#7 RYERSON RAMS
The Team: Ryerson will be making its first CIS final eight appearance since the 2011-2012 season. Ryerson spent much of the season ranked third in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), finishing with a 17-2 regular season record. The Rams suffered back-to-back losses to rivals Ottawa and Carleton in late November, but rebounded with 11 straight wins to close the regular season. The CIS tournament hosts easily dispatched of Laurier in the Ontario University Sport (OUA) quarterfinals before falling once again to Carleton and Ottawa, finishing fourth in the OUA’s.
The Coach: Roy Rana is in his sixth season as the Rams head coach, amassing a regular season record of 82-45 at Ryerson, but is just 7-9 in the playoffs. The Rams head coach also has extensive international coaching experience guiding Canada’s junior men’s national team to a silver medal at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) America’s Under 18 Championships in 2014 as well as a bronze medal in 2012. Rana was also featured as a guest coach for the NBA’s Utah Jazz during summer league basketball this past year.
Players to watch:
Jahmal Jones: Jones is Ryerson’s second all-time leading scorer and is in his fifth and final year with the program. The Mississauga-native is one of the premier point guards in the country and leads the Rams in points per game (17.2), assists per game (5.4) and steals per game (1.7). As one of two fifth-year players, Jones is a team leader who is responsible for setting the tone both offensively and defensively for the Rams. The Rams play a fast-paced game and Jones is one of the quickest players in the CIS, so the point guard’s performance is crucial to the team’s success.
Aaron Best: Best is the other half of one of the CIS’s best backcourt duos and is second in team scoring with 14.6 points per game. The Scarborough-native is in his fourth season with the Rams and won Ryerson’s male athlete of the year for the 2012-2013 season. Best is a dangerous shooter who can stretch the floor and presents matchup problems for opponents due to his athleticism on the wing. Best shoots 45.6 per cent from three-point range, tops on the Rams. Best’s performance will be instrumental to the success of a Rams’ team that relies heavily on the three ball.
#3 Ottawa Gee-Gees
The Team: The Gee-Gees were last season’s national runner-up to rival Carleton. Ottawa finished ranked second in the CIS and boasts an 18-1 regular season record, with their lone loss coming to Carleton. The Gee-Gees finished third in the Wilson Cup, falling to Windsor in the semi-final before beating Ryerson for bronze. Ottawa boasts the CIS’s top offence averaging 94.5 points per game and are led by the country’s third leading-scorer Johnny Berhanemeskel.
The Coach: James Derouin leads the University of Ottawa as head coach. Derouin is a former captain of the Gee-Gees basketball team and holds a 77-28 career regular season record. He has coached the team since 2010 and is the fastest Gee-Gees coach ever to record 50 career wins. Derouin, like Rana, has improved his team tremendously from the start of his tenure. After an 11-11 record in his first season as their coach, the Ottawa-native has guided his alma mater to a combined record of 38-3 over the last two seasons, as well as a position as one of the tournament favorites along with Carleton.
Players to Watch:
Johnny Berhanemeskel: The Gee-Gees are led by high-scoring fifth-year player Berhanemeskel. The Ottawa-native is the team’s all-time leading scorer and was a CIS second team All-Canadian last season. Berhanemeskel is third in the CIS and tops in the OUA with 23.2 points per game. Berhanemeskel is a guard with elite shooting ability combined with the skills to get to the rim and finish in tight spaces.
Caleb Agada: Agada is in his third season with Ottawa and second as a starter. The Burlington, Ontario native is a prototypical wing player who can both get to the basket and shoot from the outside. Agada is second on the Gee-Gees in scoring with 15.8 points per game to go along with a team-high 7.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Agada plays an aggressive style, which typically benefits the Gee-Gees, but also causes him to lead the team in both turnovers and personal fouls.
#1 Carleton Ravens
The Team: The Ravens travel to Toronto looking to win their fifth straight CIS championship and 11th in the last 13 years. Carleton is the top ranked team in the CIS and finished the regular season with a 17-2 record, with losses on the road to Ottawa and Windsor by a combined five points. Carleton won The OUA championship this past weekend by defeating Ryerson in the semi-final and Windsor in the final. The Ravens are also the CIS’s second highest scoring offence and best three-point shooting team.
The Coach: The Ravens are led by Dave Smart, the undisputed top coach in the CIS. Smart has been the Carleton head coach since the 1999-2000 season. During his time as coach the Ravens have won 92 per cent of their games. Smart has won the CIS coach of the year award six times and has guided the Ravens to a record-breaking nine CIS championships, including five straight titles from 2003-2007. Carleton’s head man is also an assistant coach for the Canadian men’s basketball national team.
Players to watch:
Philip Scrubb: One half of the dominant Scrubb brothers, Philip is one of the best players in the CIS. The younger Scrubb has won the CIS player of the year award for the past three seasons and won the CIS rookie of the year in his debut campaign. The fifth-year guard is second in team scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game and is one of the country’s best free throw shooters, shooting 90 per cent from the line.
Thomas Scrubb: Brother Thomas is a six-foot-six forward, who has established himself as one of the best post scorers in the CIS. He averages a team-high 17.2 points per game and can both knock down the three point shot and score in the paint. The elder Thomas is also the Ravens top rebounder, bringing down 7.6 boards per game. The Scrubb brothers also possess tremendous chemistry, as the two routinely set each other up for easy baskets.
#4 Victoria Vikes
The Team: The Victoria Vikes come into the CIS final eight as champions of the Canada West conference. The best in the west come into the tournament with a record of 15-5 and are currently on a six-game winning streak.
The Coach: Craig Beaucamp is in his 12th season at the helm of the Victoria program and has compiled a record of 183-72 over that time. Beaucamp has led the Vikes to the national championship in each of the last three seasons, finishing fourth in 2014. Beaucamp has won Canada West’s coach of the year award for the past three seasons and a total of five times in his career.
Players to Watch:
Chris McLaughlin: The Vikes are highlighted by one of the CIS’s best big men in McLaughlin. The Oakville, Ontario native leads his team scoring 19.8 points per game to go along with 10 rebounds per game, averaging a double-double. McLaughlin is second in the Canada West in points per game this season and was named a conference all-star.
Marcus Tibbs: The Seattle native is second on the team in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per game to go along with a team-high 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Tibbs is a quick guard who can penetrate and create open looks for his teammates. The fourth-year player rarely makes mistakes that hurt his team.
#5 DALHOUSIE TIGERS
The Team: The Tigers enter the CIS final eight as champions of Atlantic University Sport conference. Dalhousie were inconsistent this season, finishing with a mediocre 10-10 regular season record, but they play an aggressive style (average 9.8 steals per game) that could lend to an early round upset.
The Coach: The Tigers are coached by Rick Plato. Plato has an extensive coaching career with Mount Saint Vincent University and played basketball at Saint Mary’s University where he is a member of the school’s sports hall of fame. Plato has helped the Tigers rebound from a 6-14 record last season.
Players to Watch:
Kashrell Lawrence: The Tigers most dangerous player is third-year forward Lawrence. The Brampton, Ontario native led Dalhousie in scoring this season with 18.1 points per game to go along with 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals a night. Lawrence does his work in the paint on both ends of the court and won’t often venture to the perimeter.
Jarred Reid: The second half of Dalhousie’s one-two punch is Reid. The guard is second in team scoring with 13.6 points per game and is the Tigers most prolific outside shooter. The Aurora, Ontario native is in his third-year with the program and shoots a solid 80 per cent from the free throw line.
#2 WINDSOR LANCERS
The Team: The Lancers come into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the CIS. Windsor is the only team in the country with wins over Carleton and Ottawa this season and finished as runner-up to the Ravens in the OUA playoffs. The Lancers had a 15-5 regular season record with an impressive 9-1 mark on the road.
The Coach: Windsor are led by tenth-year head coach Chris Oliver. Oliver has compiled a record of 171-67 during his tenure and has won three OUA coach of the year awards. The Kitchener, Ontario native has built the Lancers into consistent contenders in the OUA and CIS.
Players to Watch:
Rotimi Osuntola: Fourth-year guard Osuntola is the catalyst for the Lancers. The Windsor-native leads the Lancers with 20.2 points per game and is excellent at getting to the basket. He is also a top-notch defender, matching up with the opponent’s top players. Osuntola does it all for Windsor, averaging an impressive 11.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
Evan Matthews: Fifth-year forward Matthews provides the Lancers with a solid interior presence, averaging 10.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for Windsor. Matthews is a solid low post scorer and understands his skill set, very rarely shooting from long range.
#8 SASKATCHEWAN HUSKIES
The Team: The Huskies come into the tournament as the runner-ups from the Canada West conference. Saskatchewan battled to a 15-5 regular season record and come into the tournament on a roll, winning 11 of their last 12 regular season games while scoring over 90 points five times.
The Coach: Barry Rawlyk is in his fifth season in charge of the Huskies program. Rawlyk has led the Huskies to two appearances in the CIS final eight, finishing fourth in 2011 and fifth last season.
Players to Watch:
Dadrian Collins: Collins, a former NCAA player at Howard University, is in his second and final year of eligibility with the Huskies. Collins averages a team-high 15.2 points per game and is a very good three point shooter, shooting 45.5 per cent from beyond the arc.
Matthew Forbes: Fourth-year forward Matthew Forbes is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.4 points to go along with seven rebounds per game. The Regina Beach, Saskatchewan-native is a physical presence inside for the Huskies which makes him a factor on both ends of the floor.
#6 Bishop’s Gaiters
The Team: After an up-and-down regular season, the Gaiters (8-8) punched their ticket to the CIS Final 8 by defeating McGill University 68-63 in the RSEQ championship game. The Gaiters will need to improve on their 38.8 per cent shooting from the floor and a very poor 27.9 three-point percentage to compete with the tournament’s top seeds.
The Coach: Rod Gilpin is in his 7th season as head coach of the Gaiters. Gilpin’s Gaiters finished 0-5 vs. CIS Final 8 teams this season.
Players to Watch:
Kyle Desmarais: The Gaiters are guided by fifth-year guard Desmarais, who led the team with 14.4 points per game, three assists and 2.6 steals per contest. Desmarais is turnover prone (3.1 per game), which limits the success of the Gaiters offence.
Mike Andrews: The fifth-year centre is the team’s second leading scorer with 11.6 points per game and has the best shooting percentage on the team at 45.8 per cent. Andrews also averages 5.5 rebounds per game but tends to get in foul trouble, which can limit his playing time.