Monday, 24 January 2011

Weekend Thoughts

Queen's Gaels responded from Friday night's listless second half performance against Ryerson with a resurgent effort against the second-place Toronto Varsity Blues.  By all accounts, the Gaels got after it on the defensive end and got a solid offensive performance from 6'2" Dan Bannister, who had 25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, leading the third quarter run during which Gaels scored 34 points and extended to a 20+ lead, silencing one of the largest crowds of the season in Toronto.  The Gaels still have a significant challenge to qualifying for the OUA East playoff but the good news is that, with 7 games remaining on their schedule, Queen's plays their final 5 games of the regular season at home after a pair in Ottawa against the Gee-Gees (Friday) and Carleton (Saturday).  Realistically, with 3 teams each with 6 wins ahead of the Gaels presently and each of those teams having RMC still on the schedule, Queen's must get to 8 wins to be comfortable.  Thus, Queen's needs to go 5-2 down the stretch which includes that game at undefeated Carleton.  A victory over Ottawa then on Friday is virtually must-win... As for the Varsity Blues, last night's loss illustrates how sensitive the Blues relatively-thin roster is to injury as 6'6" Drazen Glizic did not play after injuring his ankle during the week at practice.  Further complicating matters for the Blues was the early foul trouble that 6'6" Andrew Wasik experienced.  The lack of impactful post play allow Gaels to push out on the perimeter more aggressively and the result was a combined 8 for 32 shooting effort from 6'5" Alex Hill, 5'11" Justin Holmes and 6'0" Arun Kumar, Varsity's top 3 outside threats.  Toronto, just 3-4 in their past 7 leagues games, hopes to have Glizic back in the lineup on Wednesday for the first of two games against downtown Toronto rivals Ryerson Rams at Kerr Hall... In Quebec, the McGill Redmen have won 3 of their last 4 games including consecutive road wins this past weekend to move into second place in the conference.  Not much was expected of the Redmen this season what with the losses to graduation of QUBL Player-of-the-Year 6'4" Matt Thornhill and 6'5" three-point shooter Paul Herra.  But 6'3" freshman Simon Bibeau has matured into McGill's team leader with much of the offense running through him and 6'0" sophomore guard Olivier Bouchard's role has been altered slightly to emphasize his outside shooting abilities more.  Inside the Redmen have a pair of workmanlike posts, in 6'8" Greg Gause, who has progressed steadily to a point where he is drawing the occasional double down and 6'7" Tristan Tremblay, a workhorse who may be the most competitive player on the Redmen.  Gritty 6'3" Winn Clark finds a way to get his, especially attacking the offensive glass and usually shows strong decision making abilities and versatile 6'4" Karim Sy-Morissette can play anywhere from the point to the big forward spots.  6'5" fifth-year forward Michael White appears to be poised to complete his fifth and final season in fine fashion as McGill's only upperclassmen on the current roster.  Redmen hope to have 6'7" Nick Langley back from a back injury soon having welcomed back 6'4" Kyle Bernard recently, although Bernard continues to play his way back into shape and thus the rotation.  This is group in which player's roles are clearly defined and accepted, especially defensively as McGill gives up under 70 ppg and holds teams to 40% shooting.  Redmen will be tested in their next 2 games:  back-to-back home-and-home with first place Laval Rouge et Or... Going in the other direction currently are the Concordia Stingers, losers of 3 of their past 5 games and currently without 6'3" Evens Laroche, who reinjured his ankle in Friday's loss to McGill.  The Stingers strong start to the season was aided by some strong perimeter shooting which appears to have deserted them during the past 5 games, when they have shot just 25% from beyond the arc; throw out a 9 for 20 effort in their most recent win over Bishop's and the Stingers shoot just 19% from beyond the arc during this recent cold streak.  Concordia visits Lennoxville on Thursday night for a date with the winless Bishop's Gaiters... Not much has changed in Canada West over the past few weeks as the contenders, playoff teams and non-playoff teams are basically categorized with the exception of the final playoff spot which could come down to the last weekend.  Both Alberta Golden Bears and Victoria Vikes are starting to gain the consistency of teams in the mix for a CW Final Four appearance.  Expect these two improving groups to meet in the first round of the playoffs.  Top 3 teams UBC, Trinity Western and Saskatchewan continue to dominate lesser opposition with this weekend's Spartans vs. Huskies matchups in Langley providing an early indicator of how the upper elite stack up out west.  Regina's pair of wins in Winnipeg solidify their hold on a playoff spot.  Manitoba has slumped recently and will battle Fraser Valley and Calgary for the final two spots in the first round of the CW playoffs.  Lethbridge, Brandon, Winnipeg and Thompson Rivers will need miracles to qualify.

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