BURLINGTON, Ont. – With the #QuestfortheCup set to begin Wednesday, here's a look at some storylines and players to watch in the opening round of the Wilson Cup. Fans can catch all the action streaming live throughout the postseason on OUA.tv.
No. 12 Lakehead Thunderwolves (6-13) vs. No. 5 University of Toronto Varsity Blues (11-8)
With a spot in the Wilson Cup quarter-finals on the line, the Thunderwolves travel to Toronto looking to take down the Varsity Blues.
The Blues were one the best teams in the conference from beyond the arc this season, ranking second overall in three point percentage (37.5). Toronto finished in the top five in turnovers (12.8) and will need to be equally responsible with the rock on Wednesday with the 'Wolves in town. Despite averaging 74.8 points per game, the Blues were one of the most strategic shooting teams in the league with just 63.2 attempts per game.
If the old saying "defence wins championships" holds true, the Thunderwolves surely have upset potential heading into Wednesday's game. Despite scoring just 66.4 points per game this year, Lakehead ranked in the top five in several key defensive categories, including points per game allowed (72.2). The Thunderwolves are one of the most disciplined teams in the conference and only committed 16.3 personal fouls per game on average this year.
Lakehead will be looking for a better result on this trip to the Goldring Centre after they lost 74-64 to the Blues back on Jan. 7.
The winner will travel to St. Catharines on Saturday for a showdown with the No. 4 seeded Brock Badgers. Toronto beat Brock 71-69 on the road to open the season, while Lakehead split their two-game series earlier this year in Thunder Bay.
Players to Watch
Toronto – Devin Johnson: 19 GP, 20.5 PPG, 6.7 REB, 1.6 AST, 1.2 STL
Lakehead– Bacarius Dinkins: 19 GP, 15.8 PPG, 9.5 REB, 0.8 AST, 1.3 BLK
No. 11 Queen's Gaels (7-12) vs. No. 6 Nipissing Lakers (9-10)
The Robert J Surtees Student Athletics Centre will be rocking Wednesday as the Nipissing Lakers host the Queen's Gaels in their first home playoff game in program history.
A key to much of the Lakers success during the regular season was their clean play as the team only committed 14.6 personal fouls per game, the lowest mark in OUA. Couple that with the third highest rebound margin per game (4.6) and assists per game (15.6) and you have a recipe for success in the postseason. The Lakers are about as patient a team as you'll find in the Wilson Cup playoffs, averaging only 62.4 field goal attempts per game.
Don't expect a lot of time at the charity stripe for either squad as the Gaels averaged just over one personal foul more than the Lakers per game. Despite the fact that Queen's struggled rebounding the ball this season, they made up for it defensively, leading the league with 4.1 blocks per game, which is over one block per game more than the next team in the Wilson Cup playoffs. Queen's struggled from downtown this year, shooting just 27.6 percent from beyond the arc.
In their only meeting of the regular season, Nipissing picked up a big win on the road, defeating Queen's 93-84 at the end of January.
The No. 3 seed and defending Wilson Cup champion Ryerson Rams awaitWednesday's winner. The Rams defeated the Lakers back in November and swept their two-game season series with the East division rival Gaels.
Players to Watch
Nipissing – Marcus Lewis: 19 GP, 14.7 PPG, 6.9 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.1 STL
Queen's – Sukhpreet Singh: 19 GP, 17.4 PPG, 4.3 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.7 STL
No. 10 Laurier Golden Hawks (9-11) vs. No. 7 Laurentian Voyageurs (9-10)
In pursuit of their first Wilson Cup title since 2000, the Laurentian Voyageurs open the postseason Wednesday at home against the visiting Laurier Golden Hawks.
As the sixth ranked offence in OUA, the Voyageurs can score (and score quickly) as they averaged 75.7 points per game during the regular season. Laurentian made the most of their trips to the free throw line, converting 76.7 percent of their chances. The Voyageurs will need to do a better job on the glass as they rank last among playoff bound teams with just 35.5 rebounds per game.
Coming off a strong regular season, the young Golden Hawks soar into the playoffs with a first round road upset in sight. Laurier likes to shoot the ball from practically anywhere on the floor as they finished in the top five in both field goal attempts (68.4) and three-point attempts (25.1) per game. However, with a field goal percentage that sits near the bottom of conference, Laurier will need to better pick their spots against a defensive-minded Voyageurs team.
Laurier got the better of Laurentian earlier in the year, defeating the Voyageurs 81-75 in Waterloo back on Dec. 2.
Either Laurier or Laurentian will make the trip to the nation's capital Saturday for a showdown with the No. 2 seed uOttawa Gee-Gees. Ottawa swept their two regular season meetings with the division rival Voyageurs and beat the Golden Hawks on the road earlier this year.
Players to Watch
Laurentian – Kadre Gray: 19 GP, 23.2 PPG, 6.2 REB, 3.6 AST, 1.9 STL
Laurier – Trevaun Kokko: 20 GP, 19.2 PPG, 4.6 REB, 3.1 AST, 1.4 STL
No. 9 McMaster Marauders (8-11) vs. No. 8 Windsor Lancers (10-10)
For the third time in the past three seasons, the McMaster Marauders and Windsor Lancers will meet in the Wilson Cup playoffs.
One of the top shooting teams in the conference (if not the country), the Lancers led the OUA in both field goal attempts (73.2) and three-point attempts (35.3) during the regular season and will look to find the hot hand once again on Saturday. Windsor also did a great job this year controlling the glass, as their 13.0 offensive rebounds per game ranked second behind only the six-time defending national champion Carleton Ravens.
For the Marauders, they're surely hoping third times a charm as the Lancers have brought an end to their season in each of their previous meetings. McMaster gets to the free throw line more than any other team in the conference, averaging 21.5 attempts per game. Of their 76.0 points per game, 14.4 of them come from the charity stripe so the Lancers will surely want to limit their trips.
In addition to their recent playoff history, the Marauders and Lancers are the two teams most familiar with each other heading into the opening round. Last Wednesday, the Lancers defeated McMaster 91-87 at the St. Denis Centre in Windsor.
The road to the Wilson Cup Final Four won't be an easy one for either Windsor or McMaster as the winner will have the tall task of heading to Ottawa and taking down the reigning U SPORTS champion Ravens. Carleton won both games against the Lancers (104-54) and Marauders (81-67) earlier this year.
Players to Watch
Windsor – Mike Rocca: 20 GP, 16.8 PPG, 6.1 REB, 4.5 AST, 1.6 STL
McMaster – Connor Gilmore: 19 GP, 19.5 PPG, 9.0 REB, 1.3 AST, 0.7 STL