Monday, 24 December 2007

CISHOOPS.CA Top 10 (after the first half of the season)

The first half of the season showed that there are probably 15 teams with a strong opportunity to play in the CIS championship game in Ottawa in March. By any measure, one of those teams is very likely to be Carleton, #1 since the beginning of the season and still unbeaten despite a few challenges along the way. Beyond that, there are at least 14 other teams that merit consideration for a Top 10 spot at this stage of the season. Here is my belated Top 10 after the first half of the season.

#1 Carleton (14-0 overall, 8-0 in OUA, prior ranking: #1) The Ravens were pushed in both of their games on the final weekend of the first half but held off Brock and then came from 8 down with 8 minutes remaining, led by a pair of clutch threes by 6'4" Ryan Bell, to outlast Guelph. Although the Ravens feature a deep bench with plenty of talent, in big games many of the minutes rightfully go to their stable of experienced, proven winners including Bell, 6'7" Aaron Doornekamp, 6'2" Stu Turnbull and 6'5" Jean-Emmanuel Jean-Marie. Expect Carleton's freshmen to continue to develop with 6'3" Elliot Thompson thus far being the most consistent. 6'7" Kevin McCleery battled a foot injury the entire first half and his health is a key in the second half. NEXT CIS ACTION: Host Laurentian and York during the first weekend of January. Prior to that the Ravens will hold a training camp in Florida during which they will play a pair of games just before the New Year at the Broward Community College (BCC) Classic in Broward County (near Fort Lauderdale), FLA.

#2 Acadia (10-2 overall, 5-1 in AUS, prior ranking: #3) . NEXT: The Axemen have slowly moved up the rankings as 6'5" Leonel Saintil has emerged as a definite AUS Player-of-the-Year candidate and the Axemen have won 5 of 6 league games despite not having 6'1" All-Canadian Paolo Santana in the lineup due to an ankle injury. While their margin of victory in most games has usually been high, the Axemen's first half schedule has been relatively soft but will get tougher immediately after Christmas at the Winnipeg tournament where they are in a bracket with 3 other strong teams, meeting Calgary in the first round with either Brandon or Brock to meet in their second game. With the re-addition of James Burke, Acadia has a strong 8 man rotation in place once Santana returns from injury and should be able to compete with any team in Canada. NEXT CIS ACTION: At Winnipeg tournament vs. Calgary in round one; next AUS league action: Jan. 4th at St. Mary's; Jan. 5th vs. Dalhousie.

#3 Brandon (13-3 overall, 9-1 Canada West, #5 last week) With just a single league loss at Alberta, a game played one day after a grueling trip from Saskatoon, the Bobcats are well deserving of a high ranking. All 3 losses have come to contending teams including #1 Carleton (neutral court) and the Bears twice (once on a neutral floor at Victoria). The Cats feature a number of experienced, Nationals-tested stars and have the depth, athleticism and skill to compete for a National championship. 6'5" Adam Hartman (19.3 ppg/5.9 rpg) and 6'3" Dany Charlery (18.3 ppg/6.1 rpg) both had stellar first halves for the 'Cats and 6'9" Yuri Whyms missed much of the first half with an injury, however 6'1" fifth-year point guard Yul Michel (15.2 ppg, 5.9 apg) is the underlying key to this group as the orchestrator, ball defender and overall leader. NEXT: Dec. 28th vs. Brock at Winnipeg tournament; host Fraser Valley and Thompson Rivers to open the second half of Canada West league play.

#4 Calgary (11-2 overall, 9-1 in Canada West, Prior Ranking: #8) Dinos had a very impressive first half of the season, especially at home where they defeated UVic, UBC and Alberta & Saskatchewan twice each. Calgary has plenty of quality and depth up front with Ross and Henry Bekkering up front, a top freshman in Tyler Fidler and a good backcourt. Losses have come on the road at Simon Fraser and on a neutral court in overtime against Toronto. Like most emerging teams, the Dinos will have to learn to consistently win away from Jack Simpson Gym and will get that opportunity at the Winnipeg tournament and on the first weekend back in January when Canada West league play re-starts. NEXT: Dec. 28th at Winnipeg Tournament vs. Acadia in the first round. League play resumes Jan. 4th and 5th when Calgary travels to Edmonton to face Alberta Golden Bears on the road.

#5 Concordia (7-2 overall, 3-1 in QSSF, Prior Ranking: #6) Despite a rash of injuries to their top three players, the Stingers remained on top of Quebec league. Both Buckley brothers missed significant time and only played together for a handful of minutes while 6'7" Jamal Gallier played with a leg contuision for much of the first half. 5'9" Levi Vann became a feature threat with his three-point shooting while continued improving contributions from 6'2" Andre Johnny and 6'5" Sebastien Martin will help while a pair of freshmen 6'0" Decee Krah and 6'5" James Clark should develop into solid rotation players. 5'10" Pierre Thompson is beginning to show signs of taking increased minutes in the backcourt. NEXT: Dec. 28th at Dalhousie tournament vs. UNB in first round. Host Bishop's (Jan. 4th) and McGill (Jan. 5th) on the first weekend of Quebec league play.

#6 UBC (11-2 overall, 10-2 Canada West, Prior Ranking: #2). NEXT: The T-Birds found out on the final weekend of the first half that their arch-rivals UVic Vikes will again be a formidable foe toward winning the Pacific Division of Canada West as the Vikes easily handled UBC in the first of two games. UBC did recover to edge the Vikes in the second game but taking such a decisive loss at home was a difficult pill to swallow for the usually-explosive T-Birds, who for the most part were held in check by the Vikes "d". 8 of UBC's 11 wins have come against sub .500 teams with 3 quality wins (at home vs. Toronto in October, at Simon Fraser and the recent 3 point win against Vic to close out the first half). Both of UBC's losses have been against solid teams: at Calgary and at home against UVic. With 6'3" Chris Dyck generally playing at a high level and quality depth on the roster, expect the T-Birds to contend for the Canada West title however they will need to prove they can win big games on the road to be considered a favorite. NEXT CIS ACTION: The Birds have a rematch with Simon Fraser on Jan. 8th before hosting a pair of Great Plains division teams including Brandon on the following weekend.

#7 Guelph (12-4 overall, 6-2 in OUA, #4 last week) The Gryphs had their 11 game winning streak snapped after a pair of home losses to Ottawa and Carleton but had the Ravens on the ropes early in the fourth quarter before faltering. The news on heralded 6'4" freshman Jonathan Moscatelli appears good and Guelph should also get 6'6" Luke Nevar back from injury to provide more depth up front. 6'4" Jay Mott is another perimeter threat who has battled injuries the past two seasons but should be ready for the stretch run. The Gryphs got a solid first half from 6'4" Nick Pankerichan and 6'9" Duncan Milne. Guelph always comes with aggressive, pressure defense and with several complementary offensive stars are a definite favorite for the OUA West title. NEXT: OUA West season resumes Sat. Jan. 5th at Windsor.

#8 Cape Breton (12-4 overall, 6-1 in AUS, Previous ranking: #NR) The surprising Capers were set to be in somewhat of a rebuilding season with heavy graduating losses but Cape Breton has got an All-Canadian-type first half from 6'5" Eric Breland, a strong performance from touted 5'10" freshman Tremaine Fraser and overcame injuries with contributions from 6'4" Paul Blake, who missed a chunk of the first half, 6'5" Phil Nkrumah also hurt for a few games and 6'2" guard Mark McGarrigle, playing on an injured knee to lead the AUS at the break. The Capers have won 7 of their last 8 games after a mini-three game slide that ended a five game winning streak off the start of the season. NEXT: AUS season resumes Sat. Jan. 5th as Capers host UNB and then UPEI on Sun. Jan. 6th.

#9 Ottawa (11-3 overall, 7-1 in OUA, Previous Ranking: #10) Another surprising team that lost four top players from last season to graduation or academics and has played the majority of the first half with starters logging major minutes. The Gee-Gees had a big road at Guelph and have defeated Windsor at home in league play before losing at Brock on the final night of the first half. 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe sets the tone and when he is right, the Gee-Gees can play with anyone. 6'3" Sean Peter is slowly putting together an all-conference type season while 6'3" wing Donnie Gibson has not wilted under the challenge of significantly increased minutes. 6'9" Dax Dessureault is also starting to fulfill the promise of being an upper-echelon center in the CIS. The Gee-Gees need to get more from their bench and must stay healthy with their first 5 to remain in contention but they had a very solid first half. NEXT: Dec. 28th at Dalhousie tournament vs. St. Mary's. Open league play on Jan. 4th and 5th against York and Laurentian at home.

#10 Toronto (13-4 overall, 6-2 in OUA, Previous Ranking: #7) The Varsity Blues ended the first half on a terrific note, stinging the tough Windsor Lancers with a spectacular perimeter shooting performance in the final two quarters. Toronto loses have come on the road in overtime at Guelph and at home against Western when they gave up a big second half lead. Fifth-year guard Mike Degiorgio sets the tone with his grit and determination and can carry a team with his shooting when right. The Blues continue to run their precision offense and have mixed up their defenses very effectively in the first half to show they will contend in the OUA East. With a solid first five, Toronto must stay healthy and get solid contributions from their emerging bench to stay in the hunt for a Nationals appearance. NEXT: Dec. 28th vs. McGill at Ryerson tournament. Begin the second half of the regular season in Kingston at Queen's on Jan. 4th and at RMC on Jan. 5th.

Also Considered (alphabetical order):
Alberta (12-4 overall, 7-3 Canada West)
Queen's (10-4 overall, 5-3 in OUA)
St. FX (11-5 overall, 5-1 in AUS)
St. Mary's (13-4 overall, 4-2 in AUS)
Victoria (10-8 overall, 9-3 in Canada West)
Windsor (9-4 overall, 5-3 in OUA, Previous Ranking: #9)

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