Friday, 13 March 2009

Dal UBC Game Notes

HALFTIME: Brent Malish just banked in a 3 and UBC closed the half strong to lead 38-21.

SECOND QUARTER: Dal is on a mini run to close what was a 15 point gap to 10 as UBC is settling for perimeter jumpers.

The Birds have scored the first 7 points of the second quarter as underrated post Bryson Kool smelt the double team and then fed Brent Malish for a layup and later Kool knocked down an 8 footer in the lane to force Dal to take another timeout. UBC has been tremendous defensively thus far.

UBC trapping Simon Farine at every opportunity after he gets the ball back in the quarter court. Dal simply can't get anything going offensively. 22-11 UBC.

Dal has had no answer for Josh Whyte off the dribble; he just finished a nice floater in the lane as the game clock wound down in the first half to give UBC an 8 point lead. The T-Birds are defending in the half court giving up only 2 open looks the whole quarter by my count and since Dal took a 7-4 lead, the Birds are on a 15-4 run to lead 19-11 after one quarter.

UBC having their way offensive right now against a Dal group touted for its ability to stop teams. UBC has made at least 4 3's already, all of which were wide-open and lead 17-11.

Calgary / Concordia In-Game Notes

Calgary wins 76-67 led by the Bekkering brothers and Tyler Fidler. Decisive 34-8 run bridging second and third quarters led by Ross Bekkering on the glass and Henry defensively were the difference makers. Dal/UBC next.

FOURTH QUARTER The Dinos seemed to have withstood the run, going on a 6-0 run punctuated by Ross Bekkering's follow slam after a miss by Robbi Sihota. Calgary now up 12 after Sihota hits from baseline. Concordia had 2 open looks at 3's with it still a game but couldn't knock them down. Bekkering follow no wup 14.

Henry Bekkering ended a 14-2 Stinger run with a power move inside off an in-bounds play and Concordia threw the ball away on the next possession. Timeout Calgary with 4:47 remaining and Dinos up 62-56. Calgary lost their focus defensively up 17 and then struggled with their decision making with the ball.

Calgary struggling with their decision making trying to close out this game including an early shot clock ill-advised 3. Jamie Clark's 3 jsut brought the Stingers to within 4... it's getting exciting !

Stingers have engineered a 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter with some transition scores and sloppy Calgary "o". Dinos have their starters back in the game after a timeout up 9 with 7:23 remaining.

THIRD QUARTER Calgary coach Dave Vanhooren has gone deep into his bench as his team has stretched their lead to 16 at 58-42 after three quarters.

Henry Bekkering just completed an old-fashioned 3 point play to give Calgary their largest lead at 55-39 and the Dinos are riding a 34-8 run since falling behind by 10 with about 5 minutes left in the second quarter. Concordia is simply overmatched physically as the taller, longer Dinos have their way at both ends.

Dinos are stretching it out leading 48-34 as undersized Concordia simply cannot find anything offensively. Dinos length and activeness on the glass has rendered the Stingers unable to get any type of good shots off. Their only points this half were on a careless Dino turnover in bounding the ball.

All appears well in Dino land as Calgary has authored an 11-2 run to start the second half; the run includes two slams off scrambles by Ross Bekkering and a transition dunk by Robbie Sihota off a slick feed from Tyler Fidler. 43-34 Calgary.

Calgary's size really starting to make a difference as Concordia having trouble passing over their bigs and Dinos pounding it inside. Gallier just picked up his third and will have to sit down with Stingers down 39-34 and 7:11 left in the third.

FIRST HALF STATS: Henry Bekkering had 12 to lead all scorers including two dunks while brother Ross had 7 including one dunk on a putback. Dwayne Buckley had 8 and Jamal Gallier 6 to lead the Stingers. Calgary outrebounded Stingers 20-16 and had 7 "o" boards, probably 5 of them in the last 5 minutes. ConU 0-8 from 3; this needs to improve especially against Calgary's zone. Calgary 3-6 f.t.s; Dinos have 11 to's but only 2 in the second quarter.

HALFTIME: Calgary 32, Concordia 32 as the Dinos end the half on a 11-1 run to tie the score. Much more energy by Calgary, especially defensively protecting the paint.

SECOND QUARTER Dinos starting to wear down the Stingers a little 32-28 as Bekkering finally emerged defensively with an impressive swat and Calgary getting much more active on the offensive glass. The Dinos coaching staff and some of their players are starting to wear a bit on the officials as thus far virtually no call has been accepted. From my perspective, the game has been very well officiated - what has got Calgary back in the game is that they are playing harder and are much more active. ConU 32, Calgary 30.

Three things are most evident: most importantly, Concordia are not only holding their own on the glass at both ends, they are outrebounding the Dinos significantly. As well, Concordia is much more active getting to loose balls and is basically playing harder than Calgary right now. As well, I was expecting much more of a defensive presence from the Calgary bigs than they are producing. Concordia has been able to slice their way to the rim several times and the Stingers have several "o" boards. Concordia's fouls are starting to pile up however. Concordia 31, Calgary 24 with 3:44 left in the half.

Maybe Calgary's most compete and certainly underrated player Robbie Sihota is saddled with 2 fouls forcing Dinos Head Coach Dave Vanhooren to go deeper into his bench than maybe he wanted to. Concordia outrebounded Calgary in the first quarter and continues to hold their own on the glass, giving up only 2 "o" boards. Concordia 25, Calgary 17 7:20 left.

Concordia continuing to hold their own on their defensive glass despite a significant size disadvantage. Bekkering just slammed home his second ally oop of the game however Calgary down 9. Concordia having their way getting the ball inside and beating Dinos down the floor. 6'5" Evans Laroche has started strong.

FIRST QUARTER: Henry Bekkering just slammed home an ally oop feed from Jamie MacLeod but Dinos trail 12-9 early as Concordia has limited Dinos one shot and scored in the half court. Bekkering again just displayed his off the charts athleticism 14-10 Stingers.

Great to see a pair of ex-Stinger stars on the Concordia sidelines as former All-Canadian Emerson Thomas and burly Ernie Rosa assist Stingers Head Coach John Dore.

Stiners are simply playing harder and smarter than Calgary; 23-10 Stingers - after one quarter ConU 23, Calgary 14. After a 5-0 start that had the Dinos bench excited, ConU went on a 23-5 run. Both teams pressing 3/4 court and then falling back into a zone. Not surprising for Calgary given their size but the Stingers are more of a pressing team by nature - maybe holding something back until later ?

Chris Kallan's Article on X's Will Silver

By Chris Kallan

Five-foot-nine guard Will Silver hopes St. Francis Xavier hoops teammate and Christian (T-Bear) Upshaw lives a long and happy life.

And tells the tale of what happened at that Montreal summer tourney approximately five years ago a little more frequently.

“T-Bear saw the only dunk of my life and nobody else seems to believe me,” said the 21-year-old Silver. “Maybe the net was a few inches shorter or something, but it still counts. I definitely need him to get the word out a bit better.”

Eighth-seeded St. F.X. faces the top-seeded Carleton Ravens in Friday’s late quarterfinal (8 p.m., EST) at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

Silver probably won’t throw down any two-handed jams this weekend, but his role with the wildcard X-Men has expanded as of late. With fifth-year all-star Tyler Richards out of the line-up, Silver started both Atlantic playoff games last weekend and averaged 10.5 points, 5.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 steals for the runner-up X-Men. He also registered the league’s only regular season triple-double with a 14-point (including four three-pointers) 10-rebound, 10-assist outing versus Acadia last month.

St. F.X. head coach Steve Konchalski prefers Silver coming off the bench because of the spark he provides, but likes the ball movement and high basketball IQ when paired with Upshaw in the backcourt.

“Will has tremendous heart and his work ethic and intensity is a motivating factor for his teammates,” said Konchalski. “He loves the game and his enthusiasm and positive attitude makes him a bigger factor every year.”

Silver, Upshaw and Richards – all of Halifax – won multiple provincial high school championships while members of the St. Pat’s Irish. Cracking the St. Pat’s roster, as well as St. F.X., was not an automatic for Silver.

“Tyler and T-Bear will push you and push you to get better every single day,” said Silver, who managed to finish in the top six in three different league categories (assists-per-turnover ratio, 1.6; steals, 2.3 per game; assists, 4.0 average) despite playing slightly over 24 minutes per game this season. “If you don’t get better, you get worse.”

Upshaw might be one of the most athletic and gifted players to ever wear a St. F.X. uniform, but he’s thrilled Silver is on the same side. Except for some of those loathsome practice drills.

“Defensively, he’s an absolute monster and I HATE playing against him because he’s such a pest,” said Upshaw. “He never gives up and he’s always in your face. His hands are always whacking at the ball and doing whatever to disrupt you. Offensively, he distributes the ball really well and makes defences react. It’s special to have a guy like that on your team.”

The X-Men missed qualifying for nationals the last two years, but this year represents the school’s seventh trip to the big dance in the last decade. Silver was among the hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians who took in Canada’s version of March Madness in Halifax between 1984 and 2007. St. F.X. captured its inaugural national crown in 1993 and claimed back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.

“X was always there at nationals and I loved the tradition, the history, the crowds, the support ... it’s a huge deal to the student body and alumni,” said Silver. “I wanted to be part of it.”

Doerksen wins Moser, Smart wins Aberdeen again

By Wayne Kondro

No one is sure where Dave Smart keeps all his coach of the year trophies.
He says they’re in the Carleton Ravens locker room but insists there isn’t a Dave Smart Trophy Case.
One assistant says there’s a trap door in the floor of the Raven’s Nest leading to a palatial underground suite in which the trophies are centrally displayed.
Smart denies that but refuses to divulge where they are.
“I’m not sure where they are. They’re around someplace.”
Are they in a cardboard box somewhere?
“I’m not getting quoted on where they are. Who knows?”
“It’s a secret,” he added. “But the award is real credit to our guys and what they’ve done.”
Wherever they are, Smart will have to make room for more hardware after winning the Stuart W. Aberdeen Memorial Trophy on Thursday as Canadian Interuniversity Sport coach of the year. It’s his third Aberdeen in seven years. He earlier captured Ontario University Athletics East coach of the year honours for the fifth time in nine years after guiding Carleton to a (33-1) record.
Ravens forward Rob Saunders also added to the Carleton trophy case after being selected CIS Defensive Player of the Year, while Brock’s Didi Mukendi was named Rookie of the Year and Laval’s Jerome Turcotte-Routhier won the Ken Shields award for basketball, academics and community involvement.
Meanwhile, for the second time in six years, the nation’s basketball coaches chose someone who didn’t get his team into the CIS tournament as player of the year. Trinity Western forward Jacob Doerksen, who averaged 20.8 points and 10.7 boards per game for a Spartans unit that tied for second in the Canada West Pacific division, duplicated the 2004 feat of Simon Fraser’s Pasha Bains by being named recipient of the Mike Moser Trophy.
Saunders said his award was entirely unexpected. “It’s pretty humbling but I don’t think the coaches really selected me to win that award. It’s gotta be a recognition of our team defence. Me personally, I don’t lead the league in steals or blocks and if you look at me, I’m definitely not an elite type of athlete.”
Smart said Saunders “has worked hard over five years to be the guy that we’ve needed him to be. It’s definitely shows that the coaches in this country pay attention because he doesn’t have gaudy stats in terms of steals and blocked shots. But he gets it done.”
Three local players earned all-Canadian laurels, including Carleton’s Stuart Turnbull and Aaron Doornekamp, as well as the University’s of Ottawa Josh Gibson-Bascombe.
The All-Canadian first team featured the MVPs of the nation’s five conferences: Turnbull; Doerksen; Greg Surmacz (Windsor - OUA West), Damian Buckley (Concordia – Quebec), and Christian Upshaw (St. Francis Xavier – Atlantic).
Turnbull appreciated the recognition. “It’s kind like a team winning an award for an individual playing in a good system.”
The second-team featured Doornekamp, who was last year’s Moser winner, along with Gibson-Bascombe; Dany Charlery (Brandon); Ross Bekkering (Calgary); and Phillip Nkrumah (Cape Breton).
“It just shows how hard my coach works, and how hard my teammates work every day, to help make me the player I am,” Gibson-Bascombe said.
The CIS all-rookie team featured Mukendi; Casey Fox (Acadia); Sam Freeman (Fraser Valley); Gregory St-Amand (UQAM); and David Tyndale (York).

Wayne Kondro's Article on Smart, Campbell

By Wayne Kondro

It seems there’s something about unabashed gunners who become coaches - they’re magically transformed into defensive specialists.
Carleton coach Dave Smart never met a shot he didn’t like while leading the country in scoring at Queen’s University. Now, he’s even more than obsessed with defensive rotations and weak-side defensive help than a puppy with a smelly, old sneaker.
Similarly, when Smart was coaching Nepean High School, he guided a gunner named Brad Campbell, who averaged roughly 35 points per game and who, as Smart recalls, “wasn’t the world’s greatest defender.”
Now Campbell brings his alma mater, the University of Western Ontario Mustangs, into Friday’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport quarterfinals against the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees at Scotiabank Place and wonder of wonders, he’s established a reputation as a “defensive” coach who’s far more interested in shutting down foes than testing whether a scoreboard has room for three digits.
Recalling some of the sideline antics that a younger, more volatile Smart was noted for at Nepean, Campbell doesn’t attribute his decision to pursue a coaching career to his ex-mentor in Ottawa.
That path had long since been determined after afternoon upon afternoon hanging out in a dugout with his father, a high school baseball coach.
But Campbell adds that “you could probably attribute to Dave to really turning me onto basketball and developing a passion for it. He was my initial kind of contact in terms of learning to play the game.”
Smart doesn’t take issue with either the characterization or the attribution. “Back then, I was crazy. I wasn’t level like I am now.”
Smart, who coached Campbell for four years at Nepean, describes the ex-Knight as “perhaps as good as a scorer as I’ve ever coached.”
And therein lies another impetus for Campbell’s coaching career.
A former baseball player who turned to basketball in grade nine after sprouting six inches over the course of a summer, Campbell proved somewhat injury-prone through high school and university.
While at Nepean, he suffered a knee injury and while recuperating, tried his hand at coaching, mentoring the Knights junior girl’s teams. He later tore his quadricep muscle in his OAC year two minutes into Nepean’s second game at provincials, dashing the Knights’ hopes of winning an OFSAA medal.
Similarly, after venturing to the University of Western Ontario to study history and toil for coach Craig Boydell, Campbell repeatedly injured his knees and while rehabilitating, again turned to coaching. He worked with the Ontario Basketball Association’s regional development program in London and eventually, in his fifth year (‘95-96) with the Mustangs, became an assistant to Boydell.
“I think I realized early, although I thought I was a pretty good high school and university player, I always felt that my career was not going to be playing professionally somewhere. And I just had a passion for coaching.”
Campbell served as a Mustang assistant for eight years and in that interval, did a stint as an assistant to Smart for a provincial juvenile squad that won a national title.
When Boydell retired, Western looked no further than Campbell for a replacement. Now in his third year at the helm, he’s already captured two OUA West postseason crowns and twice made the CIS tournament, losing last year to eventual champ Brock.
That kind of early success doesn’t surprise Smart.
“Brad’s got a pretty strong personality and he’s got of his own ideas,” says Smart, who talks daily to Campbell. “He’s not afraid to try things and succeed or fail but he’s not so stubborn to fail to not make adjustments. He’s willing to change his thinking on things.”
Campbell is married to former All-Canadian Angela Nobes and the pair have two children, Peyton, 7, and Quinci, 4, who are already being groomed to become Mustangs. He calls the helm of Western his “dream job. If I had ever went somewhere else to coach, I would just want to back to Western.”
Is he as competitive and hot-headed as his former high school?
“I’d say that I’m pretty demanding and very defensive and detailed minded. Preparation is very big for us. We spend a lot of time on preparation and we demand a lot from our players, not only physically but also, time-wise. And we think if we put in the proper amount of time that we’re going to see good results.”


Ravens Ready for Redemption

Ravens ready for national redemption

By Sigrid Forberg, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Last year, after five consecutive national championships, the Ravens were set to swoop in and clinch their sixth straight in the comfort of their hometown. But the disappointing loss to the Acadia Axemen in double-overtime ended their aspirations for topping the University of Victoria’s record of seven straight titles.

Carleton University is hosting the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball championship March 13-15 at Scotiabank Place. It will be the second year in their three-year hosting contract.

Stuart Turnbull, the team’s captain, plays guard for the Ravens and was just recently named the Ontario University Athletics East player of the year. He says while the loss last year was a real disappointment, he doesn’t feel as nervous going into the tournament this year.

“I think there’s less pressure this year,” says Turnbull. “We don’t have to worry about the record so we can just go out there, have fun and try our hardest.”

Head coach Dave Smart says winning the nationals is about more than just hard work.

“So far, we’re doing well but a lot of things can happen,” says Smart. “We won five in a row and every one of those we could have lost in the same way as the semi-final last year. I mean you get a call, you don’t get a call. You make a shot, you don’t make a shot. Things just didn’t fall our way.”

Smart says he isn’t changing anything about the team’s practice schedule with the tournament coming up.

He adds that since they’re fortunate enough to play three of the best five national teams in their league, they understand the level of competition they will come up against.

One of these elite teams is the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. In recent years, the Gee-Gees have become worthy opponents of the Ravens – Smart even said they might be the better team.

The Ravens and Gee-Gees faced off in the OUA East men’s basketball championship in the Raven’s Nest at Carleton University on March 4.

The game certainly lived up to the hype of the rivalry between the two teams. It was a fierce and fast-paced game throughout the first half – the Gee-Gees scored their first basket in under 20 seconds. It was back-and-forth until the Ravens pulled ahead in the third quarter. Carleton ended up winning the game 82-61.

Nemanja Baletic plays forward for the Gee-Gees. He says the team is disappointed with the loss, but that they definitely tried their hardest and didn’t give up until the final buzzer.

The Gee-Gees beat the University of Windsor on March 7 to secure a spot in the tournament.

Baletic says he thinks the rivalry between the two Ottawa-based teams is one of the strongest in Canadian basketball, and he hopes to get a chance to play against Carleton again.

“It’s like when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object,” says Baletic. “But it’s something positive – it brings out the best in us, forcing both teams to work their hardest.”

And David Kent, the manager of Marketing and Communications for Carleton Athletics, says rivalries like this make the tournament more exciting.

“My hopes are simple,” says Kent. “I want to see the better calibre teams play because that makes it a better calibre tournament and we have to remember that we are also hosting next year. If all the games are bad by large spreads, that turns people off. People like nail-biters to the end and that is what I hope we give them.”

And given the expectations, competition and bitter rivalries, the tournament is sure to deliver great basketball for both local and national fans.

Ravens Swan Song

Ravens Swan Song

by Patrick Kennedy, Kingston Whig-Standard

The Kingston trio is breaking up.

No, not the San Francisco singing group, but three local lads who led the Carleton Ravens in this the team's latest season of imposing success.

Stu Turnbull, Rob Saunders and Aaron Doornekamp, linchpins on a team that has lost but once this year, will soon go their separate ways. They will graduate and leave behind five years of sweat, soirees and ultra-sweet moments on the hardwood, not to mention countless practices and drills and endless reels of video, and, of course, the games -better than 90% of them victories including three consecutive national title tilts. Playing together on the road and at home before raucous sold-out audiences, soon to be just memories with which to grow old.

Not quite yet, though. There is still the matter of this weekend's Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship. Moreover, the trio could very well go out winners, what with the Ravens (21- 1) entering the affair as undisputed top seed.

Carleton opens tonight against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men at 8 p. m. at Scotiabank Place. Preceding that game is the Ottawa- Western match at 6 p. m. at Scotiabank, featuring Gee-Gees forward and Kingston native Donnie Gibson.

The eight-team tournament concludes with Sunday's gold-medal match (4 p. m.).

For Turnbull, a championship final would be the ideal closing act to a collegiate career.

"I was fortunate to be part of three straight nationals titles, but I didn't contribute as much to those teams as I felt I have this year," said the six-foot, 195- pound guard who was named OUA MVP and was nominated for CIS player of the year. "Winning another one would be the perfect way to end it."

Turnbull led the Ravens with 16.7 points per game followed by Doornekamp [14.4], who paced the team in rebounds [6.9] one year after garnering CIS player-of-the-year kudos.

Saunders, the most unsung member of the three, is a defensive specialist and was duly rewarded with the CIS defensive player-of-the-year honours at last night's CIS banquet. [Carleton coach Dave Smart received his third coach-of-the-year award.]

At the 2008 CIS championship, Carleton's mind-boggling run of five straight titles came to an end in the semifinals. Acadia upset the Ravens 82-80 in double OT.

Turnbull, reflecting back on his five seasons, was asked if his star-studded high school career made for an easy transition to a star-studded university team.

"Just the opposite," he said from a cell phone on the Carleton campus. "Truthfully, it prepared me very badly."

The catalyst on that 2003 Falcon flock that copped the city's first triple- A provincial pennant said he made the mistake of believing some of his own press clippings.

"When I got here I thought I was great," added the youngest of three children in a basketball family that includes his father, Tom, a longtime Ernestown and club-ball coach, and two older sisters who both attended U. S. schools on basketball scholarships.

"I quickly found out I wasn't so great," he added candidly. "All that stuff that gets written about you and gets said to you by different people, even though you shouldn't believe it or take it seriously, sometimes a part of you does.

"I started thinking I was pretty good, but after getting torched by [former teammate] Mike Smart every single day at practice, I came to grips with the fact I had to get better, fast. It was a humbling experience."

Turnbull was named a CIS first team all-star for the second straight year.

Turnbull and Doornekamp hope to play pro ball after graduation. They have contacts, beginning with ex-teammate Osvaldo Jeanty in the German Bundesliga and Doornekamp's older brother, Nate, the seven-foot Dutch elm out of Boston College who also toiled in the Bundesliga.

As for Saunders, Turnbull said his good friend is looking forward to a hiatus from hoops and instead embarking on a travel adventure of undetermined length.

But first there are stellar collegiate careers to wrap. The Kingston trio wants to bring down the house one final time.

Big Moment arrives for Dinos

Big moment arrives for Dinos

By Rita Mingo, For The Calgary Herald March 12, 2009

Since the season began in October, the University of Calgary men's basketball squad has had one goal in mind, the objective that has urged the Dinos on every week through practice after practice, game after game.

The opportunity to capture that elusive national championship.

For a team that has gone through the year extolling the maxim of focusing on the moment, the moment has finally arrived.

"I think the key at nationals for our team, as I've said in the past, is stay in the present and we've done a good job with that so far," said head coach Dan Vanhooren. "If our kids can continue to do that, then they can achieve what they want. We're a good enough basketball team to do what we're going there to do."

The Dinos left for Ottawa and the CIS Final 8 tournament on Wednesday, primed to capture their first title in their seventh try. They're ranked second, fresh off a Canada West triumph at UBC.

Up first: Quebec champs Concordia Stingers, 10:30 a. m. MT on Friday.

The Stingers are the seventh-ranked squad and are led by first team all-star Damian Buckley and second team selection Jamal Gallier. They have one CIS title in their resume, won back in 1990.

"They're a good basketball team,"Vanhooren said. "They have Damian Buckley and Dwayne Buckley; those two kids are very good. They're a solid team.We're going to have to play our best basketball to win our first game."

"I expect them to be fast, athletic, more guard-oriented than a lot of teams," pitched in forward Henry Bekkering. "Those are the teams we've struggled with this year. We'll have to have our best defensive effort to pull through."

The tournament final is slated for 4 p. m. on Sunday.

"You're playing a top-10 quality basketball team,"Vanhooren said, "and the next team you play will be a top-10 quality basketball team. One game to the next is just a tough, tough opponent and that's why it's a national tournament.

"We're thrilled with where we're at.We're healthy.We're running our systems well. We're not turning the ball over. If we can stay in that frame of mind, then we should do well in the tournament."

Bekkering, the talented showman, yearns to end his five-year university career on the highest high possible.

"I think everyone's on an even keel,"he said. "You know, nationals and all the hoopla that comes with that, banquets and all-star announcements. We're trying to take this one game, one quarter at a time, and make it a process.

"If I get overly excited or our team does, that's when we start to make mistakes and we're not thinking. If we keep our cool, but still have that excitement to play within our team, within our parameters, we'll be successful. That's what I'm trying to preach to the team;play our game and not worry about any external factors."

At the other end of the spectrum is forward Tyler Fidler, who in his second season is starring in the big show.

"It's extremely exciting, not just for myself, but for the first-years, fourth-years, anyone who hasn't been there yet,"acknowledged one of the Dinos' future leaders.

"Dan's been really keen on being focused on every moment, on every play, within every quarter. I think we've done a good job on that these past two weeks and we're finally buying into it."

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Dinos want fairy tale ending

Dinos want fairy tale ending

by Wes Gilbertson, Calgary Sun

Henry Bekkering is no theatre major, but the Calgary Dinos dunkmaster knows a thing or two about what makes a good script.

You don't need production credits on Hoosiers to realize winning a national championship is the perfect way to cap a campus hoops career.

Bekkering, 23, is three victories away from doing just that.

"I'm in the perfect position right now," Bekkering said.

"Obviously, the perfect ending would be to win a national championship."

Led by the 6-foot-6 scoring sensation, the Dinos are off to the CIS Final Eight for the first time since 2004.

Installed as the second seed, they'll tip off today against the No. 7 Concordia Stingers. The winner will advance to tomorrow's semi-final round, which will be broadcast on The Score.

No matter what the outcome, Bekkering will write the final chapter of his Dinos career this weekend on the hardcourt at Scotiabank Place, home to the NHL's Ottawa Senators.

Nicknamed the Dunkin' Dutchman, Bekkering became a fan favourite at Jack Simpson Gym almost immediately after transferring from Eastern Washington University, teaming with his 6-foot-8 brother Ross to give the Dinos a feared one-two punch in their two seasons together.

Henry is averaging a team-high 20.7 points per game in his senior campaign, while Ross is leading the Dinos with 10.3 boards per outing in his fourth season.

Ross, 21, doesn't expect his older brother to go quietly in his final weekend of post-secondary play.

"Henry really is a playoff performer. Every time I've seen him play, ever since he was in high school, he always seems to raise his game to the next level when it comes down to crunch time, and I think we can count on him to do the same this year," Ross said. "We've got a lot of other guys that can step up, so hopefully he doesn't feel obligated to do it himself. But you can expect him to be playing some great basketball at this tournament, and I can't wait to see it."

The Bekkering brothers won't be the only star attractions at the finals. Carleton's Stuart Turnbull, Concordia's Damien Buckley and Christian Upshaw of St. FX each scored player-of-the-year nominations, while a dozen other conference all-stars will hit the hardwood in Ottawa.

Henry Bekkering is the lone senior on the Dinos roster, which also features five fourth-year players.

The high-flying forward is determined to not "waste" his one and only shot at a CIS title. That's goes for Ross, too, who has watched coverage of the national tournament from his living room for the past three seasons.

"Every time we finished our season off and we realized we weren't going to the Final Eight, it's something to take into the weight room with you, it's something to take to the track with you, it's something to use as motivation to train for the next season," Ross said. "To accomplish it this year, it feels really good because it shows all that hard work paid off."

Oft-injured Labentowicz toughs it out

Knee, ankle, leg... Gee-Gee toughs it out

by Shane Ross, Sun Media

After every Ottawa Gee-Gees basketball game, forward David Labentowicz unwinds with a nice, relaxing bath -- in a tub full of ice.

No bubbles, except for the swelling on his left knee, which will need surgery in the summer. And his ankle, which he twisted during Saturday's game. Oh, and his lower leg, where he pulled a muscle.

Doesn't sound comfy.

"It's not," said Labentowicz. "But it's something I have to do. Basically, I live and die with ice."

On a team considered the most athletic in the CIS, Labentowicz is Ottawa's "banger, he goes in there and mucks it," said coach Dave DeAveiro.

"He sacrifices his body for the team. He's adopted that role, and he's fit it real well."

When the Gee-Gees need a quick basket, they go to the Joshes -- Wright or Gibson-Bascombe -- or look inside to big man Dax Dessureault.

But Labentowicz, a 6-foot-6 forward in his fifth year, is confident in the offensive zone as well.

"My role primarily is for defence and rebounding, but if it comes down to hitting a last-second shot, I'll do it."

This will be the last basketball the Toronto native will be playing for a while. He'll have to take at least a year off after microfracture surgery -- the same procedure done on NBA players Greg Oden and Amare Stoudemire.

Despite the wear and tear, Labentowicz has no regrets.

"A lot of people can't say they've experienced what I've experienced."

Ravenous Ravens on Mission

Ravenous Ravens on mission Last year's heartbreaker gives No. 1 seed extra motivation

By SHANE ROSS, Sun Media

Ravens star forward Aaron Doornekamp guards teammate Aaron Chapman during practice at Scotiabank Place as Carleton gears up for its quarter-final tonight. (Darren Brown/Sun Media)

A new CIS men's basketball champion will be crowned this weekend.

Last year's champs, the Brock Badgers, missed the OUA playoffs with an 8-14 record, so they will not be back to defend their title when the Final 8 begins today at Scotiabank Place.

Wouldn't matter.

Just as they have been the last six years, the host and top-seeded Carleton Ravens would still be the team to beat. And they can be beaten, although rarely. In 34 games against CIS rivals this season, they lost only once, 80-68 to Windsor back on Nov. 7.

And who could forget last year's tournament?

Certainly not the Ravens.

After winning five straight CIS titles in Halifax, the Ravens were upset in double overtime by the Acadia Axemen in the semi-finals when the tournament was moved to Ottawa.

"Thinking back to last year, seeing some of the fifth-year guys not get what we worked for all year was difficult to watch," said Ravens fifth-year guard Rob Saunders, the CIS defensive player of the year. "Being in that position now, I need to play every minute like it's my last."


The Ravens play their first game at this year's Final 8 against another Atlantic opponent, the wild-card St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

Tonight's quarter-final pits the country's top defensive team in the Ravens (63.3 points per game) against the highest-scoring team in the X-Men (87.8).

But St. FX with be without its top scorer, Tyler Richards, who is under investigation for an alleged assault.

The Ravens beat the X-Men 83-61 over the Christmas holidays.

Carleton will look to Saunders and fellow fifth-year stalwarts Stu Turnbull and Aaron Doornekamp, the 2008 CIS player of the year who is also coach Dave Smart's nephew.

Smart, the CIS coach of the year, also coached Doornekamp's brother, Ben, and nephews Mike and Rob Smart, who were standouts in the early 2000s.

In fact, next season will be the first in his nine years as Carleton coach that Smart won't have a relative playing for him.

But he might want to adopt forward Kevin McCleery, judging by the way he's been playing lately.

The 6-foot-8 Ottawa native has come into his own this season, finishing third on the team in scoring, and will be expected to assume a leadership role next year, his fifth.

"He's been a huge factor in most of our big wins," said Smart. "His confidence level as an offensive player this year has added another dimension for us."


The second-seeded Calgary Dinos are led by fifth-year forward Henry Bekkering, a 6-foot-6, 235-lb. machine whose highlight-reel dunks have made him one of the most exciting CIS players to watch.

Message to officials: Keep a spare backboard handy.

The No. 3 UBC Thunderbirds, meanwhile, just want to get past the first round, which they haven't done in the past four trips to the nationals. They'll be looking for guard Chris Dyck to lead a balanced offence that averaged 85 points this season.


Videos from the SCORE

Video interview with Brad Campbell, Western Head Coach

Interview with Western's fifth-year starters Brad Smith and Matt Curtis

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Mukendi named CIS Rookie-of-the-Year

Badgers Mukendi named CIS Rookie-of-the-Year

By Bernie Puchalski - St. Catharines Standard

There have been plenty of great basketball players who have worn the uniform of the Brock men’s basketball team.

Dave Picton, Kevin Steinstra and Brad Rootes are three names that come to mind immediately, but not one of that talented trio managed to achieve what Didi Mukendi did in his first year at Brock.

Thursday night in Ottawa, the Denis Morris High School alumnus became the first player from the school to be named the Canadian Interuniversity Sport rookie of the year.

“For Didi to be the first kid to be rookie of the year, that’s a helluva tribute to him and a helluva tribute to our program,” Badgers head coach Ken Murray said. “I think it weighed on the coaches that we’ve developed some pretty good players over the years.”

The 19-year-old St. Catharines resident found out the news when he received text messages in the Brock team room last week from Ken Murray and former Brock player Scott Murray.

“If I had only got the one text message from coach, I wouldn’t have believed it,” the muscular six-footer said.

The first-year kineisiolgy student found it fitting he heard the news in the presence of several of his teammates.

“I couldn’t have done it without them playing as well as they did and putting in the effort.”

Mukendi is excited and honoured to receive the award.

“Coach would probably have won it, but I don’t think they had the award when he played. I’m the first, so it’s a great honour.”

It’s a well deserved honour, Ken Murray said.

I told him he has a reputation to live up to now. We expect bigger and better things out of him next year.”

The award for Mukendi is somewhat surprising in that individual awards are often the result of team success. The shooting guard had to overcome the fact that Brock failed to make the playoffs.

“When you’re playing with an average basketball team as far as won/loss record goes, for him to achieve this status is a real tribute to him as a basketball player,” Murray said. “They obviously thought very highly of him.”

He expects Mukendi to become Brock’s next All-Canadian.

“The big thing for him next year is that he won’t sneak up on anybody.

“Everybody will know who he is, but the way he works and his attitude, I fully expect him to have an even better year next year.

“Mind you, we’re going to put a little better supporting cast around him, too. I think that will help showcase his skills even more.”

The Brock coaching staff felt Mukendi was ready to play for Brock in last season’s national championship run, but Mukendi was glad he waited the extra year.

“That one year I really matured,” he said. “All the players from last year’s championship team always say I could have been on that team and rub it in, but I’m glad I stayed back.”

“I wasn’t ready to go to university after my 12th year.”

Mukendi felt he needed to mature as both a person and a basketball player.

“My game matured and I matured,” said Mukendi, who came to Canada when he was 10 and started playing basketball at St. Anthony’s Elementary School two years later.

His game certainly matured. Playing 31.9 minutes a game for Brock, the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, averaged 16.5 points and 4.9 rebounds, while contributing 43 steals and 63 assists.

“When I was coming in, I knew I was going to be a starter. I knew I was going to have to step in right away and contribute, so I worked hard all summer and it showed.”

Mukendi’s numbers might have been even better if not for a nagging hernia problem that will require surgery this off-season. He never used it as an excuse, but fans could tell he wasn’t the same player at season’s end.

Missing the playoffs will provide motivation for everyone on the Brock roster and the team is going to start working hard in May.

“We all wanted to be in the playoffs so it’s a huge motivator,” Mukendi said. “The last game is going to be in our heads for the rest of the summer.”

Personally, Mukendi’s last two games will bother him until next season starts.

“I shot 2-for-22 or something like that in the last two games and that will stick with me all summer.”

Scotiabank Place Press Release: Tickets Sold Update

Similar to last year, first blush look at attendance at the CIS Nationals immediately invokes some skepticism given the numbers being thrown around. The first press release announcing pre-tournament ticket sales shows an eye-popping 64,000 tickets sold already - very encouraging on the surface. But like last year, without making some assumptions these numbers are very difficult to break down accurately on a session-by-session basis, which has been how attendance figures have been reported historically in Halifax. In fact, virtually everyone I spoke to questions these numbers as misleading.

Geoff Publow, Director of Strategic Development at Scotiabank Place explains that the numbers reflect "each game counting as one ticket" despite the fact that tickets were sold either in a 10 game tournament package or individual two-game session packages (Friday afternoon, Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday). This means that even though each session has two games and one individual session ticket gets you in to those two games, in the overall count of over 64,000, one ticket counts as two in the overall attendance figures.

The very approachable Publow was very forthcoming with trying to help breakdown the attendance figures to be able to do a valid comparison with other Nationals events, starting with news that about 2,000 full tournament packages (for all five 2 game sessions) have been purchased thus far, slightly below last year's 2,500 such purchases. In all, 32,000 "hard tickets" have been purchased for the 10 game event - meaning on average, about 6,350 tickets for each of the 5 sessions. However, it is likely that not all sessions will be evenly attended; if we estimate about 2,500 fans at Saturday's consolation semi-finals (2,000 from 10 game package + another 500 friends and family for these non-championship round games) and then possibly about 4,000 fans for Friday's early quarter-finals, this leaves an estimated 25,000 tickets sold for the remaining 3 sessions (Friday night quarter-finals, Saturday semi-finals and Sunday championship). And this is before the walk-up crowd.

The 32,000 hard tickets sold thus far is about 8,500 less than the 40,500 sold across 5 sessions/10 games last year, so there is still some work to do to match the inaugural event. With the Ottawa market's nutorious tendancy for being a walk-up type audience, Publow is confident that last season's numbers can be eclipsed. He expects more than 8,000 fans to attend tomorrow's evening session in which both local teams are participating plus a St. FX team with many local, loyal alumni expecta to swell the crowd even further.

Publow also stated that the very successful Capital Hoops Classic tends to attract significantly more students than the CIS Nationals, something they are trying to improve. The certainty that a cross-town rivalry, Panda-like game brings apparently is more appealing to students and secretly some in the organizing committee are likely hoping for a Saturday night all OUA East semi-final affair which could bring out more students from both local campuses.

All in all, Publow offers that "Scotiabank Place is thrilled with their CIS basketball events" and the Nationals success continues to grow with sponsorships up by 20% this season over last even in the face of an economic downturn. Publow estimates that this year's event should realize "a small profit" after "taking a small loss last season". As for future events, Scotiabank did not participate in the latest round of bids, ultimately won by Halifax for 2011 and 2012, but Publow did not preclude looking at bidding for the Nationals beyond that. "We purposely did not bid for the next 2 years, hoping that other groups around the country could help build on our success. However, we have a very strong partnership with both Carleton and the CIS and we would strongly consider working with these partners again for future events".

More than 64,000 Tickets Sold for 2009 CIS Men's Basketball

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 12, 2009) - In conjunction with Canadian Interuniversity Sport and Scotiabank Place, the host organizing committee for the 2009 CIS Final 8 Men's Basketball Championship presented by Milk announced that more than 64,000 tickets have already been sold for the tournament, which is being held this weekend at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets early in order to avoid anticipated lineups at the Scotiabank Place box office.

The top-ranked Carleton University Ravens (Ottawa) attempt to return to the championship game for the sixth time in seven years when they begin play on Friday evening against the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men (Antigonish, N.S.) at 8 p.m. The tournament gets underway on Friday at 12:30 p.m. when the second-seed University of Calgary Dinos oppose the seventh-seed Concordia University Stingers (Montreal). The fifth-seed University of Ottawa Gee-Gees return to the national tournament after a one-year hiatus and oppose the fourth-seed University of Western Ontario Mustangs (London, Ont.) on Friday at 6 p.m. in an all-Ontario matchup.

Single-session tickets, which include entry to both of the session's games, start at $10. Full tournament packages, which include a ticket to each of the 10 tournament games, are also on sale, starting at $50 per package.

Friday's games at the CIS championship are single elimination matchups with the four winners advancing to Saturday evening's semi-final double-header games at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The consolation semi-final double-header takes place earlier on Saturday with games at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

The lone Sunday session features the consolation final game for fifth place at 1:30 p.m. and the championship game at 4 p.m. All five sessions (10 games in total) will take place at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place.

Tickets for the 2009 CIS Final 8 Men's Basketball Championship, presented by Milk, are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting, by phone at 613-599-FANS (3267) or 1-877-788-FANS (3267); in person at The Sens Store at Rideau Centre and Place d'Orleans, any Ottawa Sports Experts location, Centrepointe Theatre and at the Scotiabank Place box office.

Gee-Gees look for consistency

If the difference between the Nation's Capital's two university basketball teams could be distilled down to one notion, "consistency" might be the most appropriate descriptor. For the uOttawa Gee-Gees, getting the same, steady mental and physical approach, even from possession to possession, has been a challenge in big games over the years. The results this season: an 0-3 record against Carleton with losses at the Raven's Nest, Montpetit Hall and Scotiabank Place and an 0-5 mark overall against teams qualifying for the Nationals. Still, several coaches and observers realize that with a consistent 40 minute effort, Ottawa's talent, athleticism and explosiveness makes them a scary team to play and a side very capable of putting it all together.

Ottawa was able to overcome their inconsistencies enough to capture a spot in the Nationals with a victory over Windsor in last Saturday's OUA Bronze medal match. Some offensive possessions were a thing of beauty, especially down the stretch, with the ball getting to the post and 6'9" fifth-year forward Dax Dessureault making quick, wise decisions either getting his shot off or reading the double down and finding teammates for easy layups or open threes. Just as quickly, Gee-Gee possessions could end with off balance, desperation 3's or questionable shot selection off one pass and done without any flow. Defensively, when Ottawa is right, there is energetic, early help on the ball and crisp, intelligent rotations closing out shooters causing bad shots and one-and-done possessions which generally making life miserable for opponents. Just as easily, Ottawa ball defenders can display what New York Knicks legend and radio broadcaster Walt "Clyde" Frazier eloquently calls "matador 'd'", getting beat off the dribble with wide open, unabated paths to the basket where help defenders heads are turned away from the play or wide open 3's or layups in transition.

Still, the Gee-Gees put it together when they had to down the stretch against a solid Windsor group and for the most part dominated the second half, led by former OUA East defensive player of the year Dessureault and 6'4" OUA East First team guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe. Gibson-Bascombe has generally dealt well with the arrival of 6'2" Josh Wright, a transfer from Syracuse U. (NCAA Division 1) and in spurts has flourished as a scorer without the responsibility of constantly starting the offense and leading the break. Gibson-Bascombe has range well beyond the three point line, at 6'4" can shoot over smaller guards, get to the rim in transition and has even started to display some semblance of a post up game on occasion, again when the matchup is favorable. Wright, who has an explosive first step and is a streaky shooter, is gaining comfort as the lead guard offensively and when motivated can put extreme pressure on the ball defensively although he tends to reach and look to pilfer the ball which can be feast or famine.

6'3" fourth-year guard Donnie Gibson is an in-rhythm, catch-and-shoot marksman who has hit several big late game shots over his career with the Gee-Gees including a dying seconds 3's at Windsor earlier in the year that gave Ottawa a big win down there. Gibson is at his best attacking the rim early to set up his perimeter jumper and is usually the recipient of draw and kicks from Wright or Gibson-Bascombe.

Maybe the most underrated member of Ottawa's starting five is the scrappy 6'4" forward David Labentowicz, who will fight for every inch on the floor, plays with alot of emotion and could be Ottawa's strongest competitor. Labentowicz usually guards the opponent's tough physical player and gets his in and around the rim. Labentowicz's efforts and value to the Gee-Gees have earned him the respect of none other than Carleton Head Coach Dave Smart who says: "I respect how hard he works and the fact that he backs down from no one no matter what the situation. He has worked his way from getting no meaningful time early in his career and persevered to become a key member on one of the best teams in the country." Labentowicz, who has shaken off various ailments over the last 2 seasons but appears healthy again, shares time at the four spot with 6'5" Nemanja Beletic, who has more of an overall offensive package. Beletic is another Gee-Gee who paid his dues, going from not even making the roster in his first year to getting a uniform to now a key role in the rotation.

6'2" sophomore Jacob Gibson-Bascombe was emerging as a legitimate CIS point guard through the first semester but since has had his minutes reduced with the arrival of Wright. Josh's brother can fire it from downtown and does a nice job leading the group from the point. All-OUA East freshman team selection Warren Ward has very good offensive skills and is especially explosive on the break and on the offensive glass. Ward, who was averaging over 20 minutes per game early in the year, has seen his minutes diminsh recently as teams ratchet up their "d" and as defending in a team concept becomes more important. Still, Ward has an extremely bright future as a CIS swingman.

Ottawa's tussle with Western in Friday's first round should produce some interesting personel matchups beginning with who will guard Mustangs feature player, 6'6" Keenan Jeppesen. The Gee-Gees tend to switch alot of screens meaning Jeppesen is likely to see several different defenders. Still, assuming the same recent starting lineups for both teams, I would expect Josh Gibson-Bascombe to at least start on him. Expect Labentowicz to have the challenge having to deal with 6'7" lefty Brad Smith and his array of perimeter and back-to-the-basket offensive skills. The Mustangs have played much more man-to-man with the emergence of 6'5" sophomore Garrett Olexiuk and he may be the resposibility of Dessureault, who at 6'9" has reasonably quick feet which serve him well when defending on the perimeter or in the high post. 6'10" Colin Laforme is a better matchup for Dessureault but his minutes have been chopped down the stretch. Wright and Western's solid 6'1" fifth-year pg Matt Curtis should go at it at the point with a key for Wright being stopping Curtis at the point of attack in transition. Donnie Gibson should matchup with 6'3" Alex Brzozowicz, a very strong defender and probably Western's most consistent three point threat. Western is much deeper than Ottawa which may preclude the Gee-Gees from aggressively double teaming ball screens, something they've traditionally done with deeper groups. Both teams have the personel and athleticism to score in transition with Curtis and Jeppesen leading the Mustangs. Surprisingly, despite having legitimate transition threats in Josh Wright and Josh Gibson-Bascombe, Ottawa has not looked to force the issue in transition to the extent that some may believe they could given the personnel on hand.

Both Ottawa coach Dave DeAveiro and Western head man Brad Campbell are sticklers for preparation and likely have each other's sets and out-of-bounds plays well scouted. The key in the half court offensively for both teams will be which team can read and play off certain situations. This game may be most evenly matched of the first round and expect a game in the low 70's that should come down to a possession or two at the end but probably determined in the end by how consistent Ottawa is over the 40 minutes or more at both ends of the floor.

Canadian Press article previewing Nationals

Ravens hope to get back on track with CIS men's basketball title from the Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Seeding might indicate what a team has done during the regular season, but it's no guarantee of success in the Canadian university basketball championships.

Just ask the Carleton Ravens, who last year hoped to capture their sixth consecutive men's title only to lose out in the semifinals, or the Brock University Badgers, the underdogs who ended up carrying away the championship.

The Ravens are back as the No. 1-ranked team, and with the hometown crowd and a 24-game winning streak they will be tough to beat.

As disappointing as it was to lose last year, Carleton head coach Dave Smart said that's ancient history.

"I don't know if last year even comes into play at all," Smart said. "We're just going to try and win basketball games.

"It's a tough trial. It's a tough trial for everybody. Our side of the trial is extremely tough."

After claiming five straight CIS trophies in Halifax from 2003 to 2007, the Ravens' hopes of closing in on Victoria's all-time record of seven in a row came to a disappointing end when they dropped an 82-80 double-overtime decision to Acadia in the semifinals.

The loss also ended Carleton's record-tying streak of 18 straight wins at the national tournament, dating back to 2001.

"Last year I thought we played extremely well but we shot the ball very tight," Smart said. "The last two times we've been in this place we've shot the ball pretty well.

"Hopefully we can play as well as we did last year but shoot the ball a little better."

The Ravens have won every game since an 80-68 conference-opening loss at Windsor on Nov. 7, and enter the Final 8 sporting a 33-1 mark against CIS rivals.

The rest of the field that begins play Friday at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place includes No. 2 Canada West champion Calgary Dinos, No. 3 Canada West finalist UBC Thunderbirds, No. 4 Ontario finalist Western Ontario Mustangs, No. 5 OUA bronze medallist Ottawa Gee-Gees, No. 6 Atlantic champion Dalhousie Tigers, No. 7 Quebec champion Concordia Stingers, and the No. 8 AUS finalist St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

St. Francis Xavier earned the wildcard berth in a vote by CIS coaches.

Brock isn't back to defend its title after it missed the OUA playoffs, going 8-14 on the season after graduating several of their top players.

University of Ottawa head coach Dave DeAveiro says his club would love to make the home crowd exclusively its own but regardless of who they play, they'll be giving it their best shot.

"We've never had that opportunity where it has been entirely an Ottawa U crowd. If we get that chance it would be a great thing," DeAveiro said. "You work all year to get to this point.

"The year comes down to three games and it's do or die. If you're not ready to play now, you're never ready to play."

Calgary faces Concordia on Friday to tip off the tournament, followed by UBC versus Dalhousie. The evening schedule has Ottawa battling Western Ontario and Carleton taking on St. FX.

Semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, while the championship game is Sunday (4 p.m. ET).

Copyright © 2009 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Wayne Kondro's Team Capsules in the Ottawa Citizen

Wayne Kondro's Team Capsules from the Ottawa Citizen

CIS men’s basketball nationals capsules

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

OTTAWA — A closer look at the great eight competing at this weekend’s CIS men’s basketball championship in Ottawa, in order of seeding:

1. Carleton

Qualified: OUA champ

Record: 33-1

Starters: 6-7 Aaron Doornekamp; 6-2 Stuart Turnbull; 6-3 Rob Saunders; 6-8 Kevin McCleery; 6-0 Mike Kenny

Coach: Dave Smart

Last appearance: 2008

Titles: 5 (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)

The skinny: Of late, the Ravens have taken their trademark floor-burn defence and refined it into something otherworldly. Turnbull has had a Moser-worthy (MVP) season. Doornekamp is an ex-Moser winner. McCleery has evolved into more of a post threat than Doornekamp, which presents foes with a major challenge because they usually don’t have two quality post defenders. Kenny is the best three-point shooter in the country. Saunders is the best defender in the country.

2. Calgary

Qualified: Canada West champ

Record: 25-6

Starters: 6-6 Henry Bekkering, 6-8 Ross Bekkering, 6-6 Robbie Sihota, 6-9 Tyler Fidler, 6-0 Jamie McLeod

Coach: Dan Vanhooren

Last appearance: 2004

Titles: none

The skinny: Without question, the largest team in the draw, whose size will present matchup problems for most foes. Not only are the Dinos tall, their front-line weighs in at 240, 240 and 235. But while all that size and athleticism makes them a strong rebounding and pound-it-inside sort of team, the bigs are inclined to think of themselves as European, so they often roam out to the perimeter and jack treys. The Dinos rely almost exclusively on a 2-3 zone defence, so if foes don’t know how to attack it, they can find themselves facing a long, arduous night.

3. UBC

Qualified: Canada West runner-up

Record: 29-3

Starters: 6-3 Chris Dyck; 6-8 Bryson Kool; 6-7 Matt Rachar; 6-4 Blain Labranche; 6-3 Josh Whyte

Coach: Kevin Hanson

Last appearance: 2008

Titles: 2 (1970, 1972)

The skinny: There really should be a mercy rule that gives a coach a bye into the semis if his team suffers five consecutive losses to lower seeds in five consecutive nationals. If anyone deserves a win, it’s Hanson, who’s one of the best coaches in the country but just seems jinxed. This year’s edition of the T-birds has exceptional depth and deadly shooters who can put up big numbers in a big hurry. The Birds’ evolution towards a more physical, defensive unit capable of playing Eastern bruiser ball also appears on track as UBC improved its team defence by an average 8.6 points per game in league play.

4. Western

Qualified: OUA West champ

Record: 24-7

Starters: 6-1 Matthew Curtis; 6-6 Bradley Smith; 6-3 Alex Brzozowicz; 6-7 Keenan Jeppesen; 6-7 Garrett Olexiuk

Coach: Brad Campbell

Last appearance: 2008

Titles: 1 (1991)

The skinny: What’s not to like? The Mustangs are big, quick, athletic and experienced. They also have considerable depth, including former starters Colin LaForme and savvy catch-and-shooter Jason Milliquet. Jeppesen is a high flyer and creative scorer. The Mustangs are capable of defending like they’re Carleton clones, although their defensive rotations can occasionally be found wanting. Of late, they imposed their will against pretty much everyone except Carleton.

5. Ottawa

Qualified: OUA bronze

Record: 30-6

Starters: 6-9 Dax Dessureault; 6-4 Josh Gibson-Bascombe; 6-3 Donnie Gibson; 6-5 David Labentowicz; 6-1 Josh Wright

Coach: David DeAveiro

Last appearance: 2007

Titles: none

The skinny: Easily the most unpredictable unit in the draw. The Gee-Gees have the athleticism to be world-beaters and cause opponents fits. Yet, they’re also capable of shutting down their game, almost as if they aren’t enjoying themselves if they’re unchallenged. Dessureault is a force in the paint but can only defend one post at a time, so the Gee-Gees struggle against teams with powerful front lines. DeAveiro shifted Gibson-Bascombe into a gunner’s role early in the year and he has blossomed as a consequence of not having to make all playmaking decisions.

6. Dalhousie

Qualified: Atlantic champ

Record: 24-10

Starters: 6-2 Simon Farine; 6-0 Andrew Sullivan; 6-4 Josh Beattie; 6-7 Sandy Veit; 6-6 Germain Bendegue

Coach: John Campbell

Last appearance: 1996

Titles: none

The skinny: Dalhousie looked ready to fold its tent in mid-February while delivering undisciplined and soft performances in a pair of blowout road losses to Cape Breton. But the Tigers returned home and had one of those proverbial fireside chats. They promptly reeled off seven straight wins to qualify for nationals. Was the Atlantic conference that weak or the heart-to-heart conversation that inspirational? The CIS results will tell the tale. Foes say the Tigers are fundamentally solid, crash the offensive glass and are much improved defensively. Farine is a stud and as he goes, the Tigers go.

7. Concordia

Qualified: Quebec champ

Record: 19-4

Starters: 6-3 Dwayne Buckley; 6-1 Damian Buckley; 6-7 Jamal Gallier; 6-3 Sebastien Martin; 5-10 Pierre Thompson

Coach: John Dore

Last appearance: 2007

Titles: 1 (1990)

The skinny: Dore’s teams always seem mirror images of previous editions of the Stingers. They’re cat-quick, athletic and can usually jump out of the gym, compensating for their relative lack of size. That’s about an accurate a description as possible about the Buckley brothers. Gallier can be handful in the post but has a tendency to disappear. Rivals, though, say the Stingers have difficulty scoring in halfcourt sets, are streaky shooters and prone to inexplicable lapses in concentration, often squandering big leads by becoming indifferent to their duties.

8. St. Francis Xavier

Qualified: wild card

Record: 25-7

Starters: 5-10 Christian Upshaw; 6-3 Dwayne Johnson; 6-5 Terrence Taylor; 6-9 Alberto Rodriguez; 6-2 Tyler Richards

Coach: Steve Konchalski

Last appearance: 2006

Titles: 3 (1993, 2000, 2001)

The skinny: The X-Men feature an explosive offence that led the country in scoring (87.75 points per game), field goal percentage (48.14 per cent) and steals (12.1 per game). Because of their quickness, it’s tough to get good looks against St. FX. They’re led by Atlantic player of the year Christian Upshaw and guard Tyler Richards, one of three X-Men charged with assault following an incident outside a bar three weeks ago. Richards provides composure and when he’s not on the floor, the X-Men have a tendency to lose their wits.

Ottawa Citizen

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
Thanks to Neate Sager for passing along a link to Howard Tsumura's UBC preview in today's Vancouver Province

Loose but confident, Birds look for elusive first round win at Nationals

By Howard Tsumura 03-12-2009 Little Man On Campus
The Vancouver Province

VANCOUVER -- When you've suffered as much heartbreak as the UBC Thunderbirds men's basketball team has at the CIS national championship tournament, at some point the anxiety can't help but give way to a calm.

Not that the 'Birds, first-round losers in each of their past five national tournament appearances, are taking any kind of a half-hearted approach to their opener today (11:30 a.m., CiTR 101.9 FM) against the Atlantic champion Dalhousie Tigers.

But you can only self-analyze past failures so many times. At some point, you break free and just focus on yourself. And that is where a 26-3 UBC team finds itself today as it looks for its first national semifinal berth since 1996.

"We're just at a level of confidence that we haven't been at the last couple of years going into nationals," said UBC post Bryson Kool, who along with forward Matt Rachar and guard Chris Dyck wrap up their T-Birds careers after this weekend. "Last year, we knew the whole team was going to be back and that there was a good chance that we were going to have the same chance again. This year it's been more of an unspoken thing."

Yes, no one has to say it. But everyone seems uniquely focussed on the task of getting past a defensively-tough and disciplined Tigers team, which would then give UBC a shot at getting to its first national final since 1987.

"I hope and trust that they have learned something from being here the last few years," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "Bryson and Matt are here for the fourth time, it's Chris' third time and for a lot of others, it's at least their second. The guys are ready, but I have thought that every year."

Hanson's thoughts on what kind of team Dalhousie is were confirmed upon the team's arrival in Ottawa. "We ended up getting about seven games from their season and I am really impressed with their defensive effort," said Hanson of the Tigers.
"They are very aggressive, they make it tough to get to hoop and they don't make many mistakes defensively," Hanson continued, adding that Dalhousie's scoring threats come largely from their talented guard group, led by Simon Farine and Josh Beattie who scored at a clip of 19.1 and 14.6 points per game this season.

UBC's third-leading scorer Blain LaBranche (foot) will not play Friday and is doubtful Saturday.

Says Rachar of his final weekend as a T-Bird: "I am really looking at this as all of the work I have put in, all of the time I have spent in the gym, that this is going to be a celebration of all of that."

And of course, the Birds would love to be the ones celebrating after Sunday's national final. But for now, they're keeping first things first.

Bracket Breakdown by Neate Sager, Sun Media

Bracket breakdown: A capsule look at this weekend's CIS men's basketball Final 8



COACH: Dave Smart.

KEY PLAYERS: F Aaron Doornekamp, G Stu Turnbull, F Kevin McCleery.

RECORD: 33-1, Host/OUA champions.


RANKINGS: 1st coaches' poll, 1st RPI.

X FACTOR: G Rob Saunders -- top defender who makes timely baskets.

TELLING STAT: Led the country in rebounding margin; made 9.8 three-pointers while shooting CIS-best 41% from downtown.

THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: Sowing the seeds of panic. Carleton, under Smart, is always ready to rebound and defend as a five-man unit for the full 40 minutes. It puts teams into a scrambly mindset, typically freeing up the Ravens to run their motion offence.

STORYLINE: The Ravens look to reclaim the national title after losing it last season in their first season since the graduation of their talisman, Osvaldo Jeanty; Kingston trio of Doornekamp, Saunders and Turnbull seek their fourth title.


COACH: Dan Vanhooren.

KEY PLAYERS: F Henry Bekkering, F Ross Bekkering, F Robbie Sihota.

RECORD: 25-6, Canada West champions.


RANKINGS: Co-No. 5 in coaches' poll, 4th in RPI.

X FACTOR: G Tyler Fidler -- how often do you see a 6-foot-9 shooting guard?

TELLING STAT: Only team in the country to take 600 free throws this season, which was also the case each of the past three seasons; can overpower teams and get to the rim.

THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: The explosive athleticism of their front line of YouTube sensation Henry Bekkering, his brother Ross and Sihota, a catch-and-shoot big man who's hit last-second game-winners this season vs. Ottawa and UBC. The point guard spot has been stabilized by a platoon of Jamie McLeod and Andy Rochon, both first-year Dinos.

STORYLINE: Calgary missed the Final 8 last season when it had two chances to clinch at home, but the Bekkerings-led brigade is more stress-tested after winning the Canada West title in hostile territory two weeks ago.


COACH: Kevin Hanson.

KEY PLAYERS: G Chris Dyck, F Bryson Kool, F Josh Whyte.

RECORD: 29-3, Canada West silver medallists.


RANKINGS: 2nd coaches' poll, 2nd RPI.

X FACTOR: PG Alex Murphy

TELLING STAT: Average 85 points per game without a player in the top 25 nationally in scoring.

THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: Pushing the tempo and wearing teams out with a rotation which goes 10 deep; even 12th man Akeem Pierre was on the floor in the fourth quarter of the Canada West final. UBC has talent to burn, but it hasn't always come together for them.

STORYLINE: UBC is trying to shake the stigma it can't win the big one after failing to make it past the Friday quarter-final four years in a row; fifth-year standouts Dyck, Kool and G Matt Rachar have one last chance to make a deep tournament run.


COACH: Brad Campbell.

KEY PLAYERS: F Keenan Jeppesen, G Bradley Smith, G Matt Curtis.

RECORD: 24-7, OUA silver medallists.


RANKINGS: 4th coaches' poll, 6th RPI.

X FACTOR: F Garrett Olexiuk.

TELLING STAT: Held foes to 37.1% shooting, tops in the country.

THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: Coming at teams in waves, with an offence led by OUA assist king Curtis and a strong inside game led by Jeppesen. Can ride the hot hand, be it the slashing Smith, Alex Brzozowicz from the outside or Andrew Wedemire inside.

STORYLINE: Campbell, a Nepean High grad who once played for Dave Smart, is trying to take the 'Stangs one step farther after losing out in the semis last season, but his team will likely have to get by his mentor to do so.


COACH: Dave DeAveiro.

KEY PLAYERS: G Josh Wright, G Josh Gibson-Bascombe, C Dax Dessureault.

RECORD: 30-6, OUA bronze medallists.


RANKINGS: No. 3 coaches' poll, 3rd RPI.

X FACTOR: F David Labentowicz.

TELLING STAT: Have only five losses since November, three to Carleton, one to second-seeded Calgary and one to their first-round foe, Western.

THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: Running the floor with the JJs, Gibson-Bascombe and Wright, a former NCAA Division I starter at Syracuse who enrolled at Ottawa just before Christmas. The Gee-Gees are undersized in the post, so they have a tough opening-round matchup vs. Western, which beat them by 20 four months ago.

STORYLINE: The JJs, former Syracuse starter Wright and veteran Dessureault, will try to get the Gee-Gees to the summit.


COACH: John Campbell.

KEY PLAYERS: G Simon Farine, G Josh Beattie, F Germain Bendegue.

RECORD: 24-10, AUS champions.


RANKINGS: Unranked in coaches' poll, 15th in RPI.

X FACTOR: G Andrew Sullivan.

TELLING STAT: Fifth in CIS in assist-to-turnover ratio; they're smart with the ball.

THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: The us-against-the-world mentality. The Tigers, led by high-scoring Farine, are playing like a team with nothing to lose. Forward Sandy Veit has shored up Dal's rebounding, while they have five bona fide three-point threats, including Beattie, who made five in a row in the Atlantic final.

STORYLINE: Dalhousie, with its defence and outside shooting and a crafty guard, Farine, has some of the same qualities as Brock, but keep in mind that they are Final 8 first-timers, here for the first time since 1996.


COACH: John Dore.

KEY PLAYERS: G Damian Buckley, G Dwayne Buckley, F Jamal Gallier.

RECORD: 19-4, Quebec champions.


RANKINGS: 7th in coaches' poll, 5th in RPI.

X FACTOR: F Evens Laroche.

TELLING STAT: Worst free-throw shooting team (.643) in the tournament; outrebounded on the season.

THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: Being a tough-minded team which takes its cue from coach Dore and Buckley, who's the best point guard in the country, capable of setting the pace and taking over in the fourth quarter. Guard-oriented Concordia vs. big man-led Calgary is the most intriguing first-round matchup; the survivor has a good shot at playing Sunday.

STORYLINE: The Stingers seek redemption after missing the nationals last season -- when a knee injury cut short Buckley's season -- and being upset in the first round in 2007 in Halifax, when they were the No. 1 seed.


Coach: Steve Konchalski

Key players: G Christian "T-Bear” Upshaw, F Alberto Rodriguez, F Terrence Taylor

Record: 25-7, wild card

vs. Final 8 teams: 1-4

Rankings: Co-No. 5 in coaches’ poll, 9th RPI

X factor: G Dwayne Johnson

Bench strength: G Will Silver, F Jeremy Dunn

Big stat: Highest-scoring team in Canada (87.8 ppg)
They're all about: Getting dribble penetration from Upshaw and Silver – which will be harder to do with the suspension of Richards to set up their drive-and-kick game, which has paid off with 38% three-point shooting. Rodriguez, a 6-foot-9 Cuban, and defensive specialist Dwayne Johnson among others are counted on for rebounding.
Storyline: St. FX’s already tall task of facing Carleton has got that much harder after the suspension of leading scorer Richards, one of three players facing an assault charge in connection with a recent incident at a bar.

NOTE: RPI courtesy Rob Pettapiece,; all records vs. CIS opponents

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.”


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Patience Pays off for Campbell, Mustangs

It was about midway through last season when Brad Campbell's Western Mustangs finally began to legitimately turn the promise that solid recruiting classes and player continuity brought on the way to the reality of winning big games and championships. After missing the playoffs in their first two seasons in London, the same young core group of 6'1" point guard Matt Curtis, 6'6" forward Brad Smith, 6'2" Jason Milliquet and 6'5" Andrew Wedemire have led Western's revival back to a Top 10 team. Campbell selectively augmented this foundation by adding top recruits and three NCAA Division 1 transfers, and the result is a solid nine man rotation that give the Mustangs as good a chance as any team to win the Nationals.

Campbell, who played his high school basketball in Ottawa and was coached by none other than Carleton mentor Dave Smart, was a tremendous shooter in his day at Western in the early 90's however, in part due to some serious knee injuries, he rarely showed up on OUA all-defensive team ballots. Still, Campbell knows the value of defending and rebounding and he points to his team's defense as the key to their revival. "Our defense is our foundation", says Campbell. In OUA West Defensive POY 6'3" Alex Brzozowicz (Chicago), Campbell has found a stopper who Campbell claims "made himself into an above average defender with hard work and attention to detail." Brzozowicz, who transfered to Western last season after a two-year stint as a walk-on at the University of Michigan, has developed an uncanny ability to "make up ground in a hurry", as Campbell puts it, which allows him to keep his check under control consistently. Brzozowicz, a lefty, is also probably Western's most explosive three point shooter and maybe the team's most toughest competitor.

After reaching last season's CIS Final Four, Campbell feels Western this season added the final piece of the national championship puzzle with 6'6" Keenan Jeppesen (Hamilton, ON), an Ivy League transfer, who is an athletic, versatile "point forward" who can lead the break, run the show when necessary and generally present opponents with big matchup issues including inside in the post. Jeppesen is also a strong defender and maybe his most underrated attribute is his ability to get on the glass, especially at the defensive end. Very good off the dribble, when Keenan is making his mid-range and 3 point shots he is very difficult to guard.

6'1" fifth-year point guard Curtis (Hamilton, ON), who this season supplanted Brock's graduated Brad Rootes, the perennial leader, atop the OUA West assists board, continues his leadership role, distributing on the break and running the offense. Although Curtis has not shot the ball as well as he did last season when he was very consistent especially from downtown, Campbell raves about the "intangibles Matt brings to the floor". Ordinarily Western's leader in minutes played, the rock is usually in Matt's hands and his decision making has continued to improve throughout his career. Controling Curtis's ability to get to where he wants to on the floor is a key to stopping the 'Stangs. 6'7" lefty Bradley Smith (Barrie St. Joseph's), a former OUA West Rookie-of-the-Year, can flat out score when he gets it going - witness his performance in the first round at last season's Nationals when Smith erupted for 17 first quarter points in the quarter-final win against St. Mary's. Smith is a streaky offensive player who can post up, get to the rim and shoot it beyond the 3 point line but has had an inconsistent career as a defender in Western's system which explains why his minutes can be reduced depending upon matchups.

Up front 6'6" sophomore Garrett Olexiuk (Burlington, ON), one of the more highly touted recruits Western has landed in recent years, has added pounds and muscle to his long lanky frame and more importantly looks much more assertive and confident offensively since his freshman season. As a young starter, Olexiuk, along with fellow sophomore starting-point-guard-to-be Ryan Barbeau represent the future foundation of the Mustangs. Olexiuk is at his best in and around the paint and the strength he has gained since his freshman year has turned him into a force on the glass and right now as a complementary offensive player with fine finishing skills. Expect Olexiuk to be Western's paint area offensive presence through the remainder of his career. Barbeau, quickly gaining confidence as a floor leader, had a tremendous National tournament last year and came back with more range on his jumper. Pound-for-pound maybe the Mustangs strongest man in the weight room, Barbeau allows Campbell to spell Curtis without losing much if anything on the floor.

6'10" Colin Laforme (Hamilton, ON) brings a defensive, rebounding presence and athleticism inside for Western. A touted transfer from NCAA Division 1 Youngstown State, Laforme's offense has yet to catch up to his presence on the defensive end. 6'5" Wedemire (Sarnia, ON), who has suffered through an injury plagued career most noteably with his knees, is "as healthy as he's ever been" according to Campbell and Wedemire has proven to be instant offense off the bench. A tremendous scorer who had lights out athleticism before the string of injuries, Wedemire can ignite Western's offense off the bench. A somewhat-forgotten member of last year's successful team is 6'2" fifth-year shooting guard Milliquet. Arguably the Mustangs MVP down the stretch last season when he was lights out from downtown, hitting several key shots in big games, Milliquet decided to give football a try this season, a sport which he focused on exclusively from April of last year to the end of the football season in November. Many times the best shooters are at their best when they are in rhythm and focused, a place where Milliquet is just now getting back to after his football hiatus.

The Mustangs have already defeated their first round opponents the Ottawa Gee-Gees, using a third quarter run to pull away for a 20 point victory in November at Alumni Hall in London. Campbell remembers that his group had a strong night defending however "the Gee-Gees missed several open looks that they probably make ordinarily" so he expects a very tight game where every possession counts and a game in the 70's. The Western/Ottawa game is the first of two in the evening session, preceeding the Carleton/X night cap.

Neate's Take: The Real Problem with the Final 8 Bracket

Neate Sager has been a tireless communicator of CIS sports information via his weekly column in the Ottawa Sun, founding the popular web site "The CIS Blog" and now with his strong work as a member of the Streaming Sports Network (SSN) team. Neate will do colour commentary for this weekend's game along with play-by-play man Mark Masters. Neate has chimed in with his views on the brackets.

Neate's Take: The real problem with the Final 8 bracket
- March 11 2009

Slagging the Final 8 seedings has little to do with regionalism or the hint of backroom politics.

The crux of complaints about having three Ontario teams on the same side of the draw is that goes against the character of the tournament. What makes the Final 8 great, along with the fact it's three days of good basketball, is that it's a rare chance to get answers, maybe not clear and definitive ones mind you, about which part of Canada can really ball.

It doesn't happen enough in collegiate sports in this country, where we have too much geography and not enough history. Americans might take seeing an intersectional matchup such as Duke-UCLA basketball game or Notre Dame-USC in football for granted, but we're differently blessed (thanks for nothing, Air Canada).

Point being, slotting Western and Ottawa into the 4 vs. 5 quarter-final, meaning the winner likely faces a Saturday night semi-final vs. No. 1 Carleton, which it just lost to within the past two weeks, feels like we're being cheated. Like Carleton coach Dave Smart said in the Ottawa Citizen, with respect to the Ottawa-Western matchup and the winner possibly meeting Carleton (which faces St. Francis Xavier in the 1 vs. 8 game), "We basically have just played that tournament the last week."

That is seeing the whole forest or at least that's my conceit. The big hook of watching this tournament is that it's the one time all season we can sort of settle questions about the strength of each conference.

Take last March. Brock's run included wins over teams from each coast, UBC and Acadia, sandwiched around a semi-final win over division rival Western. Acadia beat Laval from Quebec and Carleton from Ontario.

The happy few who prefer Canadian university basketball to being on the outside looking in while following the NCAA look forward to seeing unique matchups. You get to see players and coaches make adjustments on the fly against opponents that might have known nothing about just six days ago ("We have no video tape of them," UBC coach Kevin Hanson said of his crew's Friday matchup vs. Dalhousie).

Some of that gamesmanship has been taken away. I have every confidence that this will all come out in the wash by early Sunday evening. The game is good enough to redeem all.

In the short run, people are right to squawk about three OUA teams being on one side of the draw. It's amusing, after the fact, that following Carleton's 21-point win in the OUA East final last Wednesday, March 4, that Smart said, "I still think they (Ottawa) are the second-best team in Canada and if they beat us in 10 days, they'll be the best team in Canada."

You never, ever take post-game comments literally word for word, but March 4 plus 10 days adds up to March 14, semi-final Saturday, not the day of the championship game.

It seems to best to opt for the high road and not say that it seems like Ottawa and Western are feeling the backlash over Carleton having an automatic bid into the tournament as the host team (when the AUS hosted from 1984-2007, the host-term berth was not designated to a single school).

It could be as simple as the fact this was a hard tournament to seed. UBC losing to Calgary in the Canada West gold-medal game on Feb. 28 threw a wrench into things.

The same went for Dalhousie springing the upset against St. Francis Xavier in the AUS final last Saturday. It is always tough to weigh how a team is playing going into the tournament against how it has played all season. The seeding committee, being composed of coaches, likes to reward teams who are playing well; most of us thought even with its stumble, UBC couldn't slide lower than the No. 3 seed.

Mark Wacyk at was about the only one who had the courage of his convictions to say that UBC should have been dropped to the 4 seed. The Thunderbirds have the second-best RPI in Canada, but lost a playoff game at home and their conference is only 7-15 at nationals since 2002.

Mark's bracket -- Carleton-St. FX, UBC-Western on one half; Calgary-Dalhousie and Ottawa-Concordia on the other half -- would have broken up the logjam of both Ontario and Canada West teams.

Again, it was a tough job, but it seems wrong that the "interleague interest" (Calgary chronicler Wayne Thomas' phrase, not mine) has been downplayed. As it stands, come Saturday night it could be an all-Canada West semi and an all-Ontario semi. It's very easy to imagine people who haven't followed the CIS all season wondering why there isn't some crossover.