Think of the OUA playoffs this season as a 12 team tournament with the first 8 teams meeting on Wednesday in sudden-death affairs. Survivors will go on the road for what amounts to OUA quarter-final action on Saturday at the home gyms of the four teams with byes. A week from Friday, the OUA will host their Final Four event in Hamilton at McMaster. Here's a look at the first-round games:
Guelph at Laurier The Golden Hawks limp into the playoffs, having lost 4 of their last 5 games as the injury bug creeped in. 6'7" Patrick Donnelly took a blow to the head a couple of weeks ago and has missed the past 2 games while 5'11" Travis Berry has also battled injuries. Laurier's strength is up front so expect them to try to pound the ball inside with 6'6" Matt Buckley, hoping to draw doubles and free up 6'5" Kale Harrison and 6'6" Maxwell Allin among others. 6'2" freshman Jamar Forde is firmly in Laurier's rotation, providing quickness and athleticism, allowing Coach Peter Campbell more flexibility at the defensive end. Guelph has battled well-known injury problems all season and just when Coach Chris O'Rourke thought he had his full team back, 6'5" Jerald Greenidge suffered a concussion a couple of games back and is not likely to play tonight. But the Gryphs still have at least three strong alternatives offensively with 6'2" Danny McCarthy, 5'11" Mike Petrella - both have had breakout offensive seasons - and 6'4" Jonathan Moscatelli, who should see time at the four spot when the Gryphs decide to go small which they did with some success the last time these teams met in Guelph - an important come-from-behind win by the Gryphs which helped propel them to the playoffs. 6'0" Kareem Malcolm's return to at/near top form will also be important. Expect a contrast in styles with the larger, strong Hawks trying to run, get inside and attack the glass and the scrappy Gryphs doubling down and rotating out using quickness and speed. A Laurier win and the Hawks travel to Windsor on Saturday while a Gryphon win which would be considered an upset and Guelph travels to Thunder Bay to meet Lakehead on Saturday.
Western at McMaster 7 PM Mac swept the season series, winning by 15 in London in early January and then 14 at home in February. 6'5" Andrew Wedemire came alive late in the season and when he is right is very difficult to contain one-on-one from 12 feet and in. Wedemire had 19 and 9 in the last game vs. Mac and had 24/15 vs. Lakehead over the weekend also. Assuming the Marauders choose to take the ball out of Wedemire's hands, the ability of Western's perimeter shooters including 5'10" Ryan Barbeau, 6'2" Marcus Barnett and 6'5" freshman Quinn Henderson to knock shots down is key. Barbeau did not score in 31 minutes in the last meeting between the two teams. The Marauders have shown a propensity to give up big leads and not close games out, likely a symptom of a young team learning to play when it counts. 6'1" Kenan Etale has exploded over the past month, culminating in his career-high 35 point effort at Windsor when Marauders blew a 16 point fourth quarter lead to lose. 6'3" Victor Raso provides the glue - Raso was on the bench fouled out when Waterloo staged their unlikely comeback on Saturday. Both teams have had rotation players out with injuries with Mac possibly getting 6'8" Taylor Black ready for Wednesday while no word on whether the 'Stangs will have either 6'7" Adam Jespersen and/or 6'6" Garrett Olexiuk back in the lineup.
York at Ryerson These teams had a pair of classics during the regular season as each won by 1 point in each other's gym. However, the Lions had 6'10" Dejan Kravic in the lineup for both games and he unfortunately is lost for the season with an ankle injury. Ryerson's 6'3" Ryan McNeilly has played like a fifth-year senior down the stretch, singlehandidly lifting the Rams to their regular-season finale victory at Toronto last weekend with 7 3's. Ryerson has two of the top freshmen in Canada in 6'1" Jahmal Jones and 6'3" Jordan Gauthier and Jones may be the key in this game with his ability to get into the paint and create or finish. The re-entry into the rotation of 6'8" Bjorn Michaelsen gives Rye Coach Roy Rana some size and muscle to deal with York's 6'10" fifth-year center Stefan Haynes. But expect this game to be primarily guard/perimeter oriented with the Jones vs. 5'11" David Tyndale matchup going a long way in deciding who will advance to the next round.
Laurentian at Ottawa Voyageurs lost 10 of their final 11 OUA East regular season games including a match in Ottawa that they had every chance to win but could not close out late. Laurentian's potentially explosive pair of guards Isaiah and Manny Pasquale, have the potential in a one game sudden death affair to shoot the Vees to victory. 6'7" Mike Hull survived some mid-season injuries to finish reasonably strong. The Gee-Gees have several offensive weapons led by 6'6" Warren Ward and 6'2" freshman Johnny Berhanemeskel on the perimeter and fiery 6'9" post Louis Gauthier inside. But when the Gee-Gees are right, their team "d" is crisp and aggressive - their defense and rebounding helped keep them in the game against Carleton last weekend until late in the third quarter. A Gee-Gees win and they will travel to Toronto on Saturday to face U of T Varsity Blues while if Laurentian can pull off what would be a large upset, the Vees will face Carleton Ravens on Saturday.