Top-seeded Ravens look for record-setting ninth title

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March 5, 2013, Ottawa (CIS) – Another year, another dominating season for Carleton University’s men’s basketball team. Pre-tournament favourites for the sixth time in seven years.

The Ravens find themselves in a familiar position as they look to three-peat as national champions and hope to become the first program in history to claim a ninth W.P. McGee Trophy overall.

Championship website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/championships/mbkb/index

The CIS Final Eight, hosted by Carleton, gets underway Friday at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa and culminates Sunday at 3:30 p.m. with the gold-medal final, live on The Score Television Network.

The Score also has live coverage of Saturday’s semifinals starting at 5:30 p.m.

All 11 games from the single-elimination competition (televised or non-televised) will also be webcast live at www.CIS-SIC.tv, while Rogers TV Ottawa will broadcast Friday’s fourth quarter-final locally at 8 p.m.

Joining the 2012-13 OUA champion Ravens in the nation’s capital will be the No. 2 Cape Breton Capers (AUS champions), No. 3 Ottawa Gee-Gees (OUA finalists), No. 4 UBC Thunderbirds (CWUAA champions), No. 5 Acadia Axemen (AUS finalists & wilcard), No. 6 McGill Redmen (RSEQ champions), No. 7 Lakehead Thunderwolves (OUA bronze medallists ) and No. 8 Victoria Vikes (CWUAA finalists).

Carleton opens its defence of the McGee Trophy Friday at 8 p.m. against Victoria. The other first-round match-ups include Cape Breton vs. Lakehead in the opener at noon, Ottawa vs. McGill at 2:15 p.m., as well as UBC vs. Acadia at 6 p.m.

The tournament host Ravens were a logical choice for the No. 1 seed following another superb season that saw them finish atop the OUA East standings with a 19-1 record, add three playoff wins en route to the Wilson Cup title, and compile an overall mark of 25-1 against CIS schools, including a convincing 87-63 non-conference victory over first-round opponent Victoria back on October 20 at UVic’s Invitational.

Leading the way once again this season for the defending champs is Philip Scrubb, who was named CIS player of the year and national championship MVP a year ago. The junior guard from Richmond, B.C., finished sixth in OUA scoring in league play with a team-high 18.6 points per game and is again the conference nominee for the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy.

Older brother Thomas, a third-year forward, claimed defensive-MVP honours in the OUA East, while senior forward Tyson Hinz from Ottawa, himself a former CIS player of the year, was voted a first-team OUA all-star for the third straight campaign.

The dynamic trio was a major reason why the Ravens were the top scoring (91.0 points per game) and number one defensive team (61.6) in the country in the regular season.

“We are happy with how the team has performed considering the loss of talent and leadership that we had entering this season,” said five-time CIS coach of the year Dave Smart, who saw seniors Willy Manigat, Cole Hobin and Elliot Thompson graduate following last year’s triumph in Halifax. ” We need to maintain that level to be successful this weekend.”

The Ravens’ road to the final won’t be an easy one on the bottom side of the draw with Victoria, and then potentially UBC or Acadia, standing in their way.

While the Vikes are seeded eighth for the national competition, they had an outstanding second half of the season on their way to the Canada West silver medal, winning nine of their last 10 league contests, including the last two against archrival UBC (91-86, 74-71). After racking up three more wins to open the playoffs, Victoria once again gave the Thunderbirds all they could handle in the Canada West final before dropping a 72-69 decision.

UVic is the school that is currently tied with Carleton for most W.P. Trophy titles. The Vikes, however, have been stuck at eight since 1997. They came close to adding to their tally in their last appearance, in 2006, but lost 73-67 to the Ravens in the championship match.

“We are happy to still be playing at this time of the year. Qualifying was one of the goals we had at the beginning of the year and now we have accomplished that goal,” said Craig Beaucamp, the Canada West coach of the year. “We knew to win a national championship this year we were probably going to have to face Carleton along the way. To be honest, we think that our best chance to beat Carleton is in the first game rather than the third game. With their depth and experience, they will just get better throughout the tournament.

“UBC is the conference champion and if they plan to move ahead, they might get Carleton in the second game, so I am actually happy we get the Ravens in the first round. It gives us a chance to prepare during the week as opposed to the short turnaround time. I honestly believe Carleton gets better each game, as these tournaments wear on.”

UBC and Acadia will meet in the opening round of the Final Eight for the second time in three years. In 2011, the T-Birds cruised to a 96-77 victory.

If one team is battle tested going into this week’s tourney, it’s UBC. After dropping a pair of close decisions to Victoria to close out league play, the T-Birds went the distance against Alberta in their best-of-three Canada West quarter-final series, then overcame a 13-point deficit to down Fraser Valley in the semis, before escaping with a three-point win over UVic in the title game.

Before missing last year’s nationals, UBC had made six straight appearances, including back-to-back trips to the final in 2009 and 2010.

“We are very excited about having the opportunity to play in the Final Eight once again,” said 13-year bench boss Kevin Hanson, whose troops were the only team to dethrone Carleton atop the national rankings this year, for one week back in November. “Our games over the past few weeks have been real battles so we are well prepared for what will take place this week. We are looking forward to the challenge.”

Acadia was a favourite to repeat as AUS champion before the start of the campaign with the entire 2011-12 roster returning this year. But the Axemen had to survive an injury-plagued season that saw all-Canadian forward Owen Klassen, AUS all-star guard Anthony Sears and sophomore post Rhys Larry being sidelined at one point or another.

Acadia handed Cape Breton its only loss of the regular season on February 16, a lopsided 73-49 decision, but the Capers had the last laugh in the AUS final, winning 83-75.

“When the season began we had one goal, a common goal for many teams, to win a CIS title,” said fifth-year head coach Stephen Baur. “There have been numerous hurdles for us this season that we think has us battled tested for the big stage.”

The other side of the bracket features four teams looking for their first-ever McGee Trophy championship in Cape Breton, Ottawa, McGill and Lakehead. Of the group, only Lakehead has reached the CIS final in the past, way back in 1977 and 1973.

First-year head coach Matt Skinn, who until last year was at the helm of StFX’s women’s program, had an immediate impact on the Capers, who return to the Final Eight after a two-year absence. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when a new coach can count on an athlete as gifted as fifth-year guard Jimmy Dorsey, who recently repeated as AUS MVP after averaging 20.8 points a game in league play, which makes him the top scorer at this week’s tourney.

Cape Breton’s opponent for Friday’s quarter-finals, the Thunderwolves, hope the fourth time will be a charm as they were eliminated in the opening round each of the past three years. For Lakehead to finally get back to the CIS semis, the nation’s sixth-ranked defence, led by two-time OUA defensive MVP Greg Carter, will have to be at their best against Dorsey and the country’s number three offence.

“Lakehead is an extremely quick team that has a lot of veteran experience and are led by a terrific coach in Scott Morrison,” said Skinn. “Their group has multiple trips to nationals under their belts and we will have to be at our best to beat them in Ottawa.”

“I am excited for our graduating seniors to get the opportunity to go for number one – a fitting way to end their careers at Lakehead. Especially since our first appearance on the national stage occurred in this building back in 2010,” said Morrison. “At that time we were a bunch of wide-eyed kids. This weekend we need to be men if we want to advance for the first time to round two. Cape Breton is a formidable team with excellent coaching and one of this era’s top players in Jimmy Dorsey. We will be underdogs for sure but I know our guys will come out fighting to extend their season one more time.”

The Ottawa-McGill match-up offers one of the best storylines of the 2013 championship as Redmen sideline boss Dave DeAveiro returns to the nation’s capital to face a team he dedicated 19 years of his life to as a player (5), assistant (5) and head coach (9).

Three years after DeAveiro’s departure for Montreal, it looks as though both programs are in great hands. The Redmen are about to make their first appearance at nationals after a 33-year hiatus (1979), while his successor James Derouin guided the Gee-Gees to their first OUA final in 20 seasons last weekend.

The teams met in Montreal in non-conference action back on October 21 with the RSEQ champions prevailing 85-64. McGill’s second-ranked defence (62.9 ppg) will need another solid effort on Friday against the likes of Johnny Berhanemeskel (18.9) and Warren Ward (17.8), the second and fourth best scorers at this week’s competition.

“Every single player on this team can see the opportunity that they have in front of them but with Warren being in his last season, there is that extra sense of urgency to win now. He has been such a tremendous asset to this program,” said Derouin. “Being able to execute game plans and re-focus on the task at hand in very little time is the biggest challenge at the national championship because you have to play three games in three days. However, it gets even more difficult because you could be playing teams that you have not played all season. That is when the true mental strength of a team becomes evident.”

“We’re going to be in tough against some good teams but our kids have been very resilient all season long and this will just be another test for them,” said DeAveiro. “It’s a very tough match-up in our first round against Ottawa. They are playing some very good basketball of late, challenging Carleton in their last three meetings, so we’re probably playing the hottest team in the country in the first round. And with the tournament being in their own backyard, they will definitely have a home-court advantage.”

Despite three defeats in as many head-to-head meetings with top-seeded Carleton this season, the Gee-Gees gave the Ravens all they could handle in each contest, losing by five and four points in league play, including a memorable triple-overtime affair, and by three in last Saturday’s OUA final.

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