Weekend Preview: Who is hitting the hardwood this weekend?

Photo by Carleton Ravens
Photo by Carleton Ravens

Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)

January 26, 2019 is a date that most basketball fans have had circled on their calendars since the summer months.

This weekend is highlighted by a matchup between the top two teams in Canada according to the latest U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Top 10 rankings, as the undefeated Carleton Ravens host the Ryerson Rams in a rematch from their showdown on January 5. Carleton will look for the regular season sweep of the Rams, while Ryerson will look to bring the Ravens’ perfect season to an end with a big road win that would send some shockwaves across the respective OUA and U SPORTS landscapes.

While Saturday’s showdown will be the focal point of the weekend, there are plenty of other games that are worth your time over the course of the two days. From a midday school game on Friday between the York Lions and Laurentian Voyageurs to Saturday games that could cause a shake-up in the league standings, the two days of basketball action is sure to provide excitement for fans of every team in action.

Here are two of the biggest games that will take place this weekend and both of them have massive playoff implications in terms of league standings ahead of February and the OUA Championship.

Laurentian Voyageurs at Queen’s Gaels – Saturday, January 26

With the playoffs just around the corner, every game has a heightened level of importance in the race for a playoff spot. For the Laurentian Voyageurs and the Queen’s Gaels, Saturday’s showdown will help one team gain a bit of separation from the other in the East Division. The Voyageurs and Gaels enter the weekend in a tie for fourth place in the division with matching 8-8 records, and while both teams take to the court on Friday night, Saturday’s game will be one to keep an eye on.

It’s been an up-and-down year for the Voyageurs to this point, as evident by their .500 record with just a few weeks left before the playoffs. Winners of three of their last five, Laurentian will look to move above the .500 mark on the year with a pair of strong showings against Queen’s on Saturday and the York Lions on Friday night. What started out as a promising season for the Voyageurs hasn’t panned out to date, but there’s still time to turn things around and make some noise down the stretch.

On offence and defence, things run through the hands of third-year guard Kadre Gray (Toronto, Ont.). The reigning OUA Men’s Basketball Player of the Year and U SPORTS Male Student-Athlete of the Year is having himself another strong season for the Voyageurs. Gray leads the league in scoring and assists per game this year, averaging 30.2 points and 7.1 assists, while also pulling down 6.8 rebounds to lead the team. He is shooting 49.8% from the floor, 35.4% from three-point range, and 81.6% from the free throw line. Gray is effective from all areas of the floor, and he has the talent to take over any game at any given time, which makes Laurentian an ever-dangerous combatant.

For the Voyageurs to make a deep run in the playoffs, they will need the likes of Anthony Iacoe (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) and Josis Mikia-Thomas (Toronto, Ont.) to help shoulder some of the load on offence. Iacoe is averaging 10.8 points per game this season and is the only other player on the Voyageurs’ roster who has surpassed the double-digit points per game plateau to this point in the year. Secondary scoring will be key to Laurentian’s success down the stretch.

The last time that Queen’s squared off with Laurentian back on January 4, the Gaels came away with an 87-80 win on the road. Now that they are back on their home court, they are hoping for a similar result to help them gain some separation in the standings. The Gaels are riding a four-game losing streak after opening the 2019 calendar year with a pair of wins, so they will be aiming to get back on the right track and find their stride ahead of the postseason.

Queen’s boasts an underrated trio that could carry the Gaels to an upset or two come playoff time. The group of Jaz Bains (Brampton, Ont.), Tanner Graham (Kingston, Ont.), and Quinton Gray (Richmond Hill, Ont.) are all averaging double-digit points per game while shooting above 40% from the floor throughout the course of the season so far. Bains leads the team with 17.1 points and 3.9 assists, while Graham ranks second on the team with 7.3 rebounds and 14.5 points per contest. Not to be outdone, Gray is second on the team with an average of 15.8 points.

All three players can lead the offence in terms of scoring on any given night, and for the Gaels to have any of that talented trio fit that role is a coach’s dream. While they have come up on the wrong side of four straight decisions, the core group for the team has performed at a high level and that bodes well for the squad down the stretch.

The Gaels will be looking for the regular season sweep of the Voyageurs as they begin a five-game home stand ahead of the final weekend of the season. Playing on their home floor will give Queen’s several opportunities to build some much-needed positive momentum ahead of the postseason and to help them iron out some as they look to contend for a league championship come February.

Ryerson Rams at Carleton Ravens – Saturday, January 26

1 vs. 2.

If you’re a fan of Canadian university basketball, January 26, 2019 is a date that you’ve had circled on your calendars since the OUA schedules were first released. It’s the second regular season meeting of the year between the second-ranked Ryerson Rams and the top-ranked Carleton Ravens and it could very well be a National Championship preview if all goes according to plan.

The two teams met back on January 5 in the first game of the winter semester for both side. Inside the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the Ravens picked up a massive 76-69 road win over the Rams to keep their undefeated season intact, while ending the Rams’ bid for a perfect season in the process. The Rams were without star forward Tanor Ngom (Dakar, Senegal) for most of the second half due to an injury, but they launched a comeback effort that ultimately fell just short in the end.

The Rams’ loss to the Ravens is the only blemish on their record to this point in the season. Since then, they have rattled off five straight wins to push their record to 15-1 through 16 contests. This coming weekend kicks off a five-game road trip for the Rams. They take on the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Friday night in another tough test ahead of their much-anticipated showdown with Carleton.

As a team, Ryerson is averaging 87.6 points per game this season on offence while holding their opponents to an average of just 59.6 points. They have held 14 opponents to 70 points or less this season, with only the Ravens (76) and York Lions (77) eclipsing the 70-point plateau. Head coach Roy Rana has his team playing high level basketball on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis, and their two-way consistency has been a big reason for their strong play this season.

Guards Jean-Victor Mukama (Hamilton, Ont.) and Myles Charvis (Mississauga, Ont.) give the Rams a formidable tandem on the back end and both players are more than capable of taking on a lead role on offence on any given night. At 6’8’’, Mukama brings size to the back court that he utilizes on both ends of the floor. Mukama leads Ryerson with 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and he also averages 3.3 assists and 1.9 steals per night out. Not to be outdone, Charvis averages 15.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and a team-best 4.7 assists per game. Both Mukama and Charvis are shooting above 50% from the floor this season, as are Ngom (62.9%) and Warsame Mohamed (Toronto, Ont.).

Ryerson has its share of weapons on the offensive end of the floor, and they have the size to keep opposing offences on their heels on the opposite end of the floor as well. They will look to exact some revenge on the Ravens for their loss earlier in the year, but as we all know, Carleton won’t make things easy on the Rams on Saturday night.

For the first time in seven years, the Ravens entered a season without the title of defending national champions. The Calgary Dinos knocked off Ryerson in last year’s championship game, while the Ravens took home the bronze. Carleton has their sights set on securing yet another U SPORTS title this season and they are playing with all the confidence in the world right now.

Sitting at 16-0, the perfect season bid for the Ravens remains intact. Only three of their games this season have been decided by single-digit points, and two of them came on the same weekend when they took on Ryerson and the Toronto Varsity Blues in their first games of the second term. The Ravens haven’t been challenged much this season, but they will have their hands full this weekend as both the Rams and Varsity Blues will look to successfully pull off the upsets this weekend in the Ravens Nest.

Twelve of the 13 players who have seen the court this season for the Ravens have played in at least 12 of the team’s games, and 11 of those players average double-digit minutes per game while all 12 average more than 3.0 points per game. Forward Eddie Ekiyor (Ottawa, Ont.), one of several players on the team with NCAA Division I experience, leads the team with an average of 14.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. The former commit of the Xavier Musketeers does the bulk of his damage off the bench as he has made just five starts this season.

Munis Tutu (Windsor, Ont.) and Marcus Anderson (Brampton, Ont.) are the only two players on the team to have started all 16 games this season. Tutu leads the team with 4.7 assists to go along with 11.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest, while Anderson is averaging 5.6 points and 2.1 assists per game. The addition of former UTEP Miners guard Isiah Osborne (Windsor, Ont.) has added yet another element to the rotation for the Ravens in 2018-19 and he’s performed well in his first year at Carleton in a reserve role.

Simply put, Saturday’s showdown between Ryerson and Carleton is a game that you won’t want to miss.