Thursday, 6 September 2007

Thoughts from the Weekend

This past weekend's NCAA vs. CIS series involved the most games ever played during a weekend between U.S. and Canadian schools ever. With 7 victories, CIS schools eclipsed last season's win total of 3; however, there were almost double the number of games. Two games still remain to be played as UC-Santa Barbara visits Simon Fraser on Friday and then Trinity Western on Saturday. From the games I watched personally and the numerous coaches I had a chance to speak with, the view is that the CIS product is very good and getting better. Numerous NCAA coaches commented on how well coached are teams are and how the sets many coaches run tested their teams defensively. Many CIS teams played games shorthanded because of injury or other and most only had a few practices to prepare.

Here are some observations from across the country: Despite losing two starters late in the summer, VICTORIA showed that they are likely to still be a force in Canada West as rookies 6'4" Ryan MacKinnon and 6'1" Brandon Dunlop were thrust into key roles and responded, especially in the win against UC-Santa Barbara. The veteran leadership has fallen to 6'5" Tyler Hass and fellow veterans 6'7" Mitch Gudgeon and 6'8" Rob Kinnear will have to accept more minutes and greater roles. The depth of the Vikes roster has suffered with departures of 6'6" Jacob Doerksen and 6'3" Josh Whyte so they'll have to stay healthy but this weekend showed that when the system is run properly the Vikes can continue to produce solid play. After a pair of sub-par efforts, UBC shook up their starting lineup, inserting 6'6" Graham Bath and 6'2" Nathan Yu, a pair of freshmen, and the T-Birds responded with a solid effort against Boise State. 6'3" Chris Dyck is the offensive go-to guy while 6'9" Bryson Kool must take over inside. Look for more minutes and production from 6'1" Alex Murphy after a solid freshman season and a summer in which he was the final cut of Canada's U19 team. There is plenty of depth and talent on the T-Birds. SASKATCHEWAN had a couple of tight games and with their deep roster and veteran leadership have a chance to be a Top 10 team this season, especially with the return of 6'1" Rob Lovelace, who with 6'1" veteran Jordan Harbidge gives the Huskies two legitimate lead guards. CALGARY, with one of the top recruiting classes in Canada, should also challenge for the Mountain division title but will have to find a replacement for underrated lead guard Josh Feist, lost to graduation. A number of talented possibilities exist however none with a background as a pure point. In Ontario, WINDSOR added 6'3" Issac Kuon to their star-studded lineup and as long as the minutes can be properly distributed, the Lancers are probably the deepest team this side of Carleton and the early favorites to repeat as OUA West champions. However, BROCK with POY candidate Brad Rootes, the continual improvement of 6'7" Owen White, who now is a legitimate rotation guy and the return of 6'8" Dusty Bianchin as their rebounding and defensive presence up front have a solid starting five and are likely to add one more veteran impact player this week to have arguably one of the better first six in the CIS. GUELPH is suffering through some injuries including 6'3" Jonathan Moscatelli who was a prized recruit from two seasons ago but has endured a pair of knee surgerys. The Gryphs wisely held Moscatelli out of weekend action when he came down with some swelling in his knees. In their final game against Morehead State, the Gryphs showed that they can stay in any game with their defense when the system is played properly. Several young players including tough 6'1" guard Mike Patrella figure to make an impact and 6'7" Duncan Milne turned it on during the latter part of last season and will complement nicely 6'9" J.R. Bailey up front. CARLETON brought in impact freshmen in 6'7" Aaron Chapman, 6'4" Cole Hobin and 6'3" Elliott Thompson and all showed that they will contribute as part of the rotation with Chapman showing no fear inside against stronger, more athletic U.S. big men, Hobin showing a mature floor game, finding people and getting on the offensive glass while Thompson has a multi-faceted game including handling on the perimeter, defending and knocking down open 3's. All 3 need to continue to grow as defenders in Carleton's system and are learning the essentials offensively but expect these 3 to be impactful as the next generation of Ravens. 6'4" Ryan Bell got his legs back in time to put on a tremendous display against Alabama on Sunday. He was able to beat quicker, more athletic defenders off the dribble consistently, showing the experience in Las Vegas helped him significantly. His mid-range game, pulling up from 15 feet after creating for himself, is smoother than it's ever been and he simply looks like much more of a confident leader on the floor. 6'7" Aaron Doornekamp also appears stronger and more athletic. His creativity and court vision with the basketball at 6'7" is unparallelled in Canada and he and Bell appear ready to fill the leadership void after Ozvaldo Jeanty's graduation. OTTAWA does not have the depth of prior years and as a result fans likely won't see as much of the double teaming and pressure that characterized the Gee-Gees defensive schemes the past few years when Ottawa perennially led the conference in turnovers created. Expect the Gee-Gees to ride 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe for 30+ minutes per game and the improvement of 6'9" Dax Dessureault should also ensure he plays more minutes than in the past as long as he stays out of foul trouble. The Gee-Gees need 6'3" Donnie Gibson to flash the offensive prowess he showed as a high schooler and 6'3" Sean Peter will also see his minutes increase, especially if he can knock down the longer range jumper consistently. Josh's brother, 6'2" Jacob Gibson-Bascombe, is likely to be the first wing off the bench and should be able to work well with his older brother together in the backcourt. CONCORDIA again will be a Top 10 team in the much-improved "Q" despite losing POY Patrick Perrotte and sharpshooter Ben Sormonte. The Buckley brothers are terrific defenders and go from "d" to "o" in a blink while 5'9" Levi Vann should stretch defenses from the perimeter. The Stingers need a fit 6'7" Jamal Gallier, who will likely need to play significantly more minutes up front while 6'1" Andre Johnny will have a higher profile as well. McGILL's newcomers, especially 6'3" Mustafa El Zanaty and 6'2" import Sam Goulet, showed that the Redmen will be deeper and probably more talented. 6'4" Sean Anthony remains the top scoring threat and 6'4" Matthew Thornhill is likely to move over into a more familiar role on the wing with Goulet's emergence. Another sophomore who is expected to grow further is 6'4" Pawel Herra and much leadership is expected from 6'4" John Abbott transfer Kyle Bernard. There are at least 3 teams in the "Q" which could push for Top 10 spots over the course of the coming season.

No comments: