Sunday, 16 January 2011

Some Weekend Thoughts

Gaiters getting closer... It has been a tough go for Rod Gilpin and Bishop's this season, beginning with what may have been an overly ambitious pre-season schedule that was accuentuated by a series of injuries and some roster churn.  The Gaiters limped into the holidays winless on the season but with the knowledge that they were getting closer in many games.  Bishop's finally got over the hump at the UQAM tournament in late December with a victory over Memorial and as the second half of the QUBL got underway, the Gaiters have had moments where it appeared they may be on their way, including this past Friday night's home game against first-place Laval, in which Bishop's had a 10 point lead 3 minutes into the second half.  Unfortunately, Bishop's lost their offensive rhythm, scoring only 17 points in the last 18 minutes of play and watched as 6'3" fifth-year wing J-F Beaulieu-Maheux ignited for 24 second half points, finishing with 34 for the game and the Gaiters lost by 20 after conceiding an incredible 39-9 run in the second half.  Last night in Montreal, the Gaiters made a spirited comeback at Concordia, bringing it back late from double digits to get it to 1 before giving up an offensive rebound on a free throw finally put the game away.  With no one on the roster longer than in third year of eligibility, Bishop's has one of the youngest lineups in the CIS.  Recall there was a time when, for example, the Western Mustangs languished in the depths of the OUA West with a very young roster led by Matt Curtis, Brad Smith et. al. and by the time that group reached their senior years, Mustangs made back-to-back CIS Nationals appearances.  With another strong recruiting class or two and the ability to keep his team motivated and together, Gilpin and his Gaiters hope to author a similar story in Lennoxville in the coming years... Big games this coming week in the AUS, beginning Tuesday night at DalPlex when the second in the cross-town rivalry between Saint Mary's and Dalhousie Tigers happens.  SMU continues to have a tough time finding any defensive rhythm as last night 6'1" Terrence Brown went off on the Huskies to the tune of 30 points.  While 6'1" Joey Haywood is having an outstanding offensive season, too many times it appears that Huskies must rely on Haywood's runs to stay in games and when his shots are not falling, getting consistent offensive production from anyone else is challenging.  As most know, coach Ross Quackenbush usually finds a way to harness his talent in time for a February/March run at the AUS title - unless the Huskies can tighten up defensively, creating that magic this season may be difficult.  On Wednesday, the long-anticipated Cape Breton vs. St. FX rematch happens in Antigonish.  Capers come off a sweep of Acadia although Axemen were without star 6'6" forward Justin Boutilier and also lost starting 6'2" guard Anthony Sears to an injury in the 1st quarter last night and he did not return.  CBU thoroughly handled X in November in Sydney during X's tough run and both teams should be at full strength for this one, which will be available on SSN Canada.... Canada West playoff picture is gaining some clarity, even with Regina's upset loss at home to Thompson Rivers when 6'5" Chas Kok knocked down the game winning three with 3 seconds remaining after the Cougars double teamed WolfPack Kevin Pribilsky who had scorched Regina with a series of 3's during the game.  Barring any further big upsets, it is reasonably safe to assume that UBC, Trinity Western, Saskatchewan, Victoria and Alberta will be in the playoffs.  That leaves basically four teams (Regina, Manitoba, Fraser Valley and Calgary) fighting for three spots with Brandon and Lethbridge both on the fringes of making a go of it.  The Cougars, 8-6 and currently comfortably in 6th place, are mentioned only because Regina has arguably the toughest finish of any of the contenders:  road series at improving Winnipeg and Fraser Valley (who just knocked off Alberta at home) followed by home dates against CW top two teams (UBC and TWU) and home to Manitoba on the final weekend of the season which could decide playoff positions.  The Bisons still have to travel to Alberta and get Trinity Western at home but also host Lethbridge and go to Calgary, where the Dinos have had an injury-plagued season.  Fraser Valley 6-10 and in the final playoff position currently, is idle next weekend before hosting Regina and finishing at Winnipeg, at Lethbridge and then home to Brandon on the final weekend of the season when it is likely the Bobcats (4-10 currently) will be eliminated (Brandon has UBC, Vic and at TWU for their next 3 weekends).  Calgary's schedule is also tough with Trinity Western this coming weekend and the final two weeks at Alberta and hosting Saskatchewan.  Considering the remaining schedule, my prediction for the CW Playoffs are as follows:
#1 UBC vs. #8 Fraser Valley
#2 TWU vs. #7 Regina
#3 Saskatchewan vs. #6 Manitoba
#4 Victoria vs. #5 Alberta

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