Friday, 14 December 2007

OUA Update - Part One

The final weekend of the OUA interlocking schedule produced a number of interesting results that have shaken up the standings in both the East and West. No more surprising were the results that came out of downtown Toronto as the Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs visited. The Lancers came in to the weekend losers of two straight in Ottawa the weekend prior and were able to hold off host Ryerson Rams on the Friday night while the Mustangs, revitalized with the return to eligibility of 6'9" Colin Laforme, the NCAA D1 transfer from Youngstown State, were optimistic as they faced off against the Varsity Blues. It took until the fourth quarter, but the Mustangs were able to pull off a huge win at U of T, coming from double digits down with a 30+ point fourth quarter with Laforme playing a key role offensively in the win. The following night however the Mustangs ran into a motivated Rams group and dropped a decision at Ryerson. Meanwhile, the Blues shook off their poor finish in the fourth quarter on Friday to derail the Lancers by double digits... Carleton remained undefeated by coming from behind to defeat Brock on the Friday and then staging another late comeback in Guelph, rallying from an 8 point deficit with just 8 minutes remaining to stay unbeaten and handing Guelph their second consecutive loss after 6 straight wins to open the regular season. Ottawa had scored a decisive victory at Guelph the night before but then succumbed in St. Catharines the following night as the Badgers scored 53 second half points, pulling away late to ride to a solid win... A pair of very young teams met in Kingston during the final weekend of interlocking play and the improving McMaster Marauders came up with a very important road win against Queen's, which has proven they can play with virtually any team in Canada. The Gaels recovered the next night, lighting up the Bartlett Center from the perimeter as the Gaels have shown they can do consistently, to defeat Lakehead. Both the Thunderwolves and Marauders handily defeated RMC, which remains winless... Laurier Golden Hawks and Waterloo Warriors both posted a pair of wins against OUA East rivals York Lions and Laurentian Voyageurs with the Waterloo/Laurentian game being the only tight match as the Warriors prevailed by 3. Waterloo shot a blistering 88% from the foul line going 22-25 in the game.

OUA WEST EDGES OUA EAST in cumulative head-to-head matchup... In the 64 interlocking games played this season, the West edged the East 33 wins to 31, reversing last season's results when the East won 36 of 64 games (36-28)... In the seven seasons beginning in 2001-02 that interlocking play began, the OUA West owns a 245-203 advantage (55%) and has won 6 of the 7 season series, losing only last season. Here is a season-by-season breakdown:

2001-02 38-26 WEST
2002-03 36-28 WEST
2003-04 37-27 WEST
2004-05 38-26 WEST
2005-06 35-29 WEST
2006-07 36-28 EAST
2007-08 33-31 WEST.

Here are some more thoughts on the first half of the OUA season: The Windsor Lancers (5-3, 9-4 overall) lost 3 of their last 4 games of the interlock and continued to show a pattern that has been now well-publicized: an inability to win big games on the road, although their league road schedule this season has included games at Carleton, at Ottawa and at Toronto. Overall, Windsor is 1-4 on the road including a non-conference overtime loss at McGill. The Lancers have a veteran group that includes three 5th year starters and Windsor in the first half relied heavily on their starters including touted JUCO transfer Isaac Kuon while not getting consistent, significant production from their bench. Windsor's ability to get more out of their 8th through 10th players should go a long way in determining whether or not the Lancers can defend their OUA West and Wilson Cup titles... Injuries and an inability to consistently defend have played a role in the inconsistent start for Western (3-5, 7-7 overall) as the Mustangs have not had 6'5" Andrew Wedemire, among others, in the lineup for a full stretch. Throwing out the RMC game, Western has allowed opponents to score an average of 83.5 points per game with the fewest points allowed being 77. 6'9" Colin Laforme played in his first two games over the final weekend of interlock play however touted 6'6" Keenan Jeppesen has not played as of yet... Laurier Golden Hawks (3-5, 5-9 overall) brought in a number of new faces this season and, after a tough start, won their last 3 in a row. However consistency remains an issue with the Hawks, especially at the all-important point guard spot where last season 6'1" Jesse MacDonald emerged as a logical replacement to graduated fifth-year senior Omar Miles. MacDonald showed down the stretch last season that his best role is probably spotting at the point while also playing on the wing however he struggled through the first half of the season with some early injuries and never really got into the flow. As well, 6'0" Austin Walsh, brought in from Hamilton St. Mary's but also plagued by injuries late in his high school career, has not grabbed the reigns as of yet. 6'5" Matthew Walker, Laurier's veteran presence and a former OUA West Freshman-of-the-Year, continues to be plagued by consistency issues but is capable of carrying his team when right. The best of the freshman looks to be 6'5" Kale Harrison, who plays with tremendous confidence and has shown an ability to stretch defenses by making perimeter shots... Waterloo (3-5, 4-10) also won their last 3 games of the interlock after losing their first five and a 1-10 start overall. 6'2" David Burnett looks to be rounding into the leader of this group and Waterloo needs more consistent efforts from touted 6'3" freshman Cam McIntyre to contend for a spot near the top of the OUA West standings by year-end... After a tremendous start and a Top 5 national ranking, the Guelph Gryphons (6-2, 11-4 overall) lost a pair on the final weekend including giving up a nice lead in the fourth quarter at home to lose to #1 Carleton. The entire Gryphon program swallowed hard when 6'4" Jonathan Moscatelli re-injured his surgically-repaired knee on an innocent play when he was simply pushing off to drive to the basket late in the Carleton game. Moscatelli's knee continues to be examined and we hope to have some type of good news at some point; after everything this player has been through to get back to playing and the high-level at which he was performing at the time of his re-injury, we all hope the injury is not serious and that he can return. Guelph had a great start as 6'4" Nick Pankerichan looked for his offense much more confidently throughout the first half while 6'9" Duncan Milne was a solid presence inside and scrappy 5'11" Mike Patrella emerged as one of the top freshman in the OUA West. If Guelph can stay healthy including oft-injured 6'4" Jay Mott among others, their combination of perimeter presence and wing/inside scoring along with their always-strong "d" will make them one of the favorites to win the West... The exciting, high-scoring Brock Badgers (5-3, 8-9 overall) showed that, especially at home, they can play with any team in Canada as they pushed Carleton to the very end and then used their offensive firepower to knock Ottawa from the ranks of the undefeated. 6'3" Mike Kemp showed why he is considered one of the top defenders in the league by doing a tremendous job on Gee-Gees 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe, holding the OUA East First Team all-star to 8 points on 3-15 shooting and 5 turnovers. The Badgers got to the exam break despite not having 6'3" Rohan Steen, who will likely have to play the remainder of his fifth and final season in constant pain due to a foot injury. The incomparable Brad Rootes looks to lead the Badgers back to the Nationals for the third time in his five year career. A more consistent effort from 6'7" Owen White inside should help Brock contend for the OUA West title... With virtually a brand-new team dotted with freshman and young players with limited CIS experience, McMaster (4-4, 9-6 overall) nonetheless finished the first half very strong as 6'2" Tyrell Vernon has begun to assert himself as a star of the future while 6'8" Mouchtar Diaby, probably the biggest, widest post player in Ontario, creates matchup problems inside for opponents. 6'2" Jermaine DeCosta, back after playing for the football Marauders, is probably the most athletic and exciting wing for the Marauders. Unconfirmed reports have Mac bringing in what could be an impact transfer for the new season, adding to what again should be a group that challenges all comers... Lakehead Thunderwolves (4-4, 6-8 overall) have bounced back after a one-win season in '06-'07 on the strength of their talented American tandem of 6'4" Kiraan Posey and 6'6" Warren Thomas. Posey is a very difficult matchup defensively with his strong in-between game while Thomas can finish inside and also step out to make defenders pay for not coming out to play him. The T-Wolves need their supporting cast to contribute in order to compete in the upper echelons of the OUA West.

Our next update should have our thoughts on how teams in the OUA East faired in the first half.

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