It came as no surprise that the Carleton Ravens and Ryerson Rams came out of the OUA East as the two teams that will represent that division in the OUA semifinals. The Laurier Golden Hawks and the Brock Badgers being the two programs out of the OUA West was also no surprise, but there was a bit more competition.
The top four coming into the season from the OUA West was always the Golden Hawks, Badgers, Western Mustangs and McMaster Marauders — as seen in the OUA quarterfinals — however, the Lakehead Thunderwolves and Guelph Gryphons began to come on in the latter half of the season. The Thunderwolves won seven of their final nine, and the Gryphons had victories in five of their final seven. In round one of the OUA playoffs, the Thunderwolves were merely defeated by four against the Badgers, and the Gryphons fell short by three to the Marauders.
The West was even more competitive in the quarterfinals, as the Badgers finally beat the Mustangs thanks to a Tyler Brown buzzer-beater after Brock failed to get a regular season win versus Western. The Marauders would fall to the number one seeded Golden Hawks but not before putting up a fight to the end.
In the East, the Ravens and Rams won their quarterfinal matchups by 17 and 23, respectively. This sets the OUA Final Four as Ryerson versus Laurier and Brock versus Carleton. If history has told us anything, the Rams and Ravens will come out of the semifinals on February 27 as the two that will meet in the OUA Finals for the fourth consecutive year.
However, if there are two teams that could upset the powerhouses of the East it might just be the Hawks and Badgers. Here’s why:
Game One: Ryerson versus Laurier
In their regular season matchup, the Golden Hawks got bested by the Rams by 45-points on their own home court. On the other hand, the Golden Hawks only lost to the Ravens during the regular season by three so it’s not like the Hawks can’t compete against the best.
Also, Ali Sow shot three-for-16 against the Rams in their November 10 contest. To expect Sow to shoot that poorly again is like expecting Carmelo Anthony to carry an NBA team to the finals. Sow was the second best scorer in the OUA during the regular season, averaging 26.6 points per game on 43.7 per cent shooting. There were only two other times Sow shot 25 per cent or worse in a game this season, yet his team still pulled out victories in those two contests.
Of course the majority of the Hawks success falls on Sow — as the offense is run through him — but, that won’t be the only thing that will beat the Rams. If the Hawks defence shows up as the one that held Carleton to 38.6 per cent shooting, rather than the one that allowed Ryerson to shoot 54.8 per cent, things get a little more interesting.
However, a majority of this matchup comes down to if the Hawks can match the Rams shot-for-shot. Can they find other ways to get Sow the ball and get him open against a Rams lengthy defence that can shut down the perimeter play of almost any top U Sports scorer? If the Hawks offense shows up, we are in for a high scoring contest.
Game Two: Brock versus Carleton
The last time the Badgers beat the Ravens was back on January 7, 2006, while the Ravens have also successfully gone 3-0 in the playoffs versus Brock (from what can be found historically). Last season the Badgers did successfully take the Ravens to overtime in their seasonal matchup before falling by five, but that was also when the Badgers still had Dani Elgadi.
This season, the Badgers struggled against the Ravens losing by 40. However, like the Golden Hawks the Badgers have shown compete against other top OUA East teams. In their Nov. 17 matchup versus the Rams the Badgers lost 71-62, but led by 16 at half before things unraveled in the third quarter.
When discussing the game plan for Wednesday, the Badgers offense can match the Ravens but it’s a question of if their defence can do the same. These are the two best offenses in the OUA with the Ravens averaging 91.3 points per game and the Badgers at 87.3 per game. The issue for Brock has been their defence at the forefront of all the question marks this season, as they allowed the Ravens to shoot 47.8 per cent back in November.
If the Badgers can lock in defensively for a full 40 minutes, which usually translates to their best offense, we could see a tighter matchup than what happened in November.
Its wishful thinking to see both the Hawks and Badgers pull out victories, but Alberta and UBC were on the brink of elimination in the Canada West playoffs so it’s possible to see a one-game series upset. Both Alberta and UBC prevailed thanks to the CW playoff format being a three-game series.
The Hawks and Badgers get one chance to play the right way versus the Ravens and Rams; history isn’t on their side and neither are the numbers, but they have the talent to get it done.