Friday, 14 March 2008

#1 Carleton vs. #8 Alberta Preview

Two of the top coaching minds in the CIS tangle this evening as Alberta's Don Horwood, who has marshalled his Bears to three CIS National championships, meets Carleton and Dave Smart with 5 consecutive National championships. On the surface, a #8 vs. #1 game, especially with the inconsistent post-season the Bears have had thus far going only 3-4 but winning the game they needed to to get to Ottawa, would not likely be forecasted to be very close. But upon tighter examination, Alberta does have a case for being able to play with and possibly upset the #1 Ravens. The teams met in October on a neutral court in Victoria with Carleton winning by 5 in what appeared to be a typical early-season game as Alberta went on 8 for 18 from the free throw line and the Ravens turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 26 times, a season-high (possible program high in the Dave Smart era). In that game, the Bears did a good job of limiting Carleton's looks from downtown (4 for 10), but shot under 40% themselves from the field. In 6'4" Andrew Parker and 6'2" Alex Steele, Alberta has a pair of offensive difference makers who, if they get on a roll, could pose problems for the Ravens, especially in transition. Parker is arguably the best athlete in the CIS with his explosiveness rising and getting to the rim with his momentum-changing transition dunks and blocked shots inside. Carleton does not have an athlete to match Parker's explosiveness. Steele, CW POY, has one of the quickest first steps in the CIS and is a difficult matchup in the half court, which probably means that 6'4" Ryan Bell, with all due respect to Brandon's Yul Michel and this season's other nominees for CIS Defensive POY, the best defender in the CIS, will likely spend the majority of tonight's game checking Steele. Like in last season's decisive first-round win over Acadia, the Ravens will have to convert defensively to thwart Parker in transition; in the half court, it will likely be 6'2" Rob Saunders, Carleton's second best ball defender, who will guard Parker. The Bears have their own decisions to make with respect to 6'7" Moser Award winner Aaron Doornekamp, a difficult matchup, and will likely start 6'5" Harvey Bradford on Doornekamp. The real test comes when Doornekamp works in the low post area: will the Bears decided to double down and if so, from where?; regardless, expect Doornekamp to exploit any efforts to double him inside. A pair of hard working forwards in 6'4" Justin Vanloo and 6'5" Jean-Emmanuel Jean-Marie will likely do battle inside. Vanloo is the key to Alberta's traditional high post oriented offense in which reads and reactions are key; many times the Bears offense begins with an entry to Vanloo in the high post. 6'10" Richard Bates will see considerable time for Alberta as well, likely off the bench and it will be interesting to see how Carleton responds, either matching up size wise with 6'7" Kevin McCleery or 6'10" Neal Dawson or pulling Bates out to defend the perimeter (or both). Alberta almost runs a point guard by committee with 6'1" C.G. Morrison likely doing most of the work bringing the ball up, likely against 6'3" Stuart Turnbull, Carleton's most gritty player but Steele and 6'0" Scott Leigh, the starter until the Canada West Final Four, should also see time starting the offense. An important defensive consideration for Alberta is keeping Turnbull, an emerging force off the dribble, out of the lane, where he has been able to get into to create. Could Alberta be thinking of some zone? Leigh is a nice matchup for Carleton's slick 5'11" sophomore guard Mike Kenny, who will see his fare share of time as well. 6'5" Neb Alkesic will need to perform from the perimeter to keep things honest against the Ravens pack-it-in "d" which challenges teams to make shots against their tight rotations and close outs. Bottom Line: Although both teams can go 10 deep if need be, expect six or seven players on each team to get the bulk of the minutes if the game remains tight down the stretch, like it did in October when these teams met in Victoria. Carleton's ability to take advantage of Doornekamp's size advantage with Bradford and how Alberta reacts defensively will be a factor as will the Ravens ability to deal with Steele off the dribble and Parker in transition and on the offensive glass.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Alberta has a chance at an upset much like any game in any sport has the potential of an upset.

That being said, it won't happen and any belief that it will is mostly wishful thinking or the desire to create artificial interest in what will be a one-sided affair. A five point Carleton win on neutral court in October is meaningless when the Ravens will have 10,000+ cheering for them and they have turned it up a lot toward the end of the season.

The only way Alberta stays within 10 is if Carleton goes up early and Smart empties the bench for the second half while Alberta stays with their top 5.