This the basketball season that isn't being locked out inching closer to tip off, The Can Ball Report recruits colleague Andrew Bucholtz to give us his take on a few questions on what is looking like will be a very exciting CIS basketball season ...
With the college season now upon us, we had seeked out one of our colleagues Andrew Bucholtz, one of the authors at www.cisblog.ca, to help us with a look at the up coming season in the CIS. We managed to steal a few minutes from him to get his take on what is shaping up to be a very fun and exciting basketball 2011-12 season.
Who is the best team in the CIS: It's a clichéd answer, but I'm going to have to go with the Carleton Ravens here. They won their seventh title in nine years this past season, and they don't show any signs of slowing down any time soon. They've had so much success that they can recruit almost whoever they want, and Dave Smart has proven brilliant at slowly working younger players into his system so they can eventually step up and replace the veterans with little to no drop-off. Plus, some of their top stars (Tyson Hinz, Elliot Thompson, Phil Scrubb) from last year will be back, and Hinz and Scrubb still have room to get even better. As per usual, the Ravens are going to be tough to beat.
Which CIS team is on the rise: It's difficult to predict who's going to do well once the season gets underway, but a team that intrigues me is Victoria. The Vikes finished fifth in the Canada West standings in 2010, but they had the best defence in the conference, allowing just 71.8 points per game. They're bringing back plenty of talented players, including 2010 leading scorer Ryan MacKinnon (16.6 ppg) and Mike Berg (11.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg), and they brought in some impressive transfers, including John Woldu from Windsor and four promising players from the college ranks. They also have some potentially great rookies, including Vijay Dhillon and Sean Patrick. Their offence is going to have to get better, as they only scored 77 points per game last season (eighth in Canada West), and they play in a tough conference with a lot of great teams, so it's not going to be easy for them. Still, the Vikes seem to have the right mix of proven talent and new blood that might enable them to make some noise this year.
Who is the best player in the CIS: Tyson Hinz, Carleton. Last year, Hinz claimed both the Jack Donohue Trophy as Final 8 MVP and the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as CIS Player of the Year. He was the first to do that in the same season since another Raven, Osvaldo Jeanty, accomplished the feat in 2005-06. Hinz averaged 17 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, contributed in almost every statistical category and was the most important part of the Ravens' return to the top. He also won the BLG Award as the CIS male athlete of the year. He was only a sophomore last season, so he should be even better this year. (It also helps Hinz's case that Calgary transfer and former Ryerson star Boris Bakovic, perhaps the candidate most likely to knock off Hinz after suffering a serious knee injury training for the Pan-Am Games.)
Who will be the best rookie: Picking how high school players will transition to CIS isn't easy, but I'm quite high on Victoria's Dhillon. The guard led Richmond's R.C. Palmer Griffins to their first-ever AAA provincial championship this year, recording 26 points and four rebounds in the final against Vancouver College and helping his team overcome a 19-2 deficit at the start of the game. He was selected as the tournament MVP and named to The Province's prestigious Head of the Class of high-school athletes. Victoria's new faces might allow him to play a prominent role, and he's certainly got the talent to succeed at the CIS level.
Which team has the best CIS rookie class: There are lots of solid recruiting classes out there, but two I particularly like are Carleton's and UBC's. Carleton has an impressive class, but the standout is 6'6'' guard/forward Justin Shaver, ranked the 9th rated high school prospect on Flagrant Fouls' list for 2011 (and the top CIS-destined player on that list). Other notable additions include Guillaume Payen-Boucard and Ryan Augustine, as well as NCAA transfer Ben Felix. UBC also has an impressive incoming group, including 6'8'' C David Wagner and 6'2'' G Malcolm Williams (ranked #25 and #26 respectively by Flagrant Fouls) and 6'1'' G Nakai Luyken (#47).
Who are your top 5 CIS pre season players: Tyson Hinz (F, Carleton), Jamelle Barrett (G, Saskatchewan), Michael Lieffers (F, Saskatchewan), Kale Harrison (wing, Laurier) and Tyler Fidler (G, Calgary). There are plenty of others who could make that list but these are my top five right now.
Which is the toughest CIS conference: Canada West. There are so many potentially dominant teams, including veteran-heavy Saskatchewan, reigning CIS runner-up TWU, always-dangerous Calgary and UBC, and on-the-rise Alberta and Victoria. We should be in for some great clashes between them weekly.
Who do you see in the Final Eight in March: I'm quite confident Carleton will be there. Beyond that, it gets much more difficult to predict. Let's go with (in no particular order) Saskatchewan, UBC, Calgary, Windsor, Cape Breton, St. FX. and Concordia.
A very big thank you to Andrew for his look on the upcoming CIS season. Be sure to check out the latest on the college basketball scene in Canada at his site, www.cisblog.ca, with some of partners in crime as well as catch him on Yahoo! Sports CFL blog 55 Yard Line talking all things Canadian football. We'll look to check in with his crew over the course of the season for the low down in the CIS.