It’s no doubt that the two best teams in OUA men’s basketball reside in the east division with the Carleton Ravens and Ryerson Rams. Three weeks into the regular season, there continues to be question marks surrounding the opposing division, as the OUA West currently has four teams that could compete for the first seed.
Brock leads the way with a 4-1 record, followed by McMaster at 3-2, and Laurier and Western at 3-3, respectively.
The west division is nowhere near the calibre of the Ravens or Rams, and neither are any of the other teams in the east division. However, the four teams listed above have held their own against the east so far this season with a combined 6-6 record.
Things begin to get sticky when looking at the matchups within the west division as the four teams above can beat each other on any given night. Although we are only three weeks in, I’m going to attempt to breakdown the OUA west through the early portion of the season.
There’s no question the Badgers have been underrated by many people so far this season — myself included. Rightfully so, when a program has to replace its coach late in the summer and is adapting to the loss of one of the best players in program history, there are expected growing pains. However, this Badgers team has adapted well.
If you remove the first quarter in the loss to McMaster, the Badgers are a 5-0 team. They looked good in their home opener versus Laurier and have blown out their other three opponents. Currently, the Badgers rank third in the OUA in points per game (88.0) and are the third most efficient team behind Carleton and Ryerson with a 47.3 field goal percentage.
A key to the Badgers success will be if forward Cassidy Ryan can be an efficient scorer as seen in the last two games of the season, in which he shot 61.5 per cent. In the first three games of the season, Ryan shot 41.2 per cent.
The Badgers have looked like they aren’t ready to give up their reign at the top of the OUA west, but they’ll be in tough over their next six games which include Ryerson, Ottawa, Carleton and Queen’s. The Badgers should be content with a 4-2 record over the next six, but they’ll get even more credit if they can look competitive against Ryerson and Carleton.
The Marauders came into this past weekend having picked up a statement victory over Brock. Following the six-point win the perception changed around the Marauders — that they could potentially be the best team in the west division. Then they dropped both games to Nipissing and Laurentian, on Friday and Saturday, leaving more question marks than answers.
Personally, I’m a big believer of this Marauder team. They’re a good mix of veterans (Connor Gilmore, David McCulloch, Matt Quiring and Kwasi Adu-Poku) and rookies (Jordan Henry, Tristan Lindo and Maliek Gordon). I also don’t think they’re at their best yet, and we’ll see an even better Marauders team in the second half of the season going into the playoffs.
They’re in the same boat as the Badgers in their next six games — same six opponents — so whatever happens over the next three weeks could give us a better understanding when comparing the Marauders and Badgers… but it could also make things more confusing.
Laurier Golden Hawks
The benchmark for the Golden Hawks season will be their weekend in Ottawa. On November 2, they only lost to Carleton by three and defeated Ottawa by eight a night later. Not many teams go to Ottawa for their back-to-back and come out as successful as the Golden Hawks did.
This past weekend they dismantled Toronto by 33, but then got trounced by Ryerson in a 45-point loss.
It was known from the start of the season that this Laurier team will only be successful if Ali Sow is scoring. Sow is currently third in the OUA with 22.5 points per game but was held to just eight against Ryerson.
The Golden Hawks are good, but don’t let the Ottawa weekend be the determining factor when trying to define this team. There isn’t enough support around Sow, which makes it tough to succeed in a league that needs at least two very good scorers. Their next best scorer is Ntore Habimana, averaging 10.5 points per game.
Their schedule gets a little lighter over the next two weekends before the end of the first half. We’ll have a better understanding of Laurier once they return in 2019 to a schedule of McMaster (twice) and Brock in three of their first four games. With an opening season loss to Brock, the Golden Hawks must prove they can beat their own division before they make anyone a believer.
Easily the most underrated team right now in the OUA west. Western began their season with a tough loss on the road to Laurier but bounced back with a big win over Queen’s. Western struggled during their trip to Ottawa, bringing their record to 3-3, but they’re a team that could eventually find themselves battling for a top two spot in the west division.
Omar Shiddo has been leading the team in scoring and doing so without forward Marko Kovac. The Mustangs have been without Kovac for the last four games and to be able to go 2-2 without your second-best scorer is a good sign for the Mustangs.
The Mustangs will force you to turn the ball over, averaging 11 steals per game. They’re a veteran team as well, making them dangerous when the schedule turns to divisional matchups during the second half.
Overall, it’s tough to judge the OUA west with the lack of in-division games so far. Between these four teams Brock beat Laurier, Laurier beat Western and McMaster beat Brock. None of that is enough information to make an educated statement on the division and we clearly need more than three weeks to come to any conclusion.