Thursday, 12 March 2009

Chris Kallan is back with an X/Carleton Preview

Halifax's passion and devotion to CIS basketball is well understood. For many years, Halifax had two daily newspapers each with a dedicated CIS sports reporter. Chad Lucas from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald continues to do a great job with reporting on AUS basketball and his Posting Up blog. Unfortunately, with the demise of the Halifax Daily News, our friend Chris Kallan lost his forum to write about his passion. However, all was not lost because just like last year, we are fortunate to be able to have Chris, who now lives in Ottawa, write again - this year as a correspondent for St. FX. Here is the first of hopefully several articles from Chris this weekend.

By Chris Kallan
Looks can be deceiving. A classic cliché, but also not a bad way to summarize seedings for this weekend’s CIS men’s basketball championship at Scotiabank Place.
The kerfuffle stemming from the CIS seeding rules which aims to avoid early-round games between teams from the same conference only in such cases as to not affect the integrity of the seeds is understandable. But voting members Mike Connelly of Lethbridge, Craig Norman of McGill, Mike Katz of Toronto and Ross Quackenbush of Saint Mary's deemed other considerations trumped the three Ontario teams being lumped in the same bracket.

The notion of a conspiracy theory isn’t being suggested here, but is it just a coincidence that everything aligned perfectly so as to:
· Ensure all three Ontario teams had television exposure right from the beginning (Friday’s televised quarterfinals: Ottawa vs. Western, The Score, 6 p.m.; Carleton vs. St. Francis Xavier, The Score, 10 p.m., tape delay; eventual champion Brock and Western were denied opening round coverage last year)
· Ensure the very real possibility of a Carleton-Ottawa semifinal as its main drawing card on the Saturday night (assuming we accept the theory that St.F.X. is weaker without all-star guard Tyler Richards, and we do)
· Ensure at least one Ontario team reaches Sunday’s final (Which matters more to those who care about attendance figures: two Ontario teams potentially in the final, or that one from the host city is almost guaranteed?)

Coincidence or not, it’s something that makes you take a second look.

St. F.X. head coach Steve Konchalski said he was ‘quite surprised’ how the brackets were put together, but hasn’t spent a whole lot of time lamenting what’s already been done. He’s aware his X-Men, who were ranked in the top five for the final 12 weeks of the season, could have been seeded as high as fourth or fifth had his squad not lost the Atlantic conference final to the Dalhousie Tigers.

“I’m more focused on who we’re playing rather than why we’re playing them,” Konchalski said.

Top-seeded Carleton’s dominance has been well-documented and there may not be anyone outside of Antigonish who believes the wild-card X-Men have much of a chance to advance. The Ravens were ranked tops in the nation for the entire season except for one week and have won 27 straight against CIS competition, including a 22-point win over X at the Rod Shoveller Memorial tourney in Halifax over the holidays where they forced St. F.X. into 24 turnovers.

But the biggest difference between the two teams is exposure at the CIS’s highest level. No member of the X-Men who will suit up this weekend has ever played in a Canadian championship before, which is in stark contrast to the Ravens starting five of Stuart Turnbull, Rob Saunders, Aaron Doornekamp, Kevin McCleery and Mike Kenny, who have accumulated approximately 43 games on the game’s biggest stage.

“Our national tournament inexperience is the biggest challenge we face so we’ll have to maintain our composure,” said Konchalski, who will lean heavily on third year guard Christian Upshaw, the Atlantic MVP. “We have to use our athleticism at both ends of the court, but make sure we do it in a controlled manner.”


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