BURLINGTON, Ont. – There’s never a dull moment when the Carleton Ravens and Ryerson Rams do battle on the hardwood, and if Saturday’s Wilson Cup final is anything like their last few meetings, there will be plenty of intrigue from start to finish as to which OUA powerhouse will claim this year’s provincial title.
For more information on the men's basketball championship, visit the 2018 Wilson Cup Fan Guide.
With their eyes on a third consecutive Wilson Cup win, the Ryerson Rams will head to Carleton University on a high note, after taking down not one, but two nationally-ranked foes to catapult themselves into the finals. Not only did the Rams topple the Ottawa Gee-Gees in their key divisional clash, pulling away in the fourth quarter to secure the 77-69 quarterfinal win, but they also downed the nation’s No. 3 ranked Brock Badgers in a highly-touted battle that saw the visitors beat the Badgers by a tight 69-63 final.
On the flip side, the Ravens have had their way with their postseason combatants thus far, using a strong second half to defeat the upstart Laurentian Voyageurs 83-69 in the quarterfinals, before blasting the Windsor Lancers by 39 points in the semis. The wins have set up a rematch between two of the nation’s best; something that both the teams and the fans have been clamoring for since last season came to a close.
In the 2016-17 Wilson Cup, the Rams were able to upset their higher-ranked opponent thanks in large part to a 32-point fourth quarter surge. It was the second straight time that Ryerson proved victorious in that setting, but it wasn’t long before the Ravens had their shot at redemption. The two OUA schools met again just one week later in the U SPORTS final, and in that one, it was Carleton who came away with their seventh straight national championship after downing their familiar foes 78-69.
While the leading players for both sides in those contests have since graduated, the next crop of student-athletes has picked up right where they left off this season, once again bringing their respective squads to the forefront of the national ranks. Between the two, Saturday’s finalists boast three OUA First-Team All-Stars, along with one of the conference’s top rookies, showing that either side has the arsenal to take charge and come away with the win.
For Ryerson to do so and complete their quest for a provincial three-peat, OUA standout Manny Diressa (Toronto, Ont.) will surely be a big part of the conversation. The province’s third-ranked scorer (21.8 PPG) has been a sparkplug for the Rams all season, which includes a pair of 20+ point performances during the regular season against the Ravens, and he will be ready for a repeat individual performance this weekend. Diressa doesn’t do it alone; however, as fellow seniors Myles Charvis (Mississauga, Ont.) and Jean-Victor Mukama (Hamilton, Ont.) are also key cogs in the well-oiled Ryerson machine.
That machine will need to function as smooth as ever against Carleton, as they’ll be going toe-to-toe with the nation’s best offense and defense. Scoring 88.5 points per game and surrendering just 60.4, the undefeated Ravens have once again found the winning formula under OUA Coach of the Year Dave Smart. The team is a powerhouse in several facets, including field goal percentage, connecting on over 47% of their shots; three-point shooting, finding success 36.2% of the time from deep; passing the ball, dishing out almost 19 assists per game; and crashing the boards, pulling down a margin of +12.5 per contest.
Not only do they thrive on offense, thanks in large part to the dynamic duo of Yasiin Joseph (Ottawa, Ont.) and Eddie Ekiyor (Ottawa, Ont.), but they also pack a punch defensively, with OUA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Anderson (Brampton, Ont.) at the helm. Anderson and the rest of the high-flying Ravens limit teams to an OUA-leading mark of just 34.6% shooting and 29.5% from deep, frustrating even the most gifted squads all season long.
Ryerson, who entered the postseason winners of nine of their last 10, has twice fallen victim to this formidable formula during the regular season, but will strive to turn the tables come tip-off. If they want to do so, they will need to maintain their fourth-ranked defense (allowing 73.3 PPG), keep their opposition away from the hoop with their top-five averages in steals (8.7) and blocks (4.4) per contest, and continue to get to the charity stripe with their impressive consistency (22.6 FTA per game).
It will truly be a heavyweight bout between two of the most recognized and decorated teams that Canada has to offer, and until the final buzzer sounds, the nets are cut down, and the trophy is raised in triumph, both the Ravens and Rams will have only one thing on their minds – victory.
While the matchup will be marquee to close out the Wilson Cup postseason, the march toward a national title will continue for both squads next week. Both Ryerson and Carleton will travel to Halifax, N.S. as part of the U SPORTS Championship from March 8-11, and it will be the Ravens hoping to come home with their unprecedented eighth consecutive national banner.