Brock men’s basketball saw their season come to an end on Sunday night. A day after the Badgers upset the Ottawa Gee-Gee’s in the OUA bronze medal game; Brock was left out of the U Sports Final 8 as the committee voted in Calgary for the at-large berth.
The committee is made up of four coaches whose teams did not make the Final 8 (one from each conference). Using multiple different criteria’s to make their judgment, the members voted to make their decision late Sunday evening.
“To me, it was a no-brainier,” said Brock head coach Charles Kissi about if his team should have been in the Final 8. “You can say what you want about other teams, you can say what you want about criteria, but you have to use your judgment and you have to make the right decision based on what actually happened.”
“I respect the decision, but I don’t have to like it,” he continued. “We have to be careful; analytics are starting to change the game. The numbers aren’t going to tell you what the eye can see.”
The 2016-17 season was the Badgers best since the 2008 year when they went on to win the National title. Brock finished this season with a 15-4 record to win the OUA Central Division and was the fourth ranked team in the conference.
After a victory over the University of Toronto, Brock moved onto the OUA Final Four, which led them to play the number one ranked Carleton Ravens.
In this past Friday’s contest, the Badgers struggled early to find their offense, but ultimately being outscored 31-19 in the fourth made the score look worse than what it actually was. The Ravens would defeat the Badgers 89-64 behind a 25 point game from Kaza Kajami-Keane. Reigning OUA Player of the Year, Connor Wood, who had 37 points last year in a playoff game versus Brock was held to just 15 points.
For the Badgers, Johneil Simpson came off the bench to lead the way with 24 points. However, the rest of the team struggled with no one else scoring in double-digits.
“[Carleton’s] good so you can’t make too many mistakes against a team of that calibre,” said Kissi. “We didn’t make a lot [of mistakes]; however we made enough to never really get over that hump.”
The Badgers showed different life to win the bronze medal game by a score of 69-67 over the Gee-Gee’s. Simpson and Cassidy Ryan were inserted into the starting five for this game, and the Badgers fed the ball to Ryan early. The transfer student from Canisius College led Brock with 19 points. Simpson added 11 and Tyler Brown had a bounce back game scoring 13.
“We said we weren’t leaving Ottawa without a medal,” explained the Brock coach. “That was our focus before we even came to Ottawa, so weren’t leaving that game without a medal despite the distractions.”
Brock’s star forward, Dani Elgadi, struggled all weekend. After averaging 14.7 points on 10.1 shots per game, 10.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for the season, the fourth year forward was held to four points per game, five rebounds per game and no blocks over the course of the two game weekend.
Kissi spoke about the critics who got on Elgadi for failing to show up when it mattered most.
“I think they don’t know basketball.,” Kissi said about the critics. “You have to understand the other teams not going to let the other team’s best scorer score. What makes us good is we have other guys that can pick up the slack.”
Many argued why the Badgers were left out of the U Sports Final 8 and it seems the regular season losses to Nipissing and Lakehead proved to be a large decision factor for the committee. However, no explanation was given for why Calgary was chosen over Brock.
Kissi didn’t shy away from speaking his mind about how the U Sports basketball league has operated. He mentioned that following the announcement someone reached out to him and said, ‘you’re not the first one to get the short-end of the stick. It has been like this for years.’
“This isn’t about OUA versus the West, or Brock versus Calgary,” said Kissi. “This is about getting the best eight teams in the tournament. If they’re all from the West, then they should be from the West and that should be the national tournament.”
“It’s unfortunate or fortunate that the strongest teams this year and the last few years have been in Ontario. Let’s not punish us for having a stronger division. Maybe in a year or two the West will be stronger than us so we shouldn’t be holding them back either.”
Kissi mentioned that he’d like to see the tournament expand to more than eight teams. The coach believed his team wasn’t the only one that missed out on being part of the tournament, and that Ottawa and the University of British Columbia could make a case as well.
“Our system is flawed and we allow it to stay that way and it’s wrong,” said Kissi. “Unfortunately I’m not being completely silent about how flawed it is.”
“It’s time to move forward, we can’t cry about it. It’s about how do we make this better so that things like this don’t continue to happen.”
This was the Badgers fourth season under Kissi, and the program has improved their win total each year. Kissi has been able to bring in solid recruits each year, from Elgadi in his first year and Simpson in year two. Elgadi and Simpson both went on to be named OUA Rookie of the Years in their first seasons with the Badgers.
This year, Elgadi was named an OUA first-team all-star and Simpson was an OUA second-team all-star despite being moved to a sixth man role midway through the season. Rookie Daniel Cayer, who replaced Simpson as a starter, was named to the OUA all-rookie team.
The Badgers will see four players graduate from this year’s roster: Trevor Thompson (started 17 games this season), Mo Ismail, Ryan Bennett (has been a starter the last two seasons) and backup point guard Nolan Mackenzie.
In early February, the Badgers announced their first recruit for the year ahead in guard Kascius Small-Martin.
That being said, with Elgadi, Simpson, Ryan (most likely to be a full-time starter next year), Brown and Cayer expected to return, the Badgers have a solid core to build from. Rookie Michael Asemota will also be a huge part of the rotation if he continues to show improvement like he did this season.
Kissi has shown a solid ability to recruit each year, so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do as the Badgers continue to grow. Next season the team will be an OUA Final Four favourite and look to earn a spot into the U Sports Final 8.
“There’s only one place to go from here,” said Kissi. “The focus next year is to get to the national tournament. Once we are there I never want to look back, I want to be there every year I coach here at Brock.”