Once again a number of teams that have been brought forth as potential conference champions and/or consistent Top 10 teams were tripped up, a couple at home. Conservely, at least a couple of teams left for the middle of the pack came up with strong efforts over the weekend, causing at least this Top 10 to again change dramatically. With the pre-season now complete, all 42 CIS teams will play conference games only through early December (next 4 weekends) and with that, a bit more preparation by coaching staffs, a bit more emotion on the floor and another likely shakeout of teams and the Top 10. There are at least two teams which are in the current Top 10 that have played comparatively weak schedules vs. CIS teams however being undefeated or having one loss at this piont in the season has to count for something. Parity continues to reign supreme and this has the makings of a tremendous CIS season.
#1 Carleton (7-0) (LW #1) Ravens are in the midst of their now-annual tour of U.S. NCAA Division 1 schools, playing Cincinnati tonight after a scrimmage with UB Bulls in Buffalo on Saturday. By all accounts, Carleton more than held their own in the scrimmages, winning more quarters than the Bulls but likely losing if the quarters were totaled (or something like that). Carleton played a strong pre-season schedule with home wins over Windsor and UVic, a neutral court hammering of Saint Mary's and a comfortable, come-from-behind win at Laval. Week One of the OUA interlock schedule sees the Ravens hosting Guelph and Brock this weekend at the Raven's Nest.
#2 UBC (6-1, 3-1) (LW #3) In retrospect, the Birds deserved this spot last week, proving it after two double-digit wins in Langley against Trinity Western, last week's #4. Again, UBC's guard play was dominant as 6'1" Alex Murphy continues to grow as a point guard, 6'2" Josh Whyte arguably the best scorer in the nation and veteran Nathan Wu presenting a consistent perimeter threat. Much has already been written about 6'3" Doug Plumb and his athleticism, which he flashed again over the weekend with multiple dunks. If the Birds get strong play from their front line defending and rebounding, they are very difficult to beat. Week 3 of the Canada West schedule continues the "top heavy" early season theme for UBC as they travel to 2-0 Alberta, another CW contender, in Edmonton, where 6'8" Jordan Baker, 6'4" Daniel Ferguson and the rest of the Golden Bears await.
#3 Concordia (5-0) (LW #5) Still undefeated and with a pair of wins against a solid Laurier club as well as high-potential McMaster, all away from home, the Stingers have come back strong after missing the playoffs last season for the first time in Coach John Dore's long career. Concordia's backcourt/wings have already shown in the early season that their talent and production competes with virtually any in the country. A perimeter, guard-oriented group, in the long run, the Stingers return to the top of the "Q" will be predicated on the consistency of contribution from their 6'5" veteran forward James Clark plus one or two more big men up front. Concordia just returned from a pair of games in the U.S. against Rhode Island and Vermont. Stingers kick off their season next weekend Nov. 12 at Laval (Friday) and then the following night with their regular season home opener against UQAM. Concordia will have to prove right away that this elevated ranking is deserved.
#4 Western (5-0) (LW #6) Similar to Concordia, another lofty ranking, this time for a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs last season and has played a somewhat-mediocre pre-season schedule against teams with a combined record of just 8-26 thus far (hey? why did I rank these guys so high?). However, the Mustangs won every game rather handily like a ranked team should and with the continued maturation of 5'10" Ryan Barbeau as a premier lead guard, All-Canadian Andy Wedemire, 6'8" Adam Jespersen (D1 transfer) and the expected return of sold 6'6" forward Garrett Olexiuk, the pieces are in place for a run at the OUA West crown. The Mustangs should get a strong test in Sudbury against Laurentian on Friday and then meet the athletic, up tempo York Lions in North York on Saturday, kicking off their regular season. Anything other than a pair of solid wins puts this ranking in jeopardy.
#5 St. FX (8-1) (LW #7) The X-Men's early season performance could easily place them a peg or two higher in these rankings however the loss to Toronto at the Donohue in Ottawa continues to haunt and hopefully motivate the X-Men to prove this slot is too low. A pair of comfortable wins at home against AUS foes in the final tune up for the regular season does little to cast any doubt that X is the team to beat in Atlantic Canada this season. X kicks off their season next Sunday at home against Saint Mary's and then gets Dal at home and Cape Breton on the road toward the end of November.
#6 Saskatchewan (7-2, 2-2) (LW#2) Consistency seems to be an issue creeping in on the Huskies although given the format of Canada West this season, defeating a good team twice in two nights - even if both games are at home - can be a challenge. The dynamic backcourt should be Sask's backbone all season, especially when Jamelle Barrett and Rejean Chabot become comfortable together however it is up front where the Huskies, despite some tremendous athleticism, don't have the heir apparent to CIS Final 8 MVP Troy Gottselig and his ability to defend, rebound and score as of yet. Saskatchewan hosts Fraser Valley (0-2) on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Saskatoon this coming weekend.
#7 Trinity Western (3-2, 2-2) (LW #4) The abundance of talent on this team has been well chronicled but unfortunately once again, the Spartans were soundly dominated by UBC's depth, experience and talent, especially in the back court. As well, defensively the Spartans need to tighten up as the Birds scored over 90 points on both nights, too many to give up for a program looking to compete for a CW title. The Spartans travel to Kamloops to meet the winless Thompson Rivers WolfPack this weekend.
#8 Manitoba (5-1, 3-0) (LW: NR) A pair of weekend victories in Abbotsford against a good Fraser Valley Cascades club has brought some attention to the Bisons (although Cascades starting pg Zeon Gray saw his first action of any kind without practice in 2 weeks and back-up Sheldon Bjorgaard was out with a fractured wrist). Second-year head man Kirby Schepp who has done a marvelous job turning this program around so quickly, continues to feature his nice stable of guards and perimeter shooters led by Eric Garcia (19.0 ppg/46% 3's). However, with the emergence of 6'7" Richard Reimer (17.3 ppg/11.3 rpg) as a legitimate complementary scorer inside and 6'7" perimeter-oriented Kevin Oliver (11.7 ppg), the pleasant surprise transfer from Brandon, opponents have to respect Bisons size and inside game more now. Still, the underlying key to Manitoba has been point guard Josh Ogden, who leads the team in minutes at 31 mpg and has an off-the-charts assists to turnover ratio of 9:1 (18 assists to just 2 turnovers in 3 league games). The Bisons, who had road wins at Brock and at McMaster in overtime in the pre-season (only loss has been to Guelph), step into a big pair of road games this coming weekend at UVic (2-2).
#9 Laval (5-2) (LW #9) The Rouge et Or once again played a challenging pre-season bringing in top teams Carleton and Saint Mary's into their tournament and travelling to Ontario to play 4 games, most noteable against a rapidly-improving Ryerson Rams program. Laval shoots the ball extremely well, especially at home and is another guard-oriented team with plenty of well-documented fire power. To excel this season, Laval needs to find a way to effectively replace the contributions of underrated graduated 6'6" F.O. Gagnon-Hebert, who was that perfect complement to scorer Etienne Labrecque inside and an underrated defender and rebounder at both ends of the floor. Laval hosts Concordia two weeks from Friday to open the QSSF season.
#10 Ottawa (5-2) (LW: NR) A somewhat-surprising choice given the loss of a First-team All-Canadian and a stellar fifth-year scorer, the Gee-Gees have another emerging All-Canadian candidate in 6'6" Warren Ward who creates his own shot and finishes as well as anyone in the country. He has already had two seperate 25+ point halves this season, including Saturday's tremendous effort at Acadia that lifted the Gee-Gees to a dramatic come-from-behind win. But the key win that justifies Ottawa's rank at #10 is their victory at Dalhousie, another in which Ward was terrific. A comfortable win over Toronto offsets somewhat a loss to X in which Ottawa fell behind by 25 early but managed to keep things respectable and a last minute loss at Saint Mary's in which Ward had a good look at a potential buzzer-beating game winner. Two newcomers, 6'2" shooter Johnny Berhane and 6'3" point guard Luke Minani, have played fearlessly and add energy and athleticism to the backcourt. Ottawa begins their OUA regular season this weekend against Guelph and Brock at home.
Others considered: Dalhousie 4-2 (LW #8), Calgary 4-3 (LW #10), Ryerson 4-1, Toronto 5-2, Windsor 2-2.