Sunday, 27 January 2008

Weekend Thoughts

CAPITAL HOOPS CLASSIC... Although the game overall was not as exciting as recent Carleton/Ottawa matchups in the Nation's Capital, there was a big-time atmosphere in the arena from the beginning with the glitzy player introductions (fire and smoke bombs), television lighting, shiny floor and plenty of pagentry as Raven fans wore red while Gee-Gee fans dressed in white. The large number of students and their associated theatrics including body paint and carrying on gave the arena the feel that the game was big time. Dan Carle from uOttawa, which technically were the home team for this game, and David Kent from Carleton both helped make the media feel very comfortable and some big names were in the building including the Score's Tim Micallef and Lisa Bowes. Micallef, who made the trip from Toronto as a prelude to the Score's coverage of the CIS Nationals in March, has been a strong supporter of CIS sports throughout the years and he continues to be a strong adovcate of improved coverage, spending much time keeping current on the games. The crowd of about 9,100 was about 600 below last season's total and speculation on why the event could not build on the numbers from last year includes day of the game (Saturday vs. Tuesday); high school and minor basketball teams usually have weekend tournaments, making Tuesday seemingly more appealing from that perspective. Apparently, the walk-up crowd was below what is usual for the Ottawa market and did not track last year's numbers for the Classic. It was a very pleasant winter weekend in Ottawa and many likely went away to enjoy the good weather instead of staying around town - ski slopes in the area for instance saw much more traffic than normal. uOttawa, the "home" team for last night's game, had earlier this week estimated an attendance of about 12,000 fans and while intentions at the working level were no doubt noble, uOttawa Sports Services reputation with hosting events, marketing and generally paying attention to detail at an executive level on these matters is poor, the diligent contributions of Dan Carle, who did a great job, notwithstanding. Come March, when Carleton reassumes fully responsibility for managing the Nationals, expect stronger crowds, more marketing/promotion and the chasm between the Athletic Department leadership at Carleton, led by the bright, personable and energetic Jennifer Brenning, and uOttawa to widen even further.

TOP PERFORMANCES THIS WEEKEND: Calgary's 6'6" Henry Bekkering had a dream weekend offensively, going off for 38 points and 10 rebounds in the Dinos home win against UCFV on Friday and then following up on Saturday with 34 points and 8 rebounds in just 25 minutes against Thompson Rivers... Lakehead's 6'4" Kiraan Posey went off for 43 points at Windsor on Saturday night but the T-Wolves lost by 29... Toronto Varsity Blues 6'2" wing Rob Paris, who battled injuries through his first three seasons in the Big Smoke, has come alive and many OUA East coaches have sung the praises of the smooth-shooting threat from St. Catharines, ON. Paris had back-to-back games this weekend scoring 19 first-half points both at Laurentian and at York. Against the Vees, Paris finished with a league season-high of 29 points... 5'9" Erfan Nasajpour broke out of a mini-slump with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists as Winnipeg salvaged one game in a weekend set at home against Regina... See more below, but once again 6'7" J.P. Morin had a strong weekend for Laval with 34 points and 15 rebounds which included a spectacular second-half stat line against McGill on Saturday... 6'4" point guard Ryan Bell went 6 for 8 from downtown as Carleton outlasted a very good Queen's Golden Gaels team on Friday and then on Saturday Bell hit the game-clinching three with the shot clock winding down and 30 seconds remaining to allow the Ravens to capture the Capital Hoops Classic. Bell also did his underrated but usual stellar job defending, locking down Gee-Gees 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe... 6'1 Simon Farine of Dal had 27 points and 9 rebounds in Friday's win at UPEI while the Panthers 6'3" Andrew Black had back-to-back double doubles against the Tigers in the weekend series swept by Dal in Charlottetown.

AROUND THE CONFERENCES: The Calgary Dinos are comfortably in first place in the Canada West Central and with just 4 games remaining in the regular season are poised to capture the first-round bye in the Central Division playoffs and home court advantage for all games in the best-of-three Division championship. Remember that the Central Division champion will host the Canada West Final Four, with the semi-finals of that Final Four determining the two Canada West spots at the CIS Nationals. At this point, Alberta looks like they will finish second in the Central and are likely the current favorites for the Canada West Final Four wild card. However, the Bears would have to knock Saskatchewan in the Central semi's first. As well, assuming UVic and UBC again meet for the Pacific Division championship, the loser from that series also should have a case for Wild Card consideration. All the more reason why this weekend's games in Victoria and Vancouver are so important despite the lack of influence on the final regular season standings. Alberta (2nd in Central) and Saskatchewan (3rd in Central) visit UVic (2nd in Pacific) and UBC (1st in Pacific) for a pair of games each. These games should mean alot when the Canada West committee selects their wild card team for the Canada West Final Four in late February... Besides the undefeated #1 Carleton Ravens, the hottest team in Canada right now is Laval Rouge et Or, winners of their last 9 QSSF league games in a row, many by convincing scores. Despite battling injuries, the most recent to 6'3" defending CIS Rookie-of-the-Year J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux (groin), Laval has put it all together defensively and have for the most part rode the back of 6'7" J.P. Morin. As Laval Head Coach Jacques Paiement has indicated "J.P. is finally healthy and he is showing why he deserves to be an All-Canadian". Last night against McGill, Morin battled foul trouble but had this amazing second-half stat line: 11-17 FG 1-1 3ptFG 6-9 FT 29 points, 13 rebounds including 6 offensive. Paiement has also lauded the play of his freshman point guard 5'9" Xavier Baribeau, part of another great recruiting class for Laval. Morin and 6'1" Concordia do-everything guard Damian Buckley are the two best players in the "Q" by all accounts... The third longest current winning streak in Canada belongs to the resurgent Windsor Lancers, who have used a stifling defense and two of the better players in the country in 6'8" Greg Surmacz and 6'1" Ryan Steer, to push to the top of the OUA West, despite not having 6'5" Kevin Kloostra in the lineup for the past 5 games. Winning a road game at the St. Denis Center is tough at the best of times but in front of what again promise to be record playoff crowds it is prohibitively tough, as Carleton found out in last season's Wilson Cup. Windsor looks to have learned to win away from home and looks to be in the driver's seat for a first round bye and will battle Brock for first overall, with a victory in St. Catharines already under their belts... The battle for the all-important second and third spots in the OUA East will take shape further this week as Ottawa visits Queen's in Kingston on Tuesday night and then will host the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on Saturday in Ottawa. The importance of finishing above fourth place is paramount to avoid a possible OUA East semi-final playoff game at #1 Carleton; however, with the recent resurgence of the York Lions, winning a quarter-final playoff game is a must first. To reset the OUA East Nationals possibilities, if Carleton captures the OUA East playoff championship as expected currently, the finalist from the OUA East will battle the finalist from the OUA West at the home gym of the West team for the third official spot at the Nationals. Ontario could also get a fourth team at the Nationals by being selected as the lone National wild card. In the coming weeks, we will begin to focus in on possible Nationals wild card teams... Acadia came up with a convincing win at St. FX this afternoon, X's worst home loss since 1985, also to Acadia. As X-Men Coach Steve Konchalski notes however: "Our '85 team recovered from that terrible loss to defeat Acadia later in the season en route to the AUS title." No doubt Konchalski hopes that history will repeat itself this season. Acadia's imposing front line led by 6'5" Leonel Saintil, 6'4" Luckern Dieu and 6'8" Achual Lual pushed the X-Men around all afternoon inside and on the offensive glass while 6'1" Paolo Santana appears to be rounding back into form, as he continually took St. FX defenders off the dribble to create or score. The still-young X-Men have had some explosive efforts but consistency with this growing group is still an issue and in several instances this season, X has not been able to find the fortitude to turn games around when they feel them slipping. Still, with this great group of athletes led by 6'2" Tyler Richards in the back court and 6'8" Islam Luiz de Toledo up front, it is a formidable group capable of playing deep into March... After bringing in significant new talent, Saint Mary's was expected to have a deeper bench and more rotation flexibility than last season, when basically six players got hot at the right time and took the Huskies to the Final Four. Fast forward to present and Coach Ross Quackenbush has shorten his bench considerably, as yesterday's close loss at X attests when again only 6 players saw action. Despite the talents of 6'1" Shane Morrison and 6'5" Aaron Duncan, SMU will likely go only as far as 6'3" Mark McLaughlin will take them. McLaughlin and 6'0" point guard Mark Ross are veterans of AUS play and during last season's run to the Final Four handled and/or shot the ball the majority of the time. The key to SMU's resurgence down the stretch in my opinion is the play of the diminutive but extremely intelligent Ross as the floor leader and how the remainder of the group defers to him in tight spots to orchestrate the offense. We will aim to talk more about Cape Breton Capers, the surprise of the AUS thus far this season in a future post. The AUS tournament should be a dandy!


Anonymous said...

Yes, uOttawa has long struggled with sport marketing, and marketing the university in general. Not taking care of details is just one fault.They are not very good at the macro level either.
I have noticed that uOttawa tends to predict higher attendances at all their events than is the reality come event day. Not limiting this to just sports either.
Interesting that you feel Jennifer Brenning directs a better marketing program . She was at uOttawa for some time and I did notice much difference during her tenure. However, marketing may not have been in her sphere of influence when there.
Anyway , I respect your opinion on the matter as I know you worked there yourself for a time, and know the people.
Heres hoping that sometime in my lifetime UO "gets it" when it comes to marketing.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Capital Hoops game this year and although the basketball and the atmoshere was great, the one thing that got on my nerves was the lineup cards. There were a number of errors in both schools' lineups. I'm not sure if it was uOttawa's fault or if Carleton gave them incorrect info, but it made it difficult to identify some of the players at times.