Friday, January 25, 2008

Campus Corner: A sibling rivalry, or lack thereof?

The men's basketball team faces a sharp contrast this weekend. Tonight, they play 14-0 Carleton, the consensus No.1 team in the country (according to the CIS poll,, and the RPI rankings, which agree on very little apart from Carleton). Tomorrow night, they play a polar opposite team in the 0-14 RMC Paladins (as an aside, why does RMC even bother keeping volleyball and basketball teams? They haven't won a game in either gender in either sport this year, so they're worse than the Miami Dolphins, which is pretty sad).

Tonight's Carleton game should be quite interesting. As Neate Sager noted on The CIS Blog, Carleton's suffering from a flu bug. That, combined with the possibility that the Ravens might overlook tonight's match in preparation for tomorrow's Capital Hoops Classic against Ottawa before 10,000 fans at Scotiabank Place, should at least give the Gaels a slim chance to my way of thinking.

Unfortunately, head coach Rob Smart doesn't seem to agree. Smart told me that the game means "almost nothing" for his team, as they've pretty much already written it off. While certainly a pragmatic and realistic attitude, I'm not entirely convinced that it's the proper one for a coach to take before such a clash. As earlier mentioned, there's a reason we still actually play the games rather than just simulating them on computers. If both the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens can almost knock off the New England Patriots, there's certainly a chance that Queen's can hang in there with Carleton, and maybe even take the match if they channel the kind of shooting (71% from three-point land!) the Raptors put
up against the Celtics in their upset the other day. Perhaps I'm just a huge fan of underdogs, but I like to believe that there's always some hope. If Queen's can hit 71 per cent of their threes, I'm pretty sure they'll pull off the win: otherwise, it's still a slim chance, but it's definitely there. In any case, the battle of the Smarts (Rob and his younger brother, Carleton coach Dave) alone makes this game worth watching.

By the way, to keep from coming down on Smart too hard: he also made a good point about how Queen's young guys (i.e. Mitch Leger, Jon Ogden) are right up there with, if not better than, Carleton's equivalent young guys. The difference is Queen's relies on its young stars, while Carleton uses them primarily as fill-ins. It's also possible that he's saying one thing to the media to keep expectations low while secretly pumping his guys up for battle. The other alternative is that he's just sick of the inevitable questions about the success his brother's having with Carleton. In fairness, these games don't really mean a ton in terms of playoff positioning either: the 9-5 Gaels are currently fourth in the OUA East, and there doesn't seem to be too much likelihood of them catching Toronto given the Blues' recent success: however, there are still a lot of games to play. They should be able to finish ahead of fifth-place Ryerson, though, as the Rams are currently 5-9. Thus, barring an unexpected run or Jean Van de Velde-esque collapse by the Gaels (or a Phil Mickelson-esque choke-job by the Blues), they should be set to host Ryerson in the first round, a very winnable game.

(Hilarious response by Smart when I asked him if there's a sibling rivalry: "A rivalry involves being close.")

It will also be interesting to see if Queen's can keep any intensity for Saturday night's game against RMC, or if it will all have been drained from them in the Carleton game. Smart said he isn't worried about overconfidence, but you have to think that there might be some going from playing a 14-0 team to matching up against an 0-14 team. RMC's certainly going to pull out all the stops against their cross-town rivals in an attempt to avoid a winless season, and the schedule should help them a bit. I don't think Queen's will let down far enough that RMC will take the game, but it might be closer than you'd think, and the improbable does occur from time to time.

The women's matches should also be interesting. Tonight, 5-10 Queen's takes on 3-12 Carleton. The Gaels then play the winless Paladins Saturday night. These are key games for playoff positioning. Queen's is currently fourth in the OUA East, and has no chance of moving up (third-place Laurentian is 12-4). However, they need to hang on to the fourth seed to host a first-round matchup. They definitely don't want to slip any further than fifth, as the sixth and final playoff seed earns a doomed matchup against the third-place team. Carleton currently occupies sixth place, and will be desperate to try and move up. As Gaels' head coach Dave Wilson noted, it really is a four-point game. The RMC game will also be key: Wilson pointed out that the Paladins have been playing good basketball without getting results, and you know they'll be fired up against a crosstown team that has also struggled.
(By the way, Wilson is one of my favorite coaches: he always has time for the media, and he's one of the most quotable people I've ever interviewed.)

- Neate Sager's piece setting up the weekend at Out of Left Field: he also threw a link my way, which was completely unexpected and very nice of him
- Neate's other piece on basketball at The CIS Blog, referenced above
- The weekend preview (By the way, Mark Wacyk got some nice recognition for his work from Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail, my favorite basketball reporter).

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