Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Little Love for Laval

Despite winning their last 10 league games in a row and 12 of their last 13 overall, the Laval Rouge et Or were denied a spot in the Top 10 in both polls today. Both the writer's and coaches had Laval as #11. Overall, the Quebec conference, after solid starts by Concordia, McGill and Bishop's, has been a bit down this year, primarily due to injuries as the Stingers rarely had both Buckley brothers in the lineup at the same time, lost 6'3" Dwayne Buckley for the season at Christmas and 6'8" Jamal Gallier has battled a bone contusion, McGill lost two point guards to injury and the Gaiters fell off after a solid start as teams began to scheme to stop Bishop's top offensive player Junior Nicolas. UQAM has come on but with the exception of a non-conference win at 5-23 UNB did not beat anyone outside of the "Q". Laval also got off to a slow start, adding a pair of rookies in 6'4" Jerome Turcotte and 5'9" Xavier Baribeau to the starting lineup, losing some very close games early on and then their first two league games including an overtime loss at home to McGill. However, since then, le Rouge et Or have caught fire, led by Quebec Player-of-the-Year candidate 6'7" J.P. Morin who has been termed "unstoppable" by more than one opposing "Q" coach and the recent return to form of 6'3" J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux, last season's CIS Freshman-of-the-Year. Baribeau has shown he is a splendid guard in transition and Turcotte, while being somewhat inconsistent all season, has shown glimpses of a player who one day can dominate in the mould of former Laval great Charles Fortier. Laval also has a pair of underrated bigs in 6'8" fourth-year center Marc-Andre Cote and 6'5" Francois-Olivier Gagnon-Hebert, both of whom can keep teams honest offensively in the low post and bring a physical element to the paint. Laval has been pounding teams recently with an average margin of victory during their 7 wins in 7 games after the holidays of 21 points including a pair of 30+ point wins. Defense has been the underlying catalyst of the run as Laval is third in the CIS in field goal percentage defense and are yielding just 66 points per game. This team is peaking at the correct time and, although they will likely have to win the "Q" to qualify for Nationals (wild card not likely to come from Quebec), they have all but clinched first place and will play at home in front of their usual excitable, packed house in Ste. Foy. With all engines running at full throttle, this team is playing like one of Canada's top sides currently and will be a handful for anyone, regardless of where the polls have them ranked. Incedentially, I had Laval ranked #8 in my voting after putting them at #10 last week. Here is how I voted: 1. Carleton, 2. Brandon, 3. Calgary, 4. Cape Breton, 5. Acadia, 6. Toronto, 7. Windsor, 8. Laval, 9. Ottawa, 10. Alberta, 11. UBC, 12. St. FX.

1 comment:

Alex Tourigny said...

I had Laval at 8th too.

They remind me of 2005-2006 UBC team. Good size, good 3 pts shooters.

Up-tempo / athletic teams can however beat them with speed.

Laval could very well be the best hidden-gem in the CIS.