Thursday, 12 March 2009

Another Wayne Kondro Piece: Carleton Looking to avenge 2008 Loss

Carleton looking to avenge 2008 loss

By Wayne Kondro, Canwest News ServiceMarch 12, 2009 6:02 PM

OTTAWA — It’s about matchups and madcap coaches and a date with history.

It’s about the hot hand and the defensive stop when it’s needed.

And it’s about what may be the most talented and deepest collection of hardcourt units that ever suited-up in a Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball championship draw.

The end result will surely be fireworks as the eight teams take the floor at Scotiabank Place on Friday.

Top-seeded Carleton will be out to prove that last year’s stunning double-overtime semifinal loss to Acadia, which ended the Ravens’ five-year run of national crowns, was nothing but an aberration, a fleeting one-year wonder in the history of what has become the pre-eminent basketball program in the country.

Nipping at their heels is a pack that senses — and hopes — that the upset loss was an indicator of vulnerability and lost lustre.

They now know that the Ravens can be beaten.

After all, they’ve seen it done. As Calgary coach Dan Vanhooren notes, Carleton is no longer the prohibitive, overwhelming favourite. “I think everybody has a shot at it.”

University of Ottawa Gee-Gees coach David DeAveiro isn’t as convinced.

“This season started for them the minute they lost that game,” DeAveiro says of his crosstown archrivals, who thrashed the Gee-Gees three times this season. “They’re just so focused on getting back and being champions, and so determined to get back to where they were. We haven’t been able to figure them out. Maybe another team will.”

And maybe not.

Ravens coach Dave Smart believes last year’s loss helps heading into this week’s showdown.

“The advantage is that if we shoot the ball for three days, we’re going to be very difficult to beat,” he said.

In retrospect, Smart says that playing nationals at home last season probably hurt his troops.

“I think our kids get too caught up in trying to win it for the school, win it for the students, for the fans. If we can do a better job of winning it or losing it for ourselves, I think we’ll play a lot more comfortably.

“If you have a certain personality, that doesn’t come into play. It’s one of those things. Our kids are extremely unselfish and that’s what makes us good. But as they say, your greatest strength is probably your greatest weakness and they worry about some things that they probably don’t need to worry about."

Officiating might be one thing, though.

With game calls differing from one part of the country to another, there’s a variation in the degree of physicality that’s allowed from conference to conference, says veteran St. Francis Xavier coach Steve Konchalski.

“Some of the most inconsistent officiating I’ve ever seen is at nationals because, even though these guys presumably, and for the most part they are, the best in their region, they’re still working together with another guy from another region, maybe for the first time,” said Konchalski.

“So now you’re adjusting. It’s like putting a team on the floor and just introducing them before the game. Even though they can talk about which area of the floor to cover, how they want to handle the hand-checking, how they want to cover the physicality in the post, they haven’t worked together. So you get inconsistent officiating.”

One thing is certain, though.

It’s an exceptional field, with some exceptional talents, which should result in some exceptionally tight and hard-fought games.

As University of Western Ontario coach Brad Campbell notes: “Top to bottom, it’s going to be nasty.”

Ottawa Citizen

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