OUA playoffs first test for top-ranked Rams basketball

The pressure is on for Ryerson’s basketball teams. Both clubs were absolutely dominant during the regular season. The men’s team is the best in the nation; the women are fifth. But regular season rankings mean nothing once the playoffs begin. With the OUA quarter-finals just around the corner, here’s a recap of each team, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past four months.

Men’s strengths: Where to start? How about the three-pointer? The Rams are one of the deadliest shooting teams in the country and rely heavily on the long ball. They take the most threes in the entire OUA and shoot the third best percentage, at 36.2 per cent. Almost every player on the team is a threat from distance and the Rams have eight players who take more than two three-pointers a game.

The Rams also have one of the deepest rosters in the country. Ryerson bench players Ammanuel Diressa and J.V. Mukama would start on virtually any other CIS team. Ryerson’s depth allows them to unleash a full-court press straight out of an opposing coach’s nightmares. The Rams usually deploy their press at the start of the third quarter and turn a close game into a blowout in a matter of minutes.

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The Rams huddle around coach Patrick Tatham during a timeout. (Pam Johnston/Ryersonian Staff)

Weaknesses: Live by the three, die by the three. Those critical of the Rams say they over rely on the three-pointer. If the long ball stops falling, Ryerson’s offence may be toast.

X-Factor: Ammanuel Diressa. The Tennessee Tech transfer has been dynamite off the bench for the Rams so far this season. When Diressa plays well, Ryerson is unbeatable. However, his shot selection can sometimes make Ryerson coach Patrick Tatham want to pull his hair out. It’s not uncommon to see Diressa pull up for a 25-foot three on a three-on-one fast break. Most of the time, he makes them. But in games against better opponents, those missed shots could come back to haunt the Rams.

Biggest obstacle: The Ottawa Gee-Gees. The Rams squeaked out a win against the Gee-Gees earlier this year but Ottawa was without their best player, Caleb Agada. Ottawa plays the Rams as close as anyone and their next game will be a toss-up.

Women’s strengths: Offence. Offence, offence, offence. Ryerson’s women’s team can flat out score. The Rams have the leading scorer in the OUA, Keneca Pingue-Giles, and three other players who average more than 13 points per game. The lone starter who doesn’t average double-figure points, point guard Cara Tiemens, is a lethal long-range shooter. There are maybe two or three teams in the entire country who can shut Ryerson down … and the Rams know it.

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Sofia Paska spins around a defender. (Courtesy: Alex D’Adesse, Ryerson Athletics)

Weaknesses: The other side of the ball. The Rams are prone to stretches where they fall asleep defensively. Usually their offence bails them out, but against better teams Ryerson will need to buckle down defensively. That’s not to say Ryerson has bad defenders but they too often take their foot off the gas pedal once they jump out to an early lead.

X-Factor: Sofia Paska. The second-year centre has a chance to be one of the best players in the country, if she isn’t one already. Paska is flat-out unguardable. She can post-up, shoot, and is a terror on the offensive glass. If she catches fire, Ryerson will be very tough to beat.

Biggest obstacle: The Saskatchewan Huskies. Ryerson is the best team in the OUA and their biggest threat will come from the national stage. The Huskies beat the Rams comfortably earlier this season during a pre-season tournament. Saskatchewan is the best team in the country and do everything the Rams do, except better. They have a centre, Dalyce Emmerson, who can match up with Paska and a guard, Laura Dally, who is one of the best shooters in the country. It will take a perfect game from the Rams to upset them.

This article was published in the print edition of The Ryersonian on Feb. 24, 2015.

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