Except for the top 4 spots which remain the same, there were more changes this week than in at least 3-4 of the previous polls as Cape Breton and Lakehead move up and Laurier re-enters my Top 10. The Capers established themselves as the clear favorite for the AUS regular season crown by sweeping X, the latest win a double OT affair in Antigonish this past Wednesday in front of 2,000+ fans, most of whom were clad in white, making for a tremendous atmosphere for CIS basketball. Capers then swept Dalhousie at home and are unlikely to be challenged in first. The OUA West became much tighter at the top with now any of 3 teams capable of winning the regular season pennant: Windsor at Lakehead twice this weekend will bring further clarity to this (or muddy the waters even further). Quebec is tighter as Laval has hit a bit of a rough patch with three teams still within striking distance of first place, which the Rouge et Or continue to hold. No changes out west with Saskatchewan at Trinity Western for a pair this weekend likely deciding how the Top 3 will finish.
#1 Carleton (21-0, 14-0) (LW: #1) The Ravens made short work of one of arguably only two OUA East teams that reasonably have a chance at knocking them off, going on a 29-2 run in the second quarter to dominate York. uOttawa Gee-Gees might beg to differ with that assessment and they get their shot at the Ravens this Wednesday night at the annual Capital Hoops Classic at Scotiabank Place in Kanata. Ravens then host RMC and Queen's on the weekend at the Raven's Nest before playing 4 of their final 5 on the road.
#2 UBC (19-2, 16-2) (LW: #2) The T-Birds left little doubt from the opening tips this weekend at Brandon that there would be no let down, hammering the Bobcats who are now virtually eliminated from the post-season. UBC, idle this weekend, should benefit from this weekend's TWU/Saskatchewan games as the Birds own the tie-breaker with both so any result is ok although a split would be optimal for UBC. UBC does have a tough trip into Regina the following week where it is always difficult to play.
#3 Trinity Western (17-2, 16-2) (LW: #3) Came off a bye week and got All-Canadian performances in both games at Calgary from 6'7" Jacob Doerksen against an undermanned Dinos squad missing injured point guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson. This weekend's matchup with Saskatchewan at home in Langley will go a long way to justifying this #3 ranking.
#4 Saskatchewan (20-3, 13-3) (LW: #4) Another pair of explosive offensive performances from the exciting Huskies, led by their pair of illustrious guards 6'1" Rejean Chabot and 5'11" Jamelle Barrett. Huskies at Spartans will be a contrast in styles as TWU plays through their bigs much more and the ability of Spartans guards to defend the ball, especially Chabot who uses his body so well getting to the rim, will likely be the key to these games.
#5 Cape Breton (14-6, 13-1) (LW: #7) A clutch finish after blowing a big lead that they had rallied to after being down double digits at St. FX last Wednesday justifies this climb into the Top 5. Capers then went on to twice handle Dal Tigers, probably the third best team in the AUS, relatively easily at home on the weekend, drawing good distance between CBU and the rest of the pack in the AUS. Capers go to UPEI on the weekend and appear poised to grab #1 seed at the AUS tournament at the Halifax Metro Center in March.
#6 St. FX (19-4, 8-3) (LW: #5) X had at least two opportunities to put Cape Breton away this past Wednesday, initially building a 19 point first-half lead before the Capers came back and then at least a couple of occasions late in regulation and in the overtimes when they had leads they could not hold. X has a rivalry game Wednesday night at Saint Mary's and then travels to improved UNB for a pair of weekend games in the Pit.
#7 Windsor (13-5, 11-3) (LW: #6) The Lancers dropped back to the top part of the pack with a disappointing loss at Brock on Saturday during which they could muster only 6 points for the entire fourth quarter and did not score for probably the final 4 minutes of the game, giving up the final 8 points of the game to lose one which got away. Windsor continues to show some inconsistencies that in part may be a function of a still-young but potentially down-the-road-dominant point guard/post combination. However, Saturday's loss was a lost opportunity for 6'3" Isaac Kuon to put his stamp on this season. Two more chances come up this weekend as the Lancers visit Thunder Bay to meet Lakehead, currently tied with Windsor for first place in the division.
#8 Lakehead (16-9, 11-3) (LW: #10) Sweeping a pair at Mac and moving into a tie for first justifies the Wolves moving up. Game one was a classic in which 6'2" Jamie Searle put on a shooting clinic, especially in the fourth quarter. Saturday's game was billed as easier given that 6'3" Victor Raso and 6'8" Scott Brittain were not in Mac's lineup but Lakehead showed their depth as Searle was not a factor and they pulled out a late-game win. Wolves host Windsor for two in Thunder Bay this weekend.
#9 Laurier (13-7, 10-4) (LW: NR) Golden Hawks did not play particularly well in either of their games this week but still took two victories, showing they can play through rough patches, especially against Western on Saturday when one of their achilles heels was revealed: defending quick, mobile post players as 6'5" Andy Wedemire lit up Laurier for 29. The Hawks look to deal with Wedemire this coming Wednesday in the return encounter in London before hosting Brock on Saturday. Freshman Jamar Forde continues to provide impactful minutes in a complementary fashion for Laurier.
#10 Laval (13-6, 7-2) (LW: #8) The most difficult pick for this week's Top 10 as Rouge et Or were blown out at home against UQAM and have hit a rough spot but the body of work in the Q gives them a fleeting nod. Laval would benefit from the return of top freshman 6'5" Hugues Ryan who has missed the past 3 games and the return to top form of 6'4" Jerome Turcotte who is playing with a stiff neck. Laval hosts McGill again on Friday night after escaping with a one-point victory two weeks ago also at home. Obviously, this is a must-win if Rouge et Or hold any hope of staying in the Top 10.
In summary, going across the country, with Dalhousie sinking and Saint Mary's losing to UNB, only 2 AUS teams deserve reasonable merit (X and CBU); many can argue that Laval in the Top 10 is a stretch and they certainly have to prove they belong; OUA East only one team (Carleton) deserves a ranking. McMaster had a chance to move up but lost twice, leaving only 3 teams worthy in the OUA West. In Canada West, apart from the Big 3, Alberta (13-7, 12-6) is the most reasonable with Vic (12-9, 11-7) on the fringe. Regina (11-9, 10-6) get their chance weekend after next when UBC comes to town for a pair.