Friday, 14 March 2008

#4 Laval vs. #5 Acadia Game Preview

One team was near the top of the polls for virtually the entire season and the other only crept in late in the season. One team has a roster full of francophones who all of whom reside from the province of Quebec while the other has built their team with a mix of local and out-of-province players. However, arguably the dissimilarities end there as the Laval Rouge et Or, who made a late push into the Top 10 after winning of 14 of their last 15 and Acadia Axemen, with only 2 league losses all season, have similar styles, both looking to push the tempo and play with energy defensively, which could make tonight's 6 PM encounter the highest-scoring affair of the quarter-final round. Both teams have bonafide stars in 1st team All-Canadians and conference players-of-the-year 6'5" Leonel Saintil (Acadia) and 6'7" J.P. Morin (Laval), athleticism on the wings and emerging young point guards who played with tremendous confidence. Saintil, the AUS MVP, loves to run the floor and operate in the paint area and is probably the best offensive rebounder in the nation with his athleticism and tenacity. Morin has long arms, a very good first step and range beyond the arc, making his offensive package a little more versatile. The teams offer contrasting presence at the four spot as Acadia's long, athletic 6'8" Ach Lual is one of Canada's top defenders but Laval has a pair of underrated tough, strong, defend-and-rebound posts 6'7" Marc-Andre Cote and 6'4" F.O. Gagnon-Hebert, both who pound the offensive glass and can run the floor in transition. Expect Lual to draw Morin as a check and the Cote/Gagnon-Hebert tandem to try to deal with Saintil inside. The game could be decided on the wings as expected Laval's 6'4" freshman Jerome Turcotte, a bulky three man to matchup with Acadia's second-leading scorer 6'5" Sean Berry who shoots 3's but also gets to the rim with authority. Both teams can rely on very good three-point shooters who can stretch defenses: Acadia's 6'0" Peter Leighton and 6'0" Patrick MacIver, who emerged in the AUS tournament are catch-and-shoot type gunners who are typically the recipients of draw-and-kick or open transition looks; and Laval's J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux, who has range but is also very adept at beating a close out with a one or two dribble pull up to rise and knock down the mid-range jumper. A pair of young point guards in 5'9" freshman Xavier Baribeau ("Q" league rookie-of-the-year) and 6'1" sophomore Andrew Kraus, both have progressed steadily throughout the season with Baribeau at his best in transition while Kraus, a coaches-son guard out of Markham, ON, running the show for Acadia. Both teams are expected to ride their starters although Acadia may have a little more depth on the wing depending upon the status of 6'1" Paolo Santana, who has battled an ankle injury all season. When right, Laval does not have anyone on their roster with the athleticism to matchup with Santana, a lightning-quick guard from Toronto however Santana still looked like he was favoring the ankle, occasionally wincing in discomfort during yesterday's Axemen workout at Scotiabank Place. Regardless, expect Laval to mix in some presses and zone defense to slow down Acadia, especially when Santana is in the game. Bottom Line: Two of the best teams in the country meet in the first round as a healthy, focused Laval group on a roll playing on all cylinders clashes with Axemen, who play with alot of energy and emotion and who fell behind early in both of their AUS tournament games, coming back late to defeat Dalhousie before falling short in a comeback attempt against Saint Mary's. Expect a game in the 80's that comes down to who can make big shots at the end.

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