Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Thoughts from the Weekend

Several teams made statements over the weekend that their slow early season starts may not be indicative of how they will finish, while other teams are regrouping in an effort to maintain an opportunity to compete for a spot at the Nationals. The most impressive performance was in Winnipeg as the Brock Badgers, after a slow start on Friday, sliced through their three opponents en route to capturing their third Wesmen Classic this decade (Brock has won the past 3 Wesmen Classics that they've participated in: 2003, 2005, 2007). Tournament MVP 6'1" fifth-year senior Scott Murray made big shots throughout the tournament, including the first game against Brandon down the stretch after both teams got off to slow starts. 5'10" Brad Rootes continued to flash his All-Canadian game easily dribbling through pressure when teams tried to create turnovers and finding open teammates for 3's or dunks, with 6'7" Owen White on the receiving end of several nice looks. 6'8" Mike Muir, who has returned to school to complete his degree at Brock, appears to be a solid addition, adding another inside scorer to complement White while 6'2" Mike Kemp brings a physical element and, when on, can carry a team from beyond the arc. Expect Brock to compete for the OUA West title again in Rootes' fifth and final season as he looks to take the Badgers to their third Nationals appearance in 5 years. Here are some final thoughts on the 41st Wesmen Classic from David Larkins and the Scrum Highly touted in the pre-season but again suffering through some injuries that set them back, the Western Mustangs made a strong statement at the Ed Dearmon Memorial tournament at Ryerson that they should be considered as strong contenders for the OUA West crown. Despite losing 6'6" Keenan Jeppesen to an injury, the addition of 6'10" Colin Laforme is very significant as Laforme is rounding into form, displaying soft hands, an ability to shoot perimeter jumpers, rebound, run the floor and defend. The addition of Laforme pushes oft-injured forwards 6'5" Adam Ruickbie and 6'8" Alan Paron back in the rotation and adds a complementary scorer and rebounder up front to support 6'6" Brad Smith. The return to health of 6'6" Andrew Wedemire is another plus for the Mustangs and Western has a veteran, experienced back court with 6'1" Matt Curtis and 6'1" Jason Milliquet, an important element to any time looking to advance far into March. Ryerson Tournament wrap up from Andy Watson, Western Sports Info Brock and Western face off against each other this coming Saturday at 4 PM at Alumni Hall in London as the OUA West season resumes... St. FX X-Men captured their third consecutive Rod Shoveller Memorial tournament as X got their transition game in gear with a slight tweak to their lineup, moving Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw to the off guard spot and Tyler Richards to the lead guard. As a result, Upshaw was able to get out and finish in transition. But the underlying key to X is their formidable front line led by 6'8" freshman Islam Luiz de Toledo and 6'3" Dwayne Johnson. Their ability to clean the defensive glass and get the break started primes the X transition pump. Expect X to get even deeper when, as expected soon, Terrence Taylor and Alberto Rodriquez return from suspension. X hosts UPEI and UNB on Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend... Calgary Dinos had an opportunity to assert themselves as a definitive Top 3 team in the country this past weekend and got off to a tremendous start in dominating Acadia in the first round of the Wesmen Classic, jumping out to an early 20 point lead and maintaining it for the majority of the game in a dominant effort. Unfortunately, Calgary got off to a slow start against a hot-shooting Brock team and could not recover. As has been stated before, great teams/National championship contenders consistently win big games away from their home court and the Dinos must prove they can do that. Calgary's front line is arguably the strongest and deepest in the country but an inability to stop teams when it counts must be corrected. Calgary gets an opportunity to get over the hump on the road this weekend when they travel to Edmonton for a pair of games against Alberta, a team which they soundly defeated twice in November at home in Calgary... The Acadia Axemen came in to the Wesmen Classic ranked second in the country in both the coaches poll and the CISHOOPS.CA Top 10. Unfortunately, the Axemen disappointed, going 1-2 in Winnipeg including a bad loss in overtime to Manitoba when Darcy Coss got off for nine 3's. Acadia is athletic, deep and has talented players in 6'5" Leonel Saintil, 6'5" Sean Berry and 6'1" Paolo Santana among others, although Santana was not at full speed this past weekend, continuing to recover from an ankle injury that had him miss the entire first half of the regular season. But with an opportunity to knock off a strong Calgary team, Acadia was not in the game at all and then lost to a Manitoba team that admittedly has been snakebitten early this season with some very close losses but a team that anyone hoping to be ranked in the Top 10 should defeat comfortably. The spectre of a 50 point loss at the Nationals to Carleton last year still lingers for the Axemen and they'll need to put it together in the second half of the AUS season in a league in which at least 5 teams have a reasonable shot at going to the Nationals to defend their title. Acadia has a chance to make amends for their inconsistent performance in Winnipeg this coming Friday night when they visit St. Mary's in Halifax... Concordia Stingers have battled injuries to their top players all season long and the potential loss of 6'3" Dwayne Buckley, their best wing presence, could be crippling. However, the underlying key to the Stingers attack is 6'1" Damian Buckley, who controls the game from the point and is a threat offensively either creating for teammates or finishing himself and defensively keys the Stingers tough defensive ball pressing style. As long as the Stingers can retain home court advantage in the "Q" playoffs, they still should be considered the favorites to win the Quebec league, although potentially having to play without Dwayne Buckley will make it much more difficult.

We wish everyone a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.

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