Monday, 23 November 2009

CIS Top 10 for 23 November 2009

Remove one more team from the ranks of the undefeated after Saskatchewan Huskies knocked off then-#3 Calgary Dinos in Saskatoon. Thanks to 6'2" Josh Whyte's dramatic play down the stretch on Thursday, #2 UBC Thunderbirds record remains unblemished against CIS oppostion, however beyond the Birds and #1 Carleton, the only two remaining teams without a loss, piecing together the remainder of the Top 10 is a challenging exercise.

#1 Carleton (12-0, 6-0) (LW #1) A pair of dominant efforts at home against Laurier and Waterloo have somewhat silenced the early-season whispers that this group is much more vulnerable than past editions of the Ravens. Although several young players, including 6'3" Cole Hobin and 6'3" Elliott Thompson, have assumed more responsibility successfully thus far, Carleton is likely to go as far as slick 6'8" post Kevin McCleery takes them offensively. When right, the Ravens start with McCleery in the low block and play off him. 6'0" Willy Manigat's energy and production off the bench is very important especially given the soft start to the season by 5'11" Mike Kenny who still has not reached a comfort level running this team as the headline point guard. Hobin looks for consistency at the offensive end but his recent work defending top players has been stellar. Ravens finish the first half at Lakehead and at McMaster this coming weekend.

#2 UBC (8-0, 5-0) (LW #2) Apart from the MVP-like work of Josh Whyte, who willed the T-Birds to a dramatic, come-from-behind victory at Thompson Rivers on Thursday night, UBC has received strong efforts off their deep bench from guys like reserve guard Nathan Yu and reserve wing Melvin Mayott. The T-Birds have come from behind in at least 5 of their victories thus far, showing the maturity of a national championship contender.

#3 McMaster (12-1, 5-1) (LW #5) With two teams ahead of the Marauders in the standings losing this weekend, Mac's pair of wins against lower-echelon OUA East teams is enough to push them up the rankings. However, their game at York was tighter than expected despite Tait McKenzie being a tough play to play and this weekend's games against #1 Carleton and improving Ottawa should test Mac's resiliency and this lofty ranking. 6'7" rookie Ryan Christie has not played in the past three games and his absence inside hurts Mac's "d" and depth.

#4 Calgary (10-1, 7-1) (LW #3) Coming out flat on Friday in Saskatoon cost the Dinos one spot however Calgary rallied on Saturday to defeat a very good Huskies team on the home floor to salvage a split. 6'9" Tyler Fidler has hit a bit of a rough patch the past two weekends however 6'8" Ross Bekkering, generally regarded as Dinos top overall player, asserted himself big time on Saturday when Dinos needed him most.

#5 St. FX (9-2, 3-0) (LW: #6) A very important road victory for X on Sunday at Dal keeps them moving up the rankings as Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw sizzled from downtown and X's patented full court pressure "d" appeared to wear down the Tigers at DalPlex. X has dealt with injuries all season long and 6'6" Terrence Taylor's knee injury, which he will get an MRI for on Wednesday, is just the latest setback for this group which continues to play well and get great leadership from T-Bear and fellow guard Will Silver. X hosts undefeated Acadia and then a re-match with Dal to complete the first half this weekend. Losses at McMaster and at Guelph.

#6 Dalhousie (10-2, 3-1) (LW #4) In their biggest game of the season, the Tigers wilted amid solid X pressure defense, giving up a double digit lead and watched as T-Bear Upshaw dropped six threes on them in a matter of minutes. Playing without 5th year wing Andrew Sullivan was tough, but to be recognized as a Top 5 team, a better effort and result must be logged especially when playing at home in such a big game. Dal gets their opportunity for redemption next weekend at CBU and at X. Losses to Calgary (neutral) and vs. X.

#7 Cape Breton (7-2, 2-1) (LW #7) An easy win at UPEI on Saturday in which 6'3" Paris Carter returned from a hand injury helped the Capers get back to health. This deep, talented group still can get better and they will be tested this weekend with Dal and Acadia visiting. Losses have been to Toronto and Saint Mary's.

#8 Simon Fraser (7-1, 5-0) (LW: #10) While the Clan has generally shot the lights out from downtown, the most consistent element to this group may be their ability to stop teams as their "d", especially in second halves of recent games has been stellar. We've mentioned how important the veteran guards with size are for a winning team and the Clan came up with two important road wins against a quality opponent in Fraser Valley this weekend. A somewhat-surprising team that is well deserving of a Top 10 ranking.

#9 Lakehead (8-1, 6-0) (LW: HM) Another pair of victories this weekend, both on the road and both culminating in strong second halves. 6'1" sophomore Greg Carter may be one of Canada's most unsung guards but his leadership offensively and ability to guard the ball makes him invaluable to the Thunderwolves. This team has solid depth, going 10 deep with quality and 6'6" Yoosrie Salhia continues to improve at both ends. T-Wolves only loss has been to Brandon at home, which struggled to defeat winless Winnipeg in overtime and have won only 3 league games against inferior opponents, but I am knit-picking. Lakehead gets an opportunity to push higher with home games against #1 Carleton and improving Ottawa this weekend at the ThunderDome.

#10 Toronto (10-3, 4-2) (LW #HM) It is very difficult to rank a team that has already defeated #3 McMaster in Hamilton and #6 Cape Breton on a neutral court playing without their starting fifth-year post 6'8" Nick Snow in both games this low. The Blues made it even more difficult to do so this weekend with a pair of solid road wins against a rapidly improving Brock Badgers team and at Guelph, which always plays the Blues tough, without their top scorer Rob Paris. But Toronto again gutted out a pair of wins showing their experience and that their system works. A pair of losses to Waterloo, including one at home - a team that was never in the game in a blowout loss Saturday to Carleton - and that away loss at Lakehead are the only anchor on their ranking - the Blues are the only team in the Top 10 with more than 2 losses overall. Toronto hosts Windsor and Western to close out the first half of the season.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Saskatchewan (8-4, 3-3) (LW: HM) An absolutely horrendous recent schedule has resulted in the Huskies losing 4 games, including 3 in the league already. However, this is a very strong team led by a physical yet athletic front line and 5'11" star scorer Showron Glover. Expect the Huskies to remain in contention for the Prairie Division regular season title and in the hunt for a future Top 10 ranking.

Windsor (6-3, 4-2) (LW: #8) The ease with which the Lancers were defeated by Queen's and two league losses already necessitates a move out of the Top 10 in my opinion. Despite Windsor's exceptionally-talented recruiting class, the Lancers continue to give more minutes to their veterans, likely because of more maturation required defensively for the newcomers. The Lancers are playing up tempo, forcing the action defensively for the most part, and with that comes the need for rotations to be crisp and well understood, which takes time to learn. Windsor is at Ryerson and at Toronto this coming weekend.

Trinity Western (4-2, 3-2) (LW #9) A split at home against UVic, with the emotion and support of playing in a new building, drops the Spartans out of the Top 10. 6'8" Jacob Doerksen continues his Moser-type play and he rallied TWU on Saturday. The Spartans appear to be giving the ball to 6'3" Calvin Westbrook to run the point in their very patient, set-oriented offense and without a true point guard, consistency offensively can be an issue. This is a very talented group and are still should be one of the favorites for the Pacific Division title.

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