OUA Playoff Preview: Top eight teams meet in Wilson Cup quarterfinal action
BURLINGTON, Ont. – While sport, especially in the postseason, is unpredictable by nature, the first round of the Wilson Cup playoffs went according to plan for the top seeds, leaving the top four teams in each division to duke it out in this weekend’s quarterfinal tilts.
The full schedule of quarterfinal action can be found HERE.
No. 4 Laurier Golden Hawks (12-12) vs. No. 1 Brock Badgers (21-3)
In search of their first Wilson Cup title since 1992, the No. 3 nationally-ranked Brock Badgers look to take the next step towards OUA supremacy after last year’s semifinal defeat. Helping the St. Catharines squad do just that will be a stingy defense, ranking 2nd in the OUA in points allowed with 70 per game. Not only that, but the gritty Badgers team gets after teams in further facets on defense, sitting 2nd in rebounds per game, 3rd in blocks per game, and 3rd in steals per game in the province. Much of this defensive prowess is thanks to the play of forward Dani Elgadi, who has once again proven to be a difference-maker on both sides of the ball (17.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.5 SPG). Elgadi, who is in his final year of eligibility, will look to end his OUA career with a lengthy Wilson Cup run, and with fellow offensive standout, Cassidy Ryan (12th in OUA in scoring) also helping to buoy the Badgers’ No. 2 offense, the Badgers should be well-equipped to make that a reality.
Looking to play the role of spoiler in their quarterfinal clash will be the Laurier Golden Hawks, who will be flying high into the Niagara Region after their dominant first round victory. Similar to their in-season play, the Hawks were led by Tevaun Kokko, who poured in 26 points in the win, along with rookie Ali Sow’s 19 points off the bench, to put up triple digits on the Marauders and earn the 26-point victory. The purple and gold played up to their regular-season potential on defense as well against McMaster, holding their opposition to just 76 points, and they’ll need their 5th ranked defense to be on point once again in the quarterfinals. If this dynamic defense can once again combine with the high-flying offense from Round 1, the West Division’s No. 4 seed will leave the Badgers with their hands full as a semifinal spot looms.
Oct. 28: Laurier 70 Brock 80
Jan. 31: Brock 73 Laurier 69
No. 3 Windsor Lancers (13-11) vs. No. 2 Western Mustangs (15-9)
After missing out on the playoffs a year ago, the Western Mustangs have put that memory in the rearview mirror. The purple ponies have enjoyed a bye to the quarterfinals, but will have their postseason chops put to the test against the Lancers. Western led the conference in steals per game (11.7), and they have turned that defense into further opportunities on the other end of the floor. The Mustangs like to shoot the ball, ranking 3rd in the OUA in field goal attempts and 5th in shots from beyond the arc. All of these shots have led to the purple and white boasting four double-digit scorers, and combined with their 7th ranked defense – allowing just 77.3 PPG – the team is one of the more balanced in the OUA. Of their four key offensive threats, Omar Shiddo and Marko Kovac, who check in with averages of 14.6 PPG and 14.5 PPG, respectively, will look to help the Mustangs gallop into the semifinals and continue a deep push in their quest for the cup.
The duo of Mike Rocca and Marcus Jones were close to unstoppable in the Lancers first round win over Waterloo, and if Windsor wants to carry that winning mentality into Western, they’ll need those two to keep up their potent play. The pair of guards has led the Lancers all season in scoring, combining to chip in over 33 points per game to the team’s 3rd ranked total of 84.1 per contest, so the name of the game will once again be offense in the team’s quarterfinal tilt. They like to shoot the three, taking and making conference-high marks, while also getting off a 2nd best average of over 70 field goals per game, rarely giving the opposition a play off on defense. It will be a stiff test for the Lancers against the Mustangs, but if their offense can continue to click and their defense is able to get the job done at an improved rate, the Lancers may find themselves moving on to the semifinals.
Nov. 10: Windsor 78 Western 93
Feb. 3: Western 94 Windsor 86
No. 4 Laurentian Voyageurs (16-7) vs. No. 1 Carleton Ravens (23-0)
Entering the postseason as the reigning U SPORTS champions, the No. 1 nationally-ranked Carleton Ravens will look to make another long run for the Wilson Cup. Certainly, they have the skillset to make themselves a handful for their competition, checking in with the OUA’s best offense (88.5 PPG) and defense (60.4 PPG). Featuring one of, if not the most complete teams on paper, the Ravens go into the playoffs ranked 1st in field goal percentage and assists per game, as well as 2nd in steals and 3rd in total rebounds. Even with the loss of 2017 OUA MVP Connor Wood, the Ravens have a talent-laden roster at the ready, featuring both Yasiin Joseph – an efficient, offensively-gifted player who ranks 9th in the OUA in points per 40 minutes and 10th in assists – and Eddie Ekiyor – who is not only a 10th ranked rebounder in the OUA, but also one of the most proven and effective scorers (59 FG%). With this kind of talent on the court, and the likes of reigning OUA Coach of the Year Dave Smart on the sidelines, the Ravens will surely be looking to add a Wilson Cup title to their already impressive list of accolades.
Laurentian, meanwhile, started their postseason voyage on a winning note; taking down Toronto to avenge a late-season loss to the Varsity Blues. Their reward for the win – a date with the No. 1 ranked team in the country; but certainly the upstart Voyageurs will have victory on their minds. If they want to pull out the win, they’ll need to employ a similar game-plan as they did in round one, with a complete cast helping to carry the offensive load. Despite missing second-year standout Kadre Gray, Laurentian still had five players reach double figures in scoring, led by David Aromolaran’s 19 point performance. Also in that game, the East Division’s No. 4 seed gained the advantage in several other key categories, including on the glass; a formula that will be important to repeat if they want to disrupt Carleton’s leading rebounding margin (12.5). No one is saying it will be easy, but behind the likes of a top four offense – led now by Aromolaran and Nelson Yengue’s combined 30 PPG efforts – and a top six defense, the Voyageurs will certainly be looking to escape the Ravens’ Nest with a win.
Jan. 19: Laurentian 67 Carleton 71
Feb 10: Carleton 101 Laurentian 60
No. 3 Ryerson Rams (17-6) vs. No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees (17-6)
Looking to hoist the Wilson Cup for the first time since 2014, Coach James Derouin and the Ottawa Gee-Gees are strong contenders for the coveted trophy. Not only do the Gee-Gees boast one of the best defenses in the OUA – ranking 3rd in points allowed per game (71.7) – but also one of the most efficient offensive units. Ottawa sits 2nd in the league in field goal percentage and 3rd from beyond the arc, and much of this success comes from their ability to pass the ball with authority. The No. 7 nationally-ranked squad also has four players averaging double-digit points, all of whom shoot over 40% from the field, suggesting that teams may struggle to choose which player to try and shut down. One who does stand out, however, is forward Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles, who not only leads the team in scoring, but ranks 7th in the league in blocks (26) and 8th in rebounds (170). If the Gee-Gees want to bring a Wilson Cup title to the nation’s capital, they’ll need to rely on Pierre-Charles and their entire squad to bring a balanced attack game in and game out.
If you’ve ever wondered why the Ryerson Rams are a consistent threat to bring home the Wilson Cup, you don’t have to look any further than the team’s fourth quarter performance in the first round. The Rams, who were in a nail-biter with the Queen’s Gaels through three, put the pedal to the metal in the final frame, outscoring their opponents 35-13 to run away with the victory. Unsurprisingly, it was offensive powerhouse Manny Diressa who led the way for the Rams – something he has done all season long – to the tune of a 30-point outburst. Teammate Jean-Victor Mukama also chipped in with 24, which is more than double his season average, while the team’s second leading scorer – Myles Charvis – added 17 in the win. With a roster like this, it’s no surprise that the Rams can bring it on offense (6th in OUA), but they are even stronger on the defensive side, surrendering just 73.3 PPG (4th in OUA) on 39.7% shooting (3rd in OUA). It’s anyone’s guess as to which style of play will win out in this quarterfinal clash, but the Rams, as well as the Gee-Gees, stack up well in their ability to win either an offensive onslaught or defensive nail-biter.
Jan. 6: Ryerson 73 Ottawa 81
Jan. 26: Ottawa 92 Ryerson 95