Thursday, 17 December 2009

QSSF First-Half Summary

With just one team having a better than .500 record in CIS games and a 15-26 inter-conference record overall, the QSSF has been thus far maligned as comparatively the weakest in the nation. But occasionally numbers can be deceiving - for example, Laval played the most difficult pre-season schedule in the CIS, travelling out west and hosting three teams from last season's Nationals at their own tournament. Le Rouge et Or also played much of the pre-season without consensus QSSF pre-season POY 6'3" J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux. UQAM Citadins are also rounding into form slowly getting their entire roster back while the young Bishop's Gaiters and Concordia Stingers roll with virtually entire new rosters. McGill Redmen have shown they can score with most teams on a given night. All five "Q" league teams will play in Holiday tournaments against other CIS competition (UQAM & McGill at UQAM tournament; Laval & Bishop's at Wesmen Classic; Concordia at Rod Shoveller Memorial at Dal), providing member teams the opportunity to dispell the current notion of the quality of the league as a whole.

The class of the "Q" league has been Laval (4-0 in league play, 7-7 vs. CIS overall) and le Rouge et Or have got it done on the defensive end, holding all four of their opponents to 69 points or less (61.8 ppg allowed), 26% three-point shooting and only 36% overall fg% - most impressively, opponents have scored only 42 points total in the fourth quarters of games (10.2 points/fourth quarter). Much was made of the very difficult pre-season schedule and it appears to have served Laval very well in the first half, with their closest game being a five point victory at Bishop's - all other games were double digit wins. With another fine recruiting class and several high-quality returning vets, Head Coach Jacques Paiement Jr. in his first official season at the helm has the luxury of going at least nine deep. Beaulieu-Mahieux has rebounded from his early-season injury and is second in Q scoring at 17.0 ppg however Laval's team MVP thus far could be 5'9" Xavier Baribeau, the scrappy point guard who makes most key offensive decisions and loves to take big shots. Baribeau (13.8 ppg) shoots 48% (13-27) from downtown and average over 3 3's per game. 6'5" Etienne Labrecque (15.3 ppg/8.5 rpg) sits third in Q league scoring and leads the entire conference in rebounding while steady 6'5" F.O. Gagnon-Hebert shoots 61%, cleaning up misses and finishing inside. Laval may have one achilles heel as they shoot only 62% from the free throw line. The best of the freshman has been 5'8" J.P. Renaud, averaging 6.8 ppg including 47% from downtown while logging over 25 mpg.... After a slow start in the pre-season, UQAM Citadins (3-1 in QSSF, 6-7 overall) have established themselves as a legitimate contender for the league title, playing Laval very tough in Quebec City before fading late. The Citadins look to use their stable of athleticism to pressure opponents defensively, push the ball in transition to attack the rim and, when going well, make a living on the offensive glass. Coach Olga Hrycak can go at least eight deep and got an excellent first half out of 6'3" Arthaud Plesius (14.8 ppg), their leading scorer in 3 of 4 games. Both of UQAM's incumbent QSSF all-stars, 6'4" Jules Diagne (off-season illness) and 6'4" Adil El Makssoud (academics), started the season slowly but appear to be rounding into form while 6'4" Eric Cote and 6'3" Thierry Justin help round out a balanced lineup with the defensive versatility to press, switch out without creating matchup problems and rebound at both ends. Little wonder then that the Citadins lead the conference with 15.3 offensive rebounds per game and a plus 6 rebounding margin overall. Last season's Quebec rookie-of-the-year 6'4" Gregory St. Armand is an established rotation guy as UQAM has six players averaging at least 7 points per game. UQAM also creates 21.3 turnovers per game out of their opposition - when things are going well, the Citadins score alot off their transition and second chances. The ability of UQAM to take care of the ball and not get hurt with size disadvantages should help dictate how successful this group is in the second half. Whispers around the league had 6'5" former CIS rebounding champion Leonil Saintil, studying at McGill in the first half but not playing, potentially joining the Citadins in the second half. However, Saintil, a very strong (3.2/4.0 gpa) student, appears to be focusing on academics with a view to a career in teaching and may not play at all this season in order to concentrate on his studies... It has been a challenging, rebuilding season for John Dore and the Concordia Stingers (2-4 in league, 7-6 vs. CIS overall) have shown their youth in several instances, leading the Q at 18.7 turnovers per game while allowing opponents to shoot 42% from downtown. Most telling is the offensive production as the Stingers, perennially a high-scoring group especially in the confines of their cozy gym, averaged only 68.2 ppg, lowest in the Q. 6'1" Decee Krah (13.3 ppg) leads the Stingers in scoring but is only 10th in Q race - Krah has been streaky from downtown but does have a pair of games in which he made five 3's. Concordia is receiving steady production from 6'4" sophomore Evens Laroche (12.0 ppg/7.7 rpg - 2nd in Q), who blossomed late last season as a freshman. Much was made about the arrival of NCAA D1 transfer 6'3" Vali Lazarescu and, for the most part, he has not disappointed averaging 11 ppg however he did sit out the Stingers final game of the first half against UQAM. The Stingers have found it difficult to replace Quebec league Defensive Player-of-the-Year 6'8" Jamal Gallier however 6'5" James Clark has shown flashes of potential with a pair of double/doubles in the first half. After a two point win at home to Bishop's, the Stingers lost 4 of their last 5 going into the break including the return match at Bishop's plus a 26 point loss at Laval and a 21 point loss at UQAM... Offense, especially three-point shooting has not been an issue with McGill Redmen (2-3 in QSSF, 5-9 vs. CIS overall) as Craig Norman's crew scores at a piping-hot 80.8 ppg clip while shooting a sizzling 53% (42-80) from downtown. Virtually every game except for the loss at Concordia qualified as shootouts with McGill giving up 84 ppg defensively and allowing teams to shoot 47% from the field. Although 6'4" Matthew Thornhill (20.2 ppg/6.2 rpg) has led McGill in scoring 4 times including a Q league season-high of 35 points in a win vs. Bishop's, by most accounts Redmen MVP has been steady 6'4" forward Michael White (14.4 ppg/4.4 rpg), who has a nice mid-range game and is very difficult to control around the glass. 6'5" Pawel Herra has been sharp from beyond the three point arc (12-18, 67%) while 6'7" freshman Nick Langley continues to improve from game-to-game, coming off the bench to average 7.8 ppg (4th on the team). Guard play has been steady with 6'1" freshman Olivier Bouchard (18:11 assist to turnover ratio while playing 20 mpg) and Jeff Cumming (team-leading 23 assists). 6'4" Jesse Woods has started all 5 games and averages 6 points. The aforementioned Saintil remains listed on the Redmen roster for the UQAM Holiday Classic and his length, skill and tenacity on the "o" glass would help most programs... Bishop's Gaiters (1-4 in QSSF, 3-10 overall vs. CIS) got back in the playoff race with a character-building come-from-behind win at home over Concordia before dropping a tight game the following night to UQAM in which they competed. Unlike some matches in the pre-season when the Gaiters were outclassed by halftime, coach Rod Gilpin's stable of new talent appears to be moulding into a solid group, especially defensively. 6'2" freshman Onnex Blackwood had a strong finish to the first half as he continues to get comfortable and 6'1" Oraine Green has improved steadily as the full-time point guard. 6'7" veteran Hermon Tesfaghebriel (14.6 ppg/5.4 rpg/68% fg% - leads Q) creates an offensive presence inside while scrappy Tim Hunter provides strong minutes. Talk in the pre-season had the Gaiters adding a pair of potentially-impactful forwards in 6'6" wing Chris East, from ASA Institute in Brooklyn, NY, (recovering from knee surgery) and 6'5" Chris Kuete, a native of Cameroon who was the Most Valuable Player in Malaysian National Basketball League in 2008. Despite the roster churn and injuries, Bishop's was very competitive down the stretch of the first half and have a chance to build on their confidence at the Wesmen Classic where they have been placed in the easier side of the draw.

1. Matthew Thornhill-MCGI ...20.2 PPG
2. J-F. Beaulieu-Maheux-LAVA ...17.0
3. Etienne Labrecque-LAVA ...15.3
4. Arthaud Plesius-UQAM ...14.8
5. Hermon Tesfaghebriel-BISH ...14.6
6. Michael White-MCGI ...14.4
7. Onnex Blackwood-BISH ...14.0
8. Oraine Green-BISH ...13.8
9. Xavier Baribeau-LAVA ...13.8
10. Decee Krah-CONC ...13.3

1. Etienne Labrecque-LAVA ...8.5
2. Evens Laroche-CONC ...7.7
3. Tim Hunter-BISH ...6.2
Matthew Thornhill-MCGI ...6.2
5. Jerome T-Routhier-LAVA ...5.8
6. Hermon Tesfaghebriel-BISH ...5.4
7. Eric Cote-Kougnima-UQAM ...5.3
8. Vali Lazarescu-CONC ...5.0
Adil El Makssoud-UQAM ...5.0
10. Jesse Woods-MCGI ...4.6

1. Hermon Tesfaghebriel-BISH 27-40 .675
2. F-O. Gagnon-Hebert-LAVA 14-23 .609
3. Nicolas Langley-MCGI 14-25 .560
4. Michael White-MCGI 28-51 .549
5. Matthew Thornhill-MCGI 35-66 .530

1. Oraine Green-BISH 19-21 .905
2. D. Thomas-Anderson-BISH 11-13 .846
3. Arthaud Plesius-UQAM 16-19 .842
4. J-F. Beaulieu-Maheux-LAVA 21-29 .724
5. Matthew Thornhill-MCGI 18-25 .720

1 comment:

AlexT said...

Gregory St-Amand was benched for most of UQAM last game vs Concordia. If UQAM are to challenge in the Q, he will have to step up his game and avoid the "sophomore slump".