Tuesday, 19 December 2006

OUA West Update

Traditionally one of Canada's top conferences top to bottom in Canada and for five years prior to this season relatively dominating in OUA East vs. West interlocking play, the OUA West took a step backward on the whole in the first half of 2006-07. Traditionally strong teams like McMaster and Guelph battled injuries, other teams such as Waterloo look like a lack of overall talent is catching up with them and for the first time maybe ever arguably the worst team in Canada resides in this division. With interlocking play all done, the eight teams in the West will battle it out over 7 weeks in January and February with at least 4 teams having a legitimate shot at winning the league's bid to Halifax. However, based on the first half and their overall level of talent, the league is Windsor's for the taking. The following is one observer's view of the first half and thoughts on what has to happen for success for each team in the second half of the 2006-07 season.

#6 Windsor Lancers (6-2 in OUA West, 9-3 overall vs. CIS): With solid, veteran guard play, a pair of horses up front and two NCAA D1 transfers usually leading the club in scoring and/or rebounding on a nightly basis, the Windsor Lancers appear to be the class of the OUA West. After last season’s tough loss in the playoffs at Mac, Windsor added talent and depth to an already solid lineup and the result is the lead in the OUA West at 6-2 and a 9-3 CIS record overall with 2 losses to Carleton. The Lancers will continue to make possessions difficult for teams defensively and have a host of weapons to draw from offensively. As well, they will usually outrebound teams. 6'2" Ryan Steer (13.0 ppg, 8.5 apg, 3.8 rpg) had a First Team All-Star type of first half, newcomer 6'8" Greg Surmacz (15.1 ppg, 11.4 rpg) authored numerous double/doubles, 6'5" Kevin Kloostra (17.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg) averaged over 20 points a game in their victories and the Allin brothers, a pair of 6'6" bruisers who can also step out and shoot it, made life miserable for opposing post players. The Lancers are filling up the St. Denis Center again and are proving very tough to beat there but as has been stated before need to win big games on the road to emerge as contenders for a national championship. Still, in what is proving to be a down year for the OUA West, Windsor should win this division. Go Lancers Official Windsor Web Site

#8 Brock Badgers (5-3 in OUA West, 12-4 overall vs. CIS): The Badgers have possibly the OUA West MVP in 5'10" veteran guard Brad Rootes (16.8 ppg, 9.0 apg, 3.8 rpg) (fourth year already!!) and a All-Star capable forward in 6'6" Chris Keith (13.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg). Veteran 6'0" Scott Murray (8.4 ppg) gets the job done in the back court and 6'2" swingman Mike Kemp (14.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) brings one of the better all-round game in the OUA West to the table. As always, they are very tough to beat at the Bob Davis Gym but showed some difficulties competing in OUA East gyms, losing 3 games on the road in the first half by decisive scores. How well this team does in the second half could be predicated on which player or combination of players fits into the five spot: 6'7" Owen White (5.5 ppg) who showed some promise in the first half, 6'5" Jesse Tipping (8.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) who has decent perimeter skills offensively and 6'5" Matt Bassett-Spiers. As per usual, coach Ken Murray loves to ride the backs of his starters and given the situation at the five spot, look for the Badgers to continue to fire it up from downtown. Rootes has put this team on his back before and as long as he gets some help, is more than capable of doing it again, as long as he stays healthy through all the minutes he plays. Official Brock Badgers Web Site

Western Mustangs (4-4 in OUA West, 6-7 vs. CIS): After a lethargic pre-season during which new Head Coach Brad Campbell and team had to endure a tough loss at home to local college rival Fanshawe Falcons, the 'Stangs lost their first two home games against Ottawa and Carleton and many felt, although the Carleton game was reasonably close, that Western's recent troubles would continue. However, a potentially season-changing victory over U of T Varsity Blues at home propelled Western to a 4-2 finish, further highlighted by a tough road victory at York, which was on the verge of returning to the CIS Top 10. The 'Stangs seem to have finally overcome the major injury bug, especially now that it appears that 6'4" Andrew Wedemire (15.4 ppg) is back to normal, which means a potential 1st Team OUA West all-star at some point and possibly All-Canadian status before all is said and done. Third-year point guard Matt Curtis (11.3 ppg, 6.0 apg) is finally playing with more consistency and is a triple/double threat with his passing, shooting and rebounding skills from the guard spot. 6'3" Jason Milliquet can stretch defences from the "3" but the real turnaround for Western could happen once 6'8" Alan Paron contributes more offence. 6'7" veteran Adam Ruckbie and former 6'6" OUA West Rookie-of-the-Year Brad Smith (9.1 ppg) must also emerge up front for the 'Stangs, still a very young team, to push for a spot in Halifax this season. Western Mustangs Web Site

Guelph Gryphons (4-4 in OUA West, 4-10 overall vs. CIS). Injuries took their toll on the Gryphons in the first half, winless at 0-6 against CIS teams in the pre-season, as 6'10" center J.R. Bailey virtually all non-league games, 6'3" third-year point guard Nick Pankerichan missed some games in November and prized freshman recruit Jonathan Moscatelli (redshirt freshman originally from Toronto Oakwood) remains out after a second major knee injury. Scoring seems to be an issue with the Gryphs as primary outside threat 6'3" Jay Mott hasn’t produced as expected (shooting under 40%) and 6'3" Aron Barbigare (11.6 ppg/6.4 rpg) could be more consistent. But like most good programs, the Gryphons found their way to a 4-4 record despite shots not falling as they displayed their traditionally tough half-court "d" and gutted out some wins. As well, Bailey (14.4 ppg/ 7.8 rpg) was his usual force inside and with the addition of 6'4" D1 transfer Borko Popic (Hawaii Pacific), who can shoot it, coach Chris O’Rourke will add another offensive threat in the second half. Despite how poorly they played at home in the first half, expect this team to at a minimum win the majority of their games in the friendly confines and as long as Guelph’s traditionally tough “d” keeps them in games, they could push for an upper echelon finish, possibly even a bye. Guelph Gryphons Official Web Site

Laurier Golden Hawks (3-5 in OUA West, 5-8 vs. CIS overall): Coach Peter Campbell had to completely rebuild his team after graduation ravaged his CIS Nationals qualifying team from one year ago. With virtually all of his team outside of veteran point guard Omar Miles in their third year or less, the future looks bright for the Hawks, who have been raining threes upon opponents with regular frequency. Third-year forward Matt Walker (19.4 ppg/7.4 rpg) has assumed a leadership role, taking the majority of big shots and emerging as one of the division's top scorers - he was battling mononucleosis at the end of the first half. Second-year guard Jesse MacDonald (11.8 ppg) should inherit the point guard role full time next season when Miles (7.4 ppg, 4.8 apg) graduates but for now the two are sharing significant court time. Coach Campbell was able to bring in a pair of impact recruits in 6'6" Evan Eliason (8.6 ppg) who can stroke it and 6'8" Andrew Pennycook (4.8 ppg), who ended one of the more exciting OUA interlocking games in the first half with a game-winning, buzzer-beating, overtime three-pointer at Laurentian. The young Hawks could make some noise if Miles, now in his fifth-year, can produce more offensively and their freshman provide a lift. Laurier Golden Hawks Web Site

McMaster Marauders (3-5 in OUA West, 8-7 vs. CIS overall): Based on their play on the final weekend of the first half of the season, Mac, if John Obrovac, who only played in parts of 3 league games, comes back healthy, has a solid starting five including emerging freshman 6'10" Geoff McLaughlin (5.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg), a solid offensive threat and underrated passer. McLaughlin, typical of most freshmen, is behind but learning quickly on the defensive end but it would not be a surprise for him to assume the starting role at the 5. Fifth-year all-conference candidates 6'8" Adam Steiner (13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and 5'9" Martin Ajayi (20.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.2 apg) will continue to share the scoring and leadership roles for a Marauder team not as deep as in past years. Mac needs more from third-year wing Nathan Histed (only 4.4 ppg on less than 20% shooting) who battled injuries in the first half. Off the bench, Jason Scully has comparable range, the same shooter’s mentality and plays with more of an edge than his older brother, Rob, who graduated. But don’t mistake him for the point guard of the future. Amino Bello, a freshman, plays with a lot of confidence and can knock shots down in spurts. Coach Raso, always as well prepared as any coach in Canada, should have this team contending for the league title as usual. Mac Official Web Site

Waterloo Warriors (3-5 in OUA West, 5-9 vs. CIS overall): These are the sobering facts on Waterloo: their 3 fifth-year starters probably would not start on virtually any other team in Canada (with possible exception of Michael Davis). Their top rookie from a year ago is solid but not spectacular and will likely never be an All-Star. This year’s top freshman is gratuitously described as a pass-first, non-scoring guard. All of the big guys who play significant minutes up front outside of Michael Davis might have trouble making some other OUA teams rosters. Getting the picture as of yet on the level of talent this team has? The only saving grace for the Warriors is that they play very well at home, usually commit fewer fouls than the other team (especially at home) and usually run their stuff to death for a good shot offensively. This team may be most affected by the change to the FIBA-induced 24 second shot clock next season. It will be a successful season for Coach Tom Kieswetter if he can manoeuvre his team into an OUA West playoff spot. Warriors Web Site

Lakehead Thunderwolves (0-8, 0-13): Despite arguably the hardest working and most passionate Sports Information Department in Canada, the Wolves have dropped to the very bottom of the CIS after being ravaged by a roster shuffle that left only one bonafide OUA upper echelon player, U.S. import Warren Thomas. It is back to the drawing board for Coach Scott Morrison; last season, the Wolves brought in a couple of transfers after Christmas and it will take that at a bare minimum if Lakehead has any thoughts of winning even a single game this season. Lakehead Web Site

A future post to the blog will detail the current situation going into the holiday schedule in the OUA East.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a comment about the waterloo warriors.

I think that Olivier Quesnel should be considered as one of the top defenders in the OUA.

Dave Burnett is a very good point guard, he is just learning to become the main man after being behind guys like Jarman and Magennis in his first year. He will be a star just watch.

Davis would be an all star if the coach used him properly.