajami-Keane, is a powerful, quick play-maker, who scores nearly 15 ppg, but is really the floor leader. The Ravens power in the post will be a huge plus again this Final 8 Tournament, with Eddie Ekiyor, a 6-8 rookie, teaming up with 6-7 Ryan Ejim, a 5th year vet who was so strong in the paint in last year’s win. As back-up, CU has 6-11, Cameron Smyth, a 4th year from Charles Tupper in Vancouver. They are big, and can overwhelm most teams.
Calgary were 24-5 vs all Canadian universities, are the ‘wildcard’ pick, and the 3rd Canada West team in the 8 team draw. The Dinos are a fast-paced attacking team, with 5th year wing man Thomas Cooper their scoring leader at 23 ppg. Cooper will hope to have better luck against the Ravens defenders in this re-match with Carleton, after he and the Dinos were thwarted in the 2016 Final.
UC have had a run of injuries late in the season, which has depleted their very deep roster. Lars Schleuter, a 6-7 wing man with a dangerous 3 point shot, has been out with a high-ankle sprain. Also on the shelf was Dallas Karch, a 5th year, 6-7 forward, whose size and athleticism has been a big boost for UC. Jasdeep Gill, another 5th year wing with the ability to score, has had ankle / leg issues, and is a ‘possible’ for Thursday’s game.
David Kapinga, the speedy 3rd year UC point man, can shoot the 3, and put pressure on opposing ball-handlers. Jhony Verrone, a muscular 6-0, 4th year combo guard from Montreal is proving his worth as a versatile defender. Mitch Ligertwood is a 6-6, hard-nosed, 4th year post man, who should be the key guy inside in this smaller Dinos line-up.
Anytime Carleton plays, they are the favourites. Eastern experts suggest this could be their best team yet. That says a lot about anyone else’s chances, but their lone loss did take place last Saturday. Calgary a distinct long-shot in this Tournament opener. Watch on U-Sports TV 1 9 am Mountain
2:00 pm … #3 McGill Redmen vs #6 Manitoba Bisons
The Redmen have been dominant in the 5 member RSEQ in recent seasons, as they return to the Nationals for the 5th straight time. Coached by Quebec Coach of the Year, David DeAveiro, the Redmen are a solid defensive club, with an experienced line-up, even without any 5th year seniors.
McGill’s top scorers are guards Jenning Leung (14.5 ppg) , a 6-4, 4th year shooter, who is a native of the Philippines, and 6-2, 4th year, Dale Ogundokun (12.7 ppg/ 7 rebs/ 3.5 assists). Ogundokun, a Hamilton, ON high school star, was honoured as the Quebec Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Up front the Redmen have 3rd year, 6-8 Noah Daoust, and 6-6 Michael Peterkin, but may be missing their top big man, 4th year, Francois Bourque, a rugged rebounder/scorer/defender who has missed 3 games with an undisclosed injury.
Manitoba have reached this National Tournament for the 1st time in over 30 years, and their seniors are ‘jacked’ with the prospect of competing on this ‘big stage’. Says 4th year shooting guard , A.J. Basi “Our goal was to get to Halifax at first. This is like our last week together so we want to make the most of it and we’re all focused on that first game on Thursday against McGill.” (From Global News – Russ Hobson).
Basi (13.6 ppg) is one of their key scorers, with his 3 point acumen, and he can be a ball-hawk on defense. The Herd has a powerful leader in 6-5, 4th year Keith Omoerah, who scores 13.2 ppg, grabs 8.7 rebs and can defend inside and out. Ilarion Bonhomme, a quick, 5-10 import (Washington, DC) point man triggers the Bisons break, and 6-3 Justus Alleyn, is their top scorer at 17.5 ppg, and shooting over 40% from 3 point range.
The Bisons and Redmen should make for a fascinating match-up … McGill with their defense, and Manitoba a quick-strike offense. This may go down to the wire, if UM can get the hot shooting in a big arena . (12 noon Central time)
6:00 pm … #1 Ryerson Rams vs #8 Saint Marys Huskies – On the surface, this 1-8 match-up suggests a Ryerson win, but the ‘home team’ Huskies will want to have a say before we fill in our semi-final bracket !
For the 2nd straight season, the Rams are champions of the OUA, having beaten Carleton (86-79) on the Ravens’ home court this time around. Coach Roy Rana has a team ‘on a roll’, having won 7 of their last 8 and are 22-4 vs U-Sports teams this season. Ryerson has a pressing, running, and 3 point shooting attack, paced by Adika Peter-McNeilly, a 6-3, 5th year guard, who is the high scorer, but also a quick and headsy defender. His ‘right-hand man’ is 6-5, 4th year wing, Ammanuel Diressa, who is the #1 disruptor on the defensive end, but also scores in bunches.
The Rams are deep in talent, with 6-8 Adam Voll a big body inside, and 6-6 , Juwon Grannum, a 5th year rebounder, who contributes as well to the 40% + 3 point shooting for the team. Guards Myles Charvis, a former rookie sensation at Waterloo, and quick point man, Roshane Roberts, keep the pressure coming on defense.
Saint Marys have a history in this National Tournament, having 4 titles to their credit, and have a knack for answering the bell at the Atlantic Tournament, making many Nationals Final 8s. This year’s squad had a 23-10 U-Sports record, but had limited play outside the Maritimes.
Their core group are led by 5-9 point man, Marquis Clayton, one of 6 Huskies in their 5th year. Clayton scores 19 ppg, and keys their defense. Theon Reefer, a 6-6, 5th year swing-man, has the quickness to make an impact at both ends, and Brian Rouse, a 6-4 guard, is a tough match-up with his size and scoring touch. The Huskies have size and experience with 6-8, 5th year post, Achuil Lual, and 6-6, 3rd year, Kingston, ON product, Brent Martindale.
A close 2nd (60-63) to the AUS champs, Dalhousie, Saint Marys pose a threat to Ryerson if they can get their offense on track against the Rams’ press. This game will be at a very high pace, and turnovers could kill that Huskies attack. Ryerson should prevail, but Saint Marys know this court very well.
8:00 pm … #4 Alberta Golden Bears vs #5 Dalhousie Tigers – Two League champions tip-off in the feature game of the night on Thursday, and aggressive defense is a calling card for both teams.
The Bears are playing their best basketball of the season at just the right time, with an impressive weekend of play in capturing their 12th Canada West title with convincing wins over Saskatchewan 83-70, and Manitoba 92-73. They are among the League leaders in points allowed at 74 ppg, and they shoot a CW best 40.6% from 3 point range.
Their forward combo of 4th year Mamadou Gueye, a 6-6 Quebec native, and 2nd year Brody Clarke, a 6-7 Toronto product gives them inside scoring and leads a strong rebounding team effort. Clarke, the son of former Canada national team star, Norm Clarke , will require extra attention from Dal defenders in the paint. Gueye saved his best games for the Canada West Final 4, and he is a threat from anywhere with his offensive explosiveness.
Austin Waddoups, a 6-2 import guard (Utah) has been a major addition, and he controls the pace as a point man, but also hits the timely trey on a regular basis. Coach Barnaby Craddock utilizes guards Dwan Williams (6-2, 2nd year, Toronto) and 6-5 , 4th year, import shooter, Geoff Pippus as complimentary weapons, and both can score when needed. 7-1 Brett Roughead is in his 5th year, and can make things tough on the interior.
Dalhousie will have big local support, and count on their veteran core of senior vets Kashrell Lawrence, Richie Kanza Mata, and Sven Stammberger to lead the way. The Tigers return to this Final 8 for the 2nd straight season, with a 25-10 record, and wins over Ryerson and Brock earlier this year.
Lawrence, a 5th year, and only 6-2, is a muscular dynamo up front, and galvanizes teammates and Dal fans with his rugged play on the boards, and in scoring against bigger opponents. Kanza Mata was voted the AUS Defensive Player of the Year, but he can also score from an offense that led the Atlantic League in FG% at almost 47%.
Last season’s U-Sports Rookie of the Year, 6-0 Jordan Aquino-Serjue, is a valuable 6th man off the bench, and 5th year guard, 6-3 Jared Reid, is a solid wing man with a nice offensive game. In reserve, the Tigers have a pair of big posts in 6-7 Ryall Stroud (tsf Queen’s), and 6-10 import, Sascha Kappos (Miami, FL) .
This promises to be an entertaining finale for Thursday’s card, and picking a winner here may be tough. Both teams will aim to make life difficult with physical defense, and the ability of the scorers on both squads to break free will be paramount. This is a 5 pm Mountain tip-off.
Remember, you can Watch on U-Sports TV 1
- Coaching records (U-Sports overall) for the 8 Head coaches in this tournament – Dave Smart, Carleton – 520-46 (.919) … Roy Rana, Ryerson – 139-69 (.668) … Dave De Aveiro, Ottawa / McGill – 341-183 (.651) … Jonah Taussig, Saint Marys – 99-67 (.596) … Barnaby Craddock – Brandon, UFV, Alberta – 221-151 (.594) … Rick Plato, Dalhousie – 76-53 (.589) … Dan Vanhooren, Calgary – 304-213 (.588) … Kirby Schepp, Manitoba – 112-124 (.475)
- This National Championship Final 8 Tournament returns to Halifax for the first time since 2012. The event will have been played in this venue a total of 30 times in the 44 years since competition began back in 1963.