Saturday, 15 December 2007

OUA Update - Part Two

The five-time defending national champion Carleton Ravens (8-0, 14-0 overall) have a legacy of winning with defense and rebounding. The first half of the OUA regular season statistically bears out that this formula is working well for the Ravens again as Carleton is holding opponents to just 33.6% shooting from the floor and only 60 points allowed per game. As well, the Ravens are outrebounding their opponents by 12.3 rpg, by far the largest margin in the OUA. The Ravens have taken on all comers, already defeating perenial top 10 teams Brandon, Alberta, Windsor and Guelph (twice). In 6'7" Aaron Doornekamp (15.8 ppg/9.3 rpg) (pictured), Carleton has a legitimate Mike Moser Award candidate. Doornekamp came up huge in a big spot, scoring 33 points and adding 17 rebounds in Ravens victory over then-#2 Windsor and then added 24 points and 11 rebounds at Brock despite missing the entire week of practice prior to the game with a foot injury. Although the Ravens welcomed in one of Canada's top freshman classes and have quality depth on the roster, in big games against top teams, expect Coach Dave Smart to ride his experienced fourth and fifth year players in 6'4" Ryan Bell, 6'2" Stu Turnbull, 6'5" Jean Emmanuel Jean-Marie and Doornekamp, all of who played major minutes - usually 30 or more - against top OUA West teams Guelph, Windsor and Brock. Carleton should also get stronger as 6'7" Kevin McCleery recovers from a foot injury that has plagued him since early in the calendar year. McCleery missed 3 games in the first half and then played very sparingly in the final 3 games of the first half while coming back from his ailment... For a team that lost 4 starters and did not add an impact freshman, pre-season prognosticators viewed the U of T Varsity Blues (6-2, 13-4 overall) as a team destined to finish in the middle of the pack in the OUA East. But Head Coach Mike Katz and staff have done another tremendous job in working their team back into the upper echelons of the division. Toronto's only fifth-year starter 6'3" Mike Degiorgio has led this group on most night's, making big shots, controlling the tempo at the offensive end and ordinarily filling up the stats sheet with points, rebounds and assists. Unfortunately, neither the OUA, CIS or Varsity Blues home pages have any individual statistics on the Blues but Toronto has stayed in games defensively by intelligently switching between man-to-man and zone defenses, something coach Katz rarely has done in his long, fine coaching career. Opponents have shot only 39.4% against Toronto and the Blues have only allowed 62.1 points per game, both among the league leaders. The Blues also have been taking care of the ball, turning it over only 10.8 times per game, lowest in the East. The Blues can be described as a streak shooting team and Toronto was on fire in their season finale, a big win over Windsor in which Varsity shot a blistering 10 for 15 from 3 point land in the second half alone. The Blues, who have only gone to the line 106 times all regular season, 2nd lowest in Ontario ahead of only Queen's, need to improve their overall team free throw shooting (59.4% as a team including Degiorgio - stats not known but likely at or around 50%)... Another solid OUA success story in the first half was resurgence of the Queen's Golden Gaels (5-3, 10-4 overall), who have 5 freshmen in their rotation and got through the first half without veteran wing 6'2" Ryan Hairsine. The Gaels fire up 3's at breakneck pace, averaging a CIS-high 31 threes attempted per game, but are an underrated defensive team, cutting off the paint and rebounding, and have held teams to only 37.4% field goal shooting, second in the East. Gaels coach Rob Smart has done a very solid job with this very young group which has a Freshman-of-the-Year candidate in 6'5" Jon Ogden (12.3 ppg/6.0 rpg) including a 22 point effort at Windsor on the road, a 17-point/13-rebound double double against Brock and 13 points/8 rebounds against Guelph. 6'6" sophomore Mitch Leger continues to be the offensive leader, averaging 17.5 ppg while 6'1" guard Baris Ondul is a strong defender and can stretch defenses as well - witness his 30 point effort against Lakehead which included a 6 for 8 performance from downtown. Solid 6'3" fifth-year guard Simon Mitchell however will likely be the glue for this team which slipped down the stretch last season and will need veteran leadership in the second half of the season when teams shorten their benches and the play rachets up to playoff levels. With great free throw shooting (Gaels lead the nation at 80% as a team - although they've shot the fewest free throws in the OUA), good "d" and solid rebounding, Queen's should be in every game and again push to host a playoff game... Another team that lost three starters to graduation and pegged by some to be in a rebuilding year was the Ottawa Gee-Gees (7-1, 11-3 overall). But the Gee-Gees have thus far received an all-conference-like effort from 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe (2nd in OUA East scoring at 18.9 ppg) plus a career offensive season from 6'3" wing Sean Peter (16.6 ppg/7.4 rpg/56.2% fg) to come within one game of going through the first half undefeated. Peter has benefited from being more of a focus offensively with 3 games of 20 or more points including 26 pts./7 rbs. vs. Waterloo and 20 points/6 rebounds/5 assists against Windsor. Meanwhile, 6'9" Dax Dessureault has improved each game and is shooting a tidy 51.8% from the floor however Dessureault has battled foul trouble in some games as the Gee-Gees generally have continued to play their aggressive double-teaming defense despite not having the depth and athleticism of prior years. Certainly third year 6'3" wing Donnie Gibson has emerged as a legitimate upper-echelon OUA player, knocking shots down and getting involved on the glass. The Gee-Gees have a stable of young, first-year talent led by 6'2" Jacob Gibson-Bascombe which needs to emerge to keep Ottawa knocking on the door at the top, especially if injury strikes one of the key starters... Maybe the top offensive player in the country has led the Ryerson Rams (3-5, 4-10 overall) to some key early season victories as 6'7" Boris Bakovic (CIS leading 27.4 ppg) has scored 20+ points in each of the 8 regular season games including 3 games of 30 points or more highlighted by a 30 point/8 rebound effort in the Rams victory over Western on the final night of the first half. The tall, long Rams have punched the ball inside to Boris and his 6'10" fifth-year brother Igor Bakovic (14.8 ppg/11.1 rpg - second in the CIS), who has had 5 double/doubles and 6 games of 10 or more rebounds. The Rams lead the league in free throw attempts including getting to the line 48 times at McMaster. Ryerson has only attempted 77 threes as a team, the lowest in Ontario. Generally, guard play determines how far a team gets down the stretch and the development of 6'2" Ryan McNeilly, slated as the Rams point guard of the future, and others in the backcourt will be a key element in how far the Rams can take things this season... An inability to stop teams has plagued the York Lions (1-7, 2-13 overall), who have been unable to overcome significant roster losses due to graduation despite having one of Canada's top talents in 6'3" Tut Ruach (18.6 ppg/3rd in OUA East). York has allowed teams to shoot 46.8% and have given up an average of 88 points per game (both second worst in the OUA behind winless RMC) including allowing Waterloo's 6'3" freshman Cam McIntyre, who had averaged just 9.3 ppg against other teams, to go off for 37 against them on the last weekend of the first semester. York has got decent, albeit inconsistent efforts from 6'6" Stefan Haynes and 6'7" Matt Terejko up front and are hoping that 6'3" Amde Evans and 6'1" Eylon Zemer, a pair of veteran holdovers from the recent strong Lion teams, can begin to contribute as primary players... After a potentially season-turning overtime win on the first weekend of the season at Western, optimism was high at Laurentian (1-7, 2-12 overall). However, the young Vees still need a consistent, primary scorer who they can count on at key moments of games and some defensive presence, especially in the paint. Laurentian has allowed opponents to shoot 44.3% from the floor (third highest in the OUA) and have allowed 87.5 points per game. 5'11" point guard Darrell Drake, who almost singlehandidly willed Laurentian to their victory at Western, has been the most consistent Vee, scoring 12.5 ppg and averaging almost 5 assists per game... Probably the youngest team in Canada this side of Memorial is RMC (0-8, 0-12), which brought in almost a complete stable of freshmen and, unlike their cross-town rivals in Kingston at Queen's, the results have not been satisfactory thus far. Unfortunately for hard-working Paladins coach Kevin Maguire, the results speak for themselves: 8 straight losses with average margin of 42.5 points per loss including an average halftime deficit of 27.5 points. Touted 6'9" Nick Cooke (9.9 ppg/7.4 rpg) has begun to develop nicely and is a building block for the future. Hopefully for Maguire, who has pounded the pavement working diligently trying to improve his team in a challenging situation, and his program, the Paladins fortunes will improve.

No comments: