(Photo: Emma Ewing-Nagy)
The three best CIS men's basketball teams in the country will be gathered in Ottawa this weekend when the No. 3-ranked Ryerson Rams play back-to-back games against the No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees and No. 1 Carleton Ravens on Friday and Saturday night.
Ranked 1-2-3 to start the season, the three powerhouses have not disappointed, bursting out of the gates to identical 6-0 starts.
The teams have dominated opponents this season; only three of their 18 combined wins have been decided by less than 20 points, the closest being Carleton's 92-75 victory against no. 4 McMaster on Nov. 8.
While it's still early in the season, the weekend series will be used as a measuring stick for the Ryerson Rams, who are hoping to turn the OUA's 'Big 2' into the 'Big 3' this season.
"We look at it as a great opportunity and we're excited for the challenge," said Rams head coach Roy Rana. "It's not very often you get to go on the road and play back-to-back against the no. 2 and no. 1 teams in the country."
As the defending OUA champions, the Gee-Gees are also looking to make a statement, but know that the streak of lopsided games is likely coming to an end once the Rams roll into town.
The last seven meetings between Ottawa and Ryerson have been decided by 10 points or less and Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin expects nothing to change this time around.
"I am expecting another classic matchup," he said. "The games between Ryerson and Ottawa over the last three years have been unreal. We hope to see a great crowd this Friday night. You have the no. 2 and no. 3 teams in the country, both undefeated – this is a heavyweight fight. If you're a fan of basketball then you don't want to miss this one."
Both Ottawa and Carleton will have to focus on shutting down Ryerson's all-star point guard Jahmal Jones, who is averaging 18 points and six assists per game this year and has developed into one of the best two-way guards in the nation.
Derouin said it will take the entire Gee-Gees team to contain Jones, while Rana also lauded his fifth-year guard.
"He's arguably one of the best point guards in the country and he's showing that. On any given night he can talk over games in a number of different ways. He can get multiple assists if needed, or score at a high rate, so he's really become a complete guard," said Rana.
The Gee-Gees and Ravens don't lack for star power either.
Ottawa guard Johnny Berhanemeskel leads the conference with six assists per game, and ranks second in scoring, averaging 23.6 points.
And of course, there is Carleton's Philip Scrubb.
Also playing the guard position, Scrubb has been named OUA East Division Player of the Year, and CIS Player of the Year the past three seasons, and is showing no signs of slowing down in 2014. Scrubb is averaging 18.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists this season.
Two games. 48 hours. The top three teams in the country.
It is an early Christmas gift for OUA basketball fans, so be sure to try and catch the games live, or tune in to OUA.tv for this week's Marquee Matchups, as well as all of the other action from around the conference.
Ryerson faces Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 28 and Carleton the very next night on Nov. 29. Tip off for both games goes at 8 p.m.
Marquee Matchup by the Numbers
66.7% - Field goal percentage for Ottawa centre Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue, who currently leads the conference in the category. Gonthier-Dubue is averaging 12.8 points and 4.5 rebounds to start the season.
619 – Points scored by the Ottawa Gee-Gees, who lead the league in scoring and are the only OUA team averaging over 100 points per game this season.
5 – Straight losses for the Ryerson Rams against the Ottawa Gee-Gees. The last time the teams met was in last year's OUA quarter-final when Ottawa edged out Ryerson 79-78, dashing the Rams hopes of qualifying for the CIS Final 8 tournament. Ottawa went on to defeat Carleton 78-77 in the OUA championship game.
5426 – Days since the Rams last beat the Carleton Ravens. The win came on Jan. 20, 2000 in Ottawa by a score of 61-55.