BURLINGTON, Ont. – The postseason has reached the hardwood and there are four intriguing matchups set to take to the court to kick off the playoff push. Learn more about the opening round games below, as the quest for the Wilson Cup officially gets underway.
The full schedule of first round action can be found HERE.
No. 6 Waterloo Warriors (8-16) vs. No. 3 Windsor Lancers (13-11)
The Windsor Lancers are a gifted squad on the court and much of their success this season has come from their ability to score the ball. They ranked third in the OUA in points per contest with 84.1 and much of their scoring prowess comes from the sheer quantity of opportunities they’re getting. With more than 70 field goal attempts per game (2nd in OUA) and almost 33 three-point shots (1st in OUA), it’s clear that the Lancers are looking to excel with an upbeat style of play. Having the likes of Mike Rocca leading the offensive charge (18 PPG) certainly helps, but the top ten OUA scorer also sees significant support from the nearly 40 combined points of Marcus Jones, Lucas Orlita, and Anthony Zrvnar. Any team that wants to halt the Lancers in their tracks will need to be ready for an offensive barrage.
Hoping their defense is up to the task will be the Waterloo Warriors, but unfortunately, they sit near the bottom of the conference in points allowed. For the Warriors to gain the edge, they’ll need to not only play to the stronger elements of their game, but excel therein. The black and gold will need to keep control of the glass to limit Windsor’s opportunities; something they’ve done to the tune of a No. 4 ranking in defensive rebounding. They’ll also need to keep up their impressive pace of getting to the charity stripe, averaging over 20 attempts per contest and ranking second in FT%. And while it may be tough to stop the strong Windsor offense, one individual who will look to counterpunch will be Nedim Hodzic, who’s adept offensive ability ranked him second in the OUA in scoring this season (23.1 PPG). Hodzic, along with fellow top ten scorer Simon Petrov (18.1 PPG) should be able to keep Windsor working on the defensive end and make for a competitive end result.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to face the West Division’s second seed, Western Mustangs.
Jan. 12: Windsor 97 Waterloo 95
Feb. 16: Waterloo 81 Windsor 91
No. 5 McMaster Marauders (10-14) vs. No. 4 Laurier Golden Hawks (12-12)
It’s no surprise the Laurier Golden Hawks are postseason bound, as the team has been one of the more well-rounded in the division. In fact, across the board, the purple and gold find themselves ranked in the top ten of key statistical categories, including points per game, field goal percentage, rebounds per game, assists per game, and points allowed per game. The Hawks offer opponents a little bit of everything, meaning that they have the ability to win any type of game they find themselves in. Helping the team to excel on both sides of the ball is standout guard Tevaun Kokko, who finished the regular season as a top ten scorer in the OUA. Along with running mate Ali Sow, the dynamic duo makes up a formidable one-two punch for opponents to handle; something that should help the Hawks to soar come tip-off.
Looking to ground the Hawks will be a tough McMaster Marauders squad that is no stranger to a high-octane offensive attack. Mac ranks eighth in the OUA in scoring, but gets off shot after shot to wreak havoc on their opponents. The maroon machine checks in with an OUA best 73.9 field goal attempts per game, including 30 from beyond the arc, to constantly keep defenses on their toes. Another key strength of the Marauders that helps them keep their opponents at bay is their work on the glass, most notably on offense. They sit atop the OUA with 15.3 offensive boards per contest (and 44.8 rebounds overall), meaning that if a team wants to take them down, they’ll need to limit their second chance opportunities. It is a rebound by committee approach to find success therein, but beyond the glass, the Marauders will look to leading scorers Miles Seward and David McCulloch to drive them offensively and do some damage in their quest for the cup.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to face the West Division’s top-seeded Brock Badgers.
Jan. 13: Laurier 79 McMaster 64
Jan. 24: McMaster 75 Laurier 71
No. 6 Queen’s Gaels (11-12) vs. No. 3 Ryerson Rams (17-6)
The Ryerson Rams have been a top ten team nationally all season and will be looking to turn that successful track record into continued success in the postseason. The Rams will be buoyed by their over 81 points per contest, which features nearly 22 per contest from leading scorer Manny Diressa, who already has a 50-point game under his belt this season. While Ryerson is a handful on offense, they are also a standout squad defensively, meaning it will be tough for any opponent to find the advantage on either side of the court. In fact, on the defensive side, the Rams rank 4th in points allowed (73.3), blocks per game (4.4), and steals per game (8.7), while doing one better in opponents’ field goal percentage (3rd in OUA). Keevon Small and Myles Charvis play big roles on the defensive end with a combined five steals per contest, while also chipping in with a combined 20 points of offense, showing that no matter who is on the floor for the No. 3 seed, they have game-changing ability to spark a lengthy Wilson Cup run.
The Queen’s Gaels slipped below the .500 mark with a four-game losing streak to end the season, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be an easy out. The Gaels can go toe-to-toe with the Rams on offense, thanks in large part to a crisp 45.5% shooting from the field and 33.9% shooting from downtown. The Gaels can get on the glass with the best of them, ranking first in defensive rebounding with over 30 per game, while also using their size to protect the paint (6.1 BPG). For the Tricolour to turn these impressive stats into postseason success, they’ll surely rely on leading-scorer Jaz Bains (18.3 PPG) to be an offensive spark, as well as Tanner Graham (3.2 BPG) to lead the defensive push. If these two, along with the rest of the Kingston-based squad can play up to their potential, it should be a closely-contested first round match on Wednesday.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to face the East Division’s No.2 seeded Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Jan. 19: Queen’s 81 Ryerson 94
Feb. 10: Ryerson 86 Queen’s 78
No. 5 Toronto Varsity Blues (13-10) vs. No. 4 Laurentian Voyageurs (16-7)
The Voyageurs took the nation by storm for the better part of the season, thanks in large part to the immaculate play of second year standout Kadre Gray. Unfortunately for Laurentian, Gray’s season-ending injury will keep him from the postseason, meaning that the rest of the squad will need to step up in a big way to right the ship in round one. The northern squad stood out in several regards this season, proving to be a force on both sides of the ball. Despite missing the OUA’s top scorer, the Voyageurs will still bring a top five offense into the contest, as well as a sixth ranked defensive unit. The team is diverse in their ability – scoring from anywhere on the floor, passing the ball efficiently, and getting to the glass on a consistent basis – but all of this will be put to the test without Gray. While the entire team will be looking to fill the void, the likes of Nelson Yengue and David Aromolaran will need to carry the bulk of the offensive load to give the Voyageurs a shot at a long Wilson Cup run.
When it comes to postseason success, it can often come down to which teams are playing well at the right times, and for the Varsity Blues, they are definitely peaking when it matters most. Toronto enters the postseason on a four-game winning streak, which included a win against their first round foe, and they’ll be looking to ride that momentum into Wilson Cup success. One reason for the Blues’ success is their ability to play the game smart, taking care of the ball and limiting their fouls; two elements that often translate to success. They are a top ten team defensively when it comes to points allowed, but the same can’t be said on the offensive side. That being said, U of T appears to have turned a corner down the stretch – going from just 67 points per game in January to nearly 84 in February – and will hope that their balanced attack, buoyed by Reilly Reid, can keep up that elevated play.
The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to face the East Division’s top seed – not to mention the nation’s No. 1 team – Carleton Ravens.
Jan. 13: Toronto 82 Laurentian 101
Feb. 16: Laurentian 77 Toronto 80