Mar 12, 2015
By Donnovan Bennett – Sportsnet TV Personality
Follow Donnovan on Twitter: @donnovanbennett
As the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Final 8 commences in Toronto for the first time ever, a new, unique crowd will be consuming CIS men’s basketball for the first time. With that in mind I’ve put together a basic reference guide for interested observers and hoops lovers alike to keep handy while either cheering from the stands, watching on TV or engaging on social media. Remember to use the hashtags #SNU and #ChampWKND, and tweet, Instagram and Facebook your Final 8 experiences.
1. CARLETON RAVENS (OUA champions: 17-2 regular season / 3-0 playoffs)
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Victor Raso
The transfer from McMaster would be a bonafide star on most other teams but he’s adjusted his game immensely to fit in with the Ravens. Specifically on offence as his usage rate is much lower since Phil Scrubb handles the ball and is the center point of the attack. Raso has made himself a reliable catch-and shoot-player on the perimeter, which helps the Ravens’ spacing and leaves defences no good option to defend Scrubb in a pick-and-roll with his brother Thomas or Connor Wood. Raso embodies the fact he’s a coach’s son on defence with great attention to detail and body positioning. On the court, he embodies his current coach Dave Smart as his exasperation to his teammate’s smallest mistakes keeps the team in check and has made him a leader even though Carleton was dominant far before he stepped on campus.
2. WINDSOR LANCERS (OUA finalists: 15-5 regular season / 3-1 playoffs)
Best win: 85-80 vs. Ottawa
Worst loss: 89-84 to York
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Mitch Farrell
Farrell plays the game with a fiery edge. He’s just as likely to draw a technical as he is to get one himself. His shot selection is questionable at best but that confidence manifests itself in also not being shy to step up and take a big shot when the game is on the line. Most importantly, he competes to the final whistle, which is ever more impressive considering he is called on by Coach Oliver to play big minutes against top competition. If my team is competing on the national stage, I’d want Mitch Farrell in my huddle just as much as I’d want to watch him as a viewer.
3. OTTAWA GEE-GEES (OUA bronze medallists: 18-1 regular season / 2-1 playoffs)
Best win: 68-66 vs. Carleton
Worst loss: 85-80 to Windsor
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Caleb Agada
Caleb Agada is a Tasmanian Devil in high tops. On the break, he teeters on the brink of unstoppable force and run away object. Like Russell Westbrook, he drives and seems like he might be going too fast for his own body but then somehow finds a way to finish at the rim. His aggression is best channeled defensively as his long wing span and agility makes him a velociraptor on D. While Johnny Berhanemeskel’s heat-check baskets will bring the Mattamy crowd to its feet, Agada’s hustle and effort brings the Gee-Gees’ bench to theirs and gives the entire team energy.
4. VICTORIA VIKES (CWUAA champions: 15-5 regular season / 4-0 playoffs)
Best win: 81-67 vs. Alberta
Worst loss: 95-70 to Saskatchewan
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Marcus Tibbs
Marcus Tibbs can get to wherever he wants on the floor, whenever he wants. He’s a mixture of other great guards playing in the tournament as he does a great job of getting his teammates a shot, like Mike L’Africain for Ottawa, but also can get his own shot when needed, like Jahmal Jones of Ryerson. This is why he’s liable to go for 20 and 10 on any night and take over a game. With some of the country’s biggest teams in the field, it will be interesting to see if he is as effective when guarded by an opposing perimeter defender with length.
5. DALHOUSIE TIGERS (AUS champions: 10-10 regular season / 3-0 playoffs)
Best win: 88-78 vs. Saint Mary’s
Worst loss: 91-64 to Cape Breton
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Ritchie Kanza Mata
Ritchie Kanza Mata might be more exciting to watch defend than he is playing offence. The Tigers captain does a great job of keeping his opponent in front of him as to not compromise the defence behind him. However, he goes beyond that with active hands waiting to pounce on a high dribble if you leave a sliver of that orange Wilson ball unprotected. The AUS defensive MVP is just as often off to the races offensively when he uses that same opportunistic nature to turn long rebounds in to fast break points.
6. BISHOP’S GAITERS (RSEQ champions: 8-8 regular season / 2-0 playoffs)
Best win: 68-63 vs. McGill
Worst loss: 71-64 to UQAM
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Jamil Abiad
Abiad might have the quickest release in the tournament. If his shoulders are square and his feet are set, it’s going in. Part of the reason he gets his shots off so quick is because he doesn’t give a second thought about firing from deep, irrespective of where the defender is or where behind the 3-point line he is for that matter. Abiad’s most important quicks are before he gets the basketball. The sharp-shooting guard uses his track and field background to his benefit as he is constantly running off screens all over the court to catch and shoot Bishop’s into contests. The most likely person to run off a stagger screen and hit an NBA-depth dagger 3 to get everyone in the building’s attention is Abiad. Be sure however to watch all the running he does off the ball, that’s just as worthy of appreciation and just as tiring to guard.
7. RYERSON RAMS (OUA 4th-place finishers: 17-2 regular season / 1-2 playoffs)
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Kadeem Green
The Rams get their toughness from the big man with the soft touch. A willing passer out of and into the post, but don’t take his kindness for weakness. Green has the dexterity to finish at awkward angles around the rim but will lay a body on you when setting a hard screen or fighting through one. His stat line at the end of any game may not jump out at you but you better believe his presence is felt. Simply put, Green affects winning. Fans of the Rams, get to know who he is while watching this weekend because opposing coaches sure know all about him.
8. SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES (CWUAA finalists: 15-5 regular season / 3-2 playoffs)
Best win: 94-73 vs. Calgary
Worst loss: 84-67 to Winnipeg
Player you don’t know that you need to know: Dadrian Collins
Dadrian Collins is where basketball at all levels is going. More and more athletes like him are starting to be represented in the CIS game the way they are internationally and in the NBA. He’s got great size-to-skill ratio and a high basketball IQ. What that does is give him the ability to fulfill multiple roles. The Huskies can play small and have him on the floor as a stretch 4 because he can guard a big on the other end. Similarly, the team doesn’t have to alter its coverages to protect him on defence as he can switch off and guard crafty perimeter players. You don’t need the coaches’ tape to notice Collins showing on guards in the pick-and-roll or ducking down and helping on a big when his center leaves his man on help defence. Just as valuable is his flexibility to pick and pop and shoot it with the same ability to roll to the basket, catch a pocket pass and finish strong among the trees. Watch Collins play 3 games or 3 possessions this weekend and he may show you something different every time.