Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Wass Blog CIS Top 10 after the Holidays

Since there was no Top 10 this week (it will return next week after the first weekend of league games in 2007) I thought I'd start some discussion and share my thoughts on how the Top 10 could look after this past weekend's games (only games between CIS teams were considered).

Later this week, we'll look at some of the key games for the coming weekend and hopefully provide a list of all games available over the Internet whether by audio or video.

Finally, althoug Taylor Mays didn't at all look like the next Ronnie Lott, my Trojans stuffed Michigan and my guess is Jim Tressel and Co at The Ohio State University are thanking the Bruins for their upset win against Troy in early December.

Wass Blog CIS TOP 10 after the Holidays

#1 Carleton (8-0 in OUA East, 16-0 overall vs. CIS): Despite a loss in Florida when, from what I understand, they played their entire bench equally, the Ravens will retain the number one ranking in preparation for hosting Toronto Varsity Blues and Ryerson this coming weekend. Look for the Ravens to rebound from a terrible (by their standards) first-half performance from beyond the arc as Stu Turnbull gets healthy and Ryan Bell returns to last season's form. As has been the norm basically in the new millenium, at the end of the day Carleton gets it done with their pack-it-in "d" and one-and-done defensive rebounding. They have yet to lose to CIS competition this season and continue to prevail against all comers. Still the team to beat without question.

#2 St. FX (4-1 in AUS, 11-1 overall vs. CIS): Solidifying the view that they are the team to beat in Atlantic Canada with a pair of comfortable wins against St. Mary's and at Dalhousie in the Shoveller final, X is a deep, experienced, talented, athletic team with a tradition of winning. One of the keys to the second half could be how well freshman point guard Christian T-Bear Upshaw holds up under the rigours of playing 30+ minutes per game at the most important position on the floor now that teams have seen him more and as the games become more meaningful. As well, X-Men have not been dominant against teams like Cape Breton and UPEI that can approach or match their athleticism. That theory will be tested this Saturday as the Panthers visit Antigonish.

#3 Ottawa (7-1 vs. OUA East, 16-1 overall vs. CIS): The Gee-Gees finally settled upon an effective rotation in the final 3 weekends of the season and the result was a six game winning streak including a win over McMaster that in the past would have slipped away. With the loss at Top 10 team Windsor as the only blemish and 15+ point wins against strong teams like Brock and Guelph, plus an undefeated pre-season that included wins against U of T and at McGill, the Gee-Gees deserve a Top 5 ranking. Success will continue as long as sophomore point guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe and the three graduating fifth-year players pull Ottawa through the inevitable challenges that come down the stretch of the season. On top of this, to get entirely over-the-hump and represent the OUA East in Halifax, sophomore Donnie Gibson must continue to stretch defences and third-year forward Sean Peter must continue his improvement at the defensive end, especially on the glass. Ottawa has 4 games prior to this but the Capital Hoops Classic against Carleton, being played at Scotiabank Place on January 23rd looms large.

#4 Concordia (5-0 vs. QSSF, 10-1 overall vs. CIS): The Stingers went out west and tore through three Canada West teams over the holidays with a performance that makes them worthy of a ranking even higher than this. With fifth-year forward Patrick Perrotte using his experience and superior skills to dominate in and around the paint, the Buckley brothers locking down opponents top scorers and scoring in transition, forward Ben Sormonte stretching defences with his long-range shooting and an able bench with size and experience, Concordia can match up with anyone in Canada. Probably the most explosive offensive team in the CIS, Stingers ability to consistently take teams out of their offense when it matters and lock down opponents top scorers could determine whether or not they win their second CIS championship in the John Dore era.

#5 UBC (11-0 vs. Canada West, 17-1 overall): As has been the case almost from the beginning of Coach Kevin Hansen's tenure at UBC, the T-Birds are loaded with talent inside and out and boast another All-Canadian candidate in smooth-shooting Casey Archibald. However, the 'Birds were dominated by Concordia last week out west, losing by 14 after being down by as many as 24 and have only two wins against Top 10 teams all season, a 5 point win against Victoria on the final day of the first half and an early win over Cape Breton. With multiple league games remaining against top Canada West competition including Brandon, Alberta and the Vikings, UBC has plenty of opportunities to reestablish themselves as Nationals contenders. Recently, athletic teams that push up on the ball and play physical have given the T-Birds trouble so the January 12th matchup at Brandon offers a telling litmus test of how well UBC can respond in these situations. Still one of the favorites to grab one of the two available spots at the Nationals from Canada West, UBC has the talent to get it done.

#6 Windsor (6-2 in OUA West, 9-3 vs. CIS overall): With a solid first half including a dominant win over Ottawa and a close loss to Carleton at home, the Lancers have established themselves as the favorite in the OUA West. Certainly with underrated point guard Ryan Steer and a cast of strong, experienced and athletic forwards, Windsor has the tools to get it done, especially as the St. Denis Center becomes a tougher and tougher place for opponents to win. It has been mentioned that the Lancers have to get that "big" road victory to get over the hump and that still may be the case this season. However, already leading the division at 6-2 in a season in which the OUA West is down as compared to prior seasons and with the West champ hosting the Wilson Cup, Windsor could conceivably get to Halifax as Ontario champion without establishing themselves as road warriors. The only possible concern is being able to bring a long-range shooter off the bench when required and even so candidates like Matt Handsor and Kyle Kane could fill that role (Kane started one of the games in Ohio over the holidays). Expect the loyal and hungry Windsor fans to enjoy the next 2 1/2 months.

#7 Victoria (10-1 in Canada West, 14-4 overall): All 4 of Vic's losses have been to ranked teams (at Carleton, vs. Windsor, at UBC and at home against Concordia) so with any luck they could be a Top 5 team right now. The Vikes battled injuries to stalwards Tyler Haas and Jacob Doerksen over the holidays and although Haas was able to go against Concordia he was not 100%. However, none of Vic's wins have come against ranked opponents and their schedule roughly mirrors UBC's with the tough part remaining including games with Alberta, Brandon and the T-Birds. This team should always remain in games with their intelligent approach offensively but will have to defend and find a 30 minute per game point guard who can play to find their way back into the National championship game.

#8 York (6-2 in OUA East, 13-5 overall vs. CIS): The Lions would likely have been in the pre-holiday Top 10 had they not tripped up at home against Western but quickly made up for things by ripping through opponents at the Ryerson tournament including a comfortable win against Cape Breton when Coach Bob Bain dusted off his huge, long zone defence that has served him well in the past. Most know about Dan Eves, Jordan Foebel and Tut Ruach but the underlying ace-in-the-hole is guard Rohan Steen, who when right demands attention, especially from the perimeter. York pounded Windsor at home in the first half and also beat Laval, but did lose at Brock and to St. FX and Alberta. With Ruach expected back, this team will be even deeper and is already very experienced as the core has been to Halifax. Without question, one of three definite contenders from the OUA East.

#9 Cape Breton (4-1 in AUS, 10-6 vs. CIS overall) The Capers who return much of their team from last season's Nationals semi-finalists have been inconsistent throughout the year but have handed X their only loss to CIS competition and defeated Brock in overtime at the recent Ryerson tournament. With a solid, veteran point guard in Ryan Keliher, veteran forward Eric Breland, solid all-round scorer Paul Blake and veterans Corey Hargrove and Jarrett Timmons, this group is as athletic and experienced as most teams in Canada. How well they shoot the ball, especially when Blake is on, and their ability to defend and rebound when it counts will determine how much they push X for the AUS championship or grab the AUS's automatic host bid.

#10 Brock (5-3 in OUA West, 14-5 overall): With one of Canada's best players in point guard Brad Rootes and a stable of other 3 point shooting threats, Brock can score with anyone. How well they rebound as a group will go a long way in determining where they finish in the OUA West, especially when matched up against the size and inside strength of teams like Windsor. The Badgers could go as far as former CIS Rookie-of-the-Year Chris Keith takes them as when Keith is rebounding and making shots inside and out, he's a 1st team all-conference candidate. The emergence of a big guy, the ability of the Badgers to stay healthy and some solid road victories will determine how well Brock finishes.

Also garnering consideration: Brandon (8-2 in Canada West, 15-3 overall): With only 2 wins against solid competition (Alberta and Toronto) and a pair of losses to unranked Winnipeg, the Bobcats, although potentially a Top 10 team, have not played anyone in the Top 10 as of yet. Dany Charlery and Yul Michel are a dynamic pair while Adam Hartman is a solid, fundamentally-sound post player. First big test is hosting UBC and Victoria back to back at home in a couple of weeks.

Other teams to consider: Alberta, Laval, Queen's, Simon Fraser, Saskatchewan, Toronto.

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