Saturday, 24 December 2011

Steadily improving Redmen remain solid Q playoff contenders

As Head Coach Dave DeAveiro entered his second season at the helm of the Redmen, optimism was growing after a pair of wins over NCAA D1 teams in the late summer, confirming that a high quality roster capable of returning the Redmen to the Nationals for the first time since a Final 8 appearance in 1986 (Mid-East regional finals; 1978-79 was McGill's last true appearance at a Nationals Final 8 tournament) was reasonable. Early summer indications had Quebec league All star Olivier Bouchard and freshman sensation Simon Bibeau returning plus NCAA Division 1 Stetson transfer Shawn Bowen eligible after sitting out last season but practicing with the team. However, Bouchard decided to focus on a growing academic load, Bowen admirably bowed out to focus on his new role as a father and Bibeau, nicely assuming main decision-making duties full time after a summer of hard work, blew out his knee on an innocent play during an early October practice, forcing DeAveiro to reassess and redefine his group for the rest of the season.

The results have been promising with McGill at 3-2 in league play and one of the top defensive teams in the conference and country. DeAveiro handed the point guard reigns over to another promising sophomore 6'4" Karin Sy-Morrisette (13.8 ppg/5.8 rpg/34.4 mpg), who has been tremendous in Redmen victories, most notably with his 30 point effort vs UQAM and a strong effort in the win vs. Laval. Further consistency from game to game would put the athletic guard on the path to a league All-star selection and put DeAveiro in an enviable position of having two high-quality, decision-making guards when Bibeau returns from injury next season.

6'5" freshman Vincent Dufort (10.8 ppg/4.8 rpg/30.2 mpg) has been as good as advertised, knocking shots down and making decisions as a point forward. Dufort is learning to make plays at higher speeds, especially in transition and extend his skill set with the ball. 6'7" Tristain Tremblay (10.4 ppg/5.0 rpg/24.8) continues to grow as an offensive force in the low post but can struggle with certain defensive matchups which usually portends foul trouble, limiting his minutes. As he is able to start to draw double teams, the perimeter should open up for spot up shooters: presently McGill shoots only 29% from downtown as a team, illuminating the main issue plaguing the Redmen in big games: an inability to consistently score the basketball.

Steady Winn Clarke (8.6 ppg/3.0 rpg/28.2 mpg) is limited offensively, although Clark can knock down open 3's but extremely intelligent especially defensively and making decisions. D1 transfer Aleks Metrovic (3.8 ppg in 15.6 mpg) is playing his way back into shape after struggling through injury in late summer early fall. Another very promising freshman 6'5" Te'Jour Riley (3.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg in 12.8 mpg), a native of Bermuda, brings quickness and athleticism while veteran 6'6" Nic Langley (7.4 ppg in 16.2 mpg) has expanded his game beyond being a spot up 3 point specialist but remains one of McGill's better perimeter threats.

Expect 6'8" freshman Nick Yantzi and 6'6" sophomore Cody Mazza-Anthony to battle for time up front with both bringing complementary skill sets. Steady veteran 6'4" Nicolas Nishikawa brings strong game understanding, especially at the defensive end.

At 3-2, Redmen remain in the thick of the race to host a home playoff match and should be in every game given their ability to defend as a group. How consistently their posts are able to occupy multiple defenders and how well they shoot it will dictate whether or not McGill can challenge RSEQ favorite Concordia for a nationals berth.

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