The Can Ball Report's CIS Preview

The University of Saskatchewan Hukies were last season's surprise champs making an exciting run but who will be this year's Cinderella, or Goliath for that matter? (Photo: U of Saskatchewan athletics)

With the NBA season only hours away signalling the official start of the basketball year for most of North America, The Can Ball Report take a look at the Canadian university basketball landscape today.  We have enlisted the help of two very knowledgable correspondants for this preview so check it out right here ...

With the NBA season only hours away signalling the official start of the basketball year for most of North America, The Can Ball Report take a look at the Canadian university basketball landscape today.  Even though the CIS season officially started this past weekend out in the Canada West Conference, we have a preview for all you Canadian basketball fans.  Like last year, we have enlisted the help once again www.cishoops.ca's content editor and CIS ball aficionado Mark Wacyk for our preview but we have also asked another colleague for some assistance.  Andrew Bucholtz, the co-editor of www.cisblog.ca and editor of the CFL blog 55 Yard Line on Yahoo also gives us his take on the coming CIS season.  So, without further adieu we give you The Can Ball Report's CIS Preview ...

 

Which is the best team in the CIS this season?

CIS Hoops - Unlike many of the previous seasons, there are several teams which could be considered #1 starting with last season's CIS national finalists UBC Thunderbirds who return Moser Award winner guard Josh Whyte, an emerging star in 6'6" Mississauga native Kamar Burke and a transfer who started his post-secondary career in the U.S. 6'3" Doug Plumb.  The Birds are deep at all positions, have an imposing physical front line and have big game experience. 

Defending CIS champions Saskatchewan Huskies lost their starting backcourt which included U.S. import Showron Glover but many feel this season's guard combination of 6'0" Jamelle Barrett and 6'2" Rejean Chabot may be even better.  The Huskies have several high-flyer forwards led by 6'7" Michael Lieffers who brought the house down at the Nationals last season with several showtime transition slams and a couple of hard, in-traffic follow up dunks. 

Winners of six of the last eight nationals, Carleton Ravens remain one of Canada's top teams and have 6'3" freshman Phil Scrubb who turned down numerous NCAA D1 offers to stay in Canada plus exciting 5'10" guard Willy Manigat and arguably the top defender in the CIS 6'5" Cole Hobin. 

Other teams with legitimate opportunities to lay claim to #1 include Trinity Western Spartans with 4 starters who had previously started on NCAA D1 and D2 teams and now have an experienced point guard in Tristan Smith and St. FX X-Men, with 5 senior starters including Moser Award candidate Christian T-Bear Upshaw, a lightning quick combination guard who gets to the rim and shoots 3's with equal excellence.

CIS Blog - I think it might just be the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. UBC enters with a stacked veteran lineup, including fifth-year guard and reigning CIS player of the year Josh Whyte, who’s one of the university level’s most exciting players. They only lost two guys to graduation, so they have other talented veterans around Whyte, including forward Brent Malish, and they’ll be eager to avenge their loss in last season’s championship game. Alex Murphy provides solid balance to Whyte in the backcourt, and Kamar Burke has tremendous potential to shine up front; he really turned it on in the playoffs last year. They’ve also brought in some impressive recruits. Canada West has some excellent teams near the top this year, so UBC won’t have an easy path, but from a pure talent perspective, I think they’re bona fide contenders.

Trinity Western has a lot of talented veterans, including Jacob Doerksen, and Scott Allen’s turnaround of that program seems due to reap rewards reasonably quickly. Saskatchewan’s the defending national champions, but they did lose stars Showron Glover, Mike Linklater and Troy Gottselig, so I’m not expecting them to repeat. They still have a good core, though, and they’ve picked up some nice recruits. They’ve had perhaps the best preseason of any CIS team, going 5-0 against CIS competition (including a 40-point win over Calgary and a 50-point win over Queen’s), so don’t expect them to fall too far.

It’s also awfully tough to write off the Carleton Ravens. They’ll be fired up this year after spending most of last season at #1 before losing to Saskatchewan in the national semifinals. After their five championships from 2003 to 2007, they lost at the same stage to Acadia in 2008 and bounced back to reclaim their throne in 2009; this year could very well follow the same pattern. Carleton has put up good results in preseason play as well, beating their four CIS opponents and a Canadian college squad and keeping it close against NCAA competition.  They might not have the top-tier stars previous Ravens’ squads have boasted, but there’s still a good group of players there.

 

Who are your picks for the pre season Top 10 in the CIS?

CIS Hoops:

1.  UBC

2.  Carleton University

3.  University of Saskatchewan

4.  St. Francis Xavier

5.  Laval University

6.  Dalhousie University

7.  Concordia University

8.  Saint Mary's University

9.  Trinity Western University

10. Western

Honorable Mentions:  University of Windsor, UQAM, Cape Breton University, Lakehead University, University of Calgary

 

CIS Blog:

1.       UBC

2.       Carleton University

3.       University of Saskatchewan

4.       Laval Universities

5.       St. Francis Xavier

6.       Concordia University

7.       Trinity Western University

8.       Western

9.    Dalhousie University

10.  Acadia University

 

Which team has the biggest microscope on them this year?

CIS Blog - I think that has to be UBC. They’re coming off back-to-back trips to the championship game, but haven’t yet been able to come away with the grand prize. Last year’s loss to a surprising Saskatchewan team particularly had to hurt. Given how many fourth- and fifth-year veterans the T-Birds have and their incredible talent level, expectations on them are going to be sky-high.

 

Who is the best player in the CIS this year?

CIS Hoops - For the first time in many years, the past two Moser Award winners for CIS MVP return as 6'2" Josh Whyte returns for his fifth and final season at UBC and 6'8" Jacob Doerksen who won the award in '08-'09 completes his career at Trinity Western.  Others who warrant consideration included X's 5'10" Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw, Dalhousie's 6'1" Simon Farine, Cape Breton's 6'2" Jimmy Dorsey (currently injured), Laval's 6'3" J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux, 6'8" Kyle Coston (started at Portland State) of Trinity Western and 6'9" Tyler Fidler from the University of Calgary.

 

CIS Blog - There are a number of contenders, but I think it’s Josh Whyte, the defending Moser Award winner. On any given day, he can put on an incredible show.  He can score in bunches, but he also sees the court very well and sets his teammates up. UBC has a talented group around him, but he’s the main reason for the stratospheric expectations around the Thunderbirds.

St. FX’s Christian Upshaw received the AUS nomination for the award last season, and he has a good chance of getting back there again. He also has quite the scoring touch, and dropped 34 points on Lakehead in preseason action earlier this month. He’ll have to best Dalhousie’s Simon Farine, though, another very capable AUS guard. Out west, an intriguing candidate to best Whyte is Trinity Western’s Doerksen, who’s one of the league’s top forwards. He’s both an offensive and a rebounding threat, and not an easy player to stop. Laval’s J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux is going to be in the conversation, and is a brilliant lights-out shooter. Carleton’s Cole Hobin is one of the more interesting players in the league and perhaps its best defender, but he can also score; he might not put up the numbers to win this one, but he’s definitely in the league’s upper echelon.

 

Who are this season’s top rookies in the CIS?

CIS Blog - Rookies are always tough to get a handle on, considering the vastly differing levels of competition they enter from. That said one new CIS player I’m quite high on is Trinity Western’s Kyle Coston, a former starter at NCAA Division I Portland State. He’s 6’8’’, but has the athleticism to play at the shooting guard spot as well as up front. His experience against NCAA competition should bode well for him, even if it means he isn’t a pure rookie. TWU also has some exciting talent straight from the high school ranks, including Eli Mara and Lucas Nugteren.

CIS Hoops – My picks would include, in no particular order:  6'3" Simon Bibeau from McGill University; 6'3" Phil Scrubb at Carleton; 6'5" Eli Mara at Trinity Western; 6'4" Keith Omoerah from the University of Manitoba; 6'3" Jordan Gauthier and 6'0" Jahmal Jones both from Ryerson University; Peter Scholtes 6'5" out of Western; Pat Donnelly 6'6" at Wilfred Laurier; Taylor Black 6'7" at McMaster University; 6'5" Hughes Ryan from Laval; 6'7" Vincent Lanctot-Fortier at UQAM; 5'10" Julian Smith from Cape Breton University.

 

Who are your preseason First Team All CIS?

CIS Blog:

Josh Whyte, UBC

Christian Upshaw, St. Francis Xavier

Jacob Doerksen, Trinity Western University

J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux, Laval University

Andrew Wedemire, Western

 

CIShoops:

Josh Whyte, UBC

Jacob Doerksen, Trinity Western University

Christian Upshaw, St. Francis Xavier

Simon Farine, Dalhousie University

Andrew Wedemire, Western

 

Which team has the best recruiting class for this year?

CIS Blog - If you count their transfers, I think TWU’s class is the strongest. Coston should lead the way and Tristan Smith (from the University of the Fraser Valley) also has solid potential. High-school recruits Nugteren, Mara, Tyler Linttell and Jesse Jeffries all could make an impact as well.

As for others there are quite a few but I particularly like UBC’s additions of Mike Lewandowski and Doug Plumb.  The University of Calgary also found a couple of nice players in Matt Letkeman and Phil Labongo. Western also picked up some solid talent Andrew Vincent and Luke Braund.

CIS Hoops – I don’t have a top class, per say, but here are the ones with the most impact:  Trinity Western with 6'8" Kyle Coston, 6'5" PG Eli Mara and 5'0" Tristan Smith; the University of Saskatchewan with 5'11" Jamelle Barrett, 6'2" Rejean Chabot and 6'2" Andrew Henry; Ryerson University with 6'1" Ola Adegboruwa, 6'0" Jahmal Jones, 6'7" Bjorn Michaelsen, 6'3" Jordan Gauthier, 6'5" Jelane Pryce ( that is five impact recruits right there); McMaster with 6'9" Scott Brittain, 6'7" Taylor Black, 6'6" Satar Wahidi, 6'9" Kenan Etale and 6'0" Kyle Giedraitis; Saint Mary's Universityy with 6'5" Torrey Fassett, 6'8" Korey Cobb and 6'1" Jerome Smith; and Dalhouise with 6'3" Juleous Grant, 6'0" Peter Leighton and 6'4" Alex Arthur.

 

What was the top off season story?

CIS Hoops - the number of new coaches entering the CIS; three coaching legends Ken Murray (Brock) two national championships, Bob Bain (40 year career at York) and Joe Raso (McMaster) have left; there are 9 new coaches:  David DeAveiro (McGill), Gil Cheung (Brandon), Mike Raimbault (Winnipeg; ex-UNBC CCAA national championship coach), Barry Rawlyk (interim Saskatchewan), Scott Clark (Thompson Rivers, ex-Simon Fraser), Brad Rootes (interim Brock), Amos Connolly (McMaster), Tom Oliveri (York), James Derouin (Ottawa).

CIS Blog - I was thrilled to hear about Kentucky making the trip north to play CIS schools. We’ve seen more and more high-profile NCAA programs doing that, but that Kentucky team with an incredible recruiting class might just be one of the biggest catches so far. It was great to see them duke it out with some CIS competition.

I was a bit surprised to see former Simon Fraser University coach Scott Clark head to Kamloops the Thompson Rivers program. Of course, SFU’s move to the NCAA precipitated that, and it might work out well for both parties. Clark’s a very solid coach who brings instant credibility to the WolfPack (and fits in with their improving athletics department in general), and they offer him the chance to stay with the CIS style he knows and be part of what could be an exciting turnaround. They’ll be a team to watch in the coming years.

 

A big shout goes to both Mark and Andrew for their great insights into the coming CIS season.  Be sure to check out Mark at www.cishoops.ca and Andrew at www.cisblog.ca as well as his Twitter account, @AndrewBucholtz, for all your Canadian college basketball updates and commentary.  And you can also check out these teams at the CIS website here to catch up on all the news from your favorite teams and conferences.   

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