College basketball is just around the corner Canada.
Although fans will have to wait for the official pre-season Canadian College Athletic Association (CCAA) rankings, there’s no harm in taking an early season look on the key teams/players as league play is less than a month away.
@ColoradoURB Hi Jose, the first CCAA Men’s Basketball Rankings will be released on Tuesday, November 3!
— CCAA – ACSC (@CCAAsportsACSC) October 9, 2015
Last year’s representative: Humber Hawks (first place), Mohawk Mountaineers (host – fourth place)
A review of the CCAA has to begin with the reigning national champs, the Humber Hawks (Toronto).
The team has had an inconsistent pre-season thus far. It defeated Seton Hill – a NCAA D2 team – in late August only to be stomped by trio of CIS programs in McMaster (Sept. 30, 89-60), Ryerson (Aug.1, 79-65) and Western University (Oct.2, 95-45).
Despite some noticeable players leaving (Chad Bewley, RJ Ramirez, Junior Davis, Tyrone Dickson), I think Humber repeats as Ontario champions, but don’t come close on the national stage.
The OCAA gets two representatives into this year’s tournament via the wild card – based off the league’s performance in the last three national tournaments – with this year again being wide open.
Every season in this league it takes teams everything they have to get out of – in particular the West, where many of the best clubs hold court.
It really is a shame that the OCAA can’t send two from the West as a number of squads (e.g. Sheridan, Mohawk, Fanshawe) have routinely outplayed the East’s best in years past.
With all that being said, I say Durham College advances on the other side.
Projected national representatives: Humber Hawks (conference champions), Durham College (wildcard)
Last year’s representatives: Langara Falcons (sixth place), Vancouver Island University (second place)
Out west – in the PACWEST that is – one of its teams has appeared in the last three national finals, twice claiming the ultimate prize in that span.
Traditionally very top-heavy, meaning there are a few perennial contenders (Vancouver Island University (VIU) and Langara College aside), weaker teams tend to get beat up in this league each year.
This season provides an interesting narrative, however.
The PACWEST gets two teams through to nationals via the second wild card and you can bank on VIU returning and even challenging for the national title again.
But after that it’s murky.
Langara is younger than it has been in recent memory with nine, first-year players, and Quest – while talented – has repeatedly shown its inability to get over the hump when it matters most.
I see the Douglas Royals surprising everyone and meeting VIU in the finals.
Projected national representatives: VIU (conference champions), Douglas Royals (wildcard)
Last year’s representatives: Lethbridge Kodiaks (third place), Medicine Hat Rattlers (seventh place)
The Albertan conference has been gaining steam of late on the national stage.
Medicine Hat and Lethbridge qualified last year with the latter claiming bronze – this despite the fact that it was actually the Red Deer Kings, who finished first in the south conference, with 19 wins and the best overall record.
The Kings were upset in the first round but have reloaded with a talented bunch and are confident in their chances this time around, and I’m inclined to agree with them. They should medal.
The Albertan teams also have home-court advantage as Keyano College – located in the heart of the oil sands – are the 2016 host.
Projected national representatives: Red Deer College (conference champions), Keyano College (host)
Last year’s representatives: Holland Hurricanes (fifth place)
The Holland Hurricanes reign supreme over in the Atlantic conference coming off three consecutive appearances in the big dance.
The team already is trending in the right direction as it’s off to a quick 3-0 start despite losing decorated big man, Chase Bowden, in the off-season.
The ACAA has historically been the weakest division in Canada however with the league’s representative struggling to get results against Canada’s best.
In the past 35 years the ACAA has the recorded just five medals – the lowest total of all the leagues and has yet to capture gold. Its best-ever, silver medal finish came in a 2013 Cinderella run by Holland.
With powerful teams reloading in the OCAA, PACWEST and ACAC, it doesn’t look hopeful that the ACAC will reach the podium this year.
Projected national representatives: Holland Hurricanes (conference champions)
Last year’s representative: Champlain St. Lambert Cavaliers (eighth place)
The RSEQ has struggled to find results on the national stage of late.
This division hasn’t reached the podium in the last four tournaments with its lone representative, Champlain College, finishing dead last in 2015.
The RSEQ is a three-team race between Champlain, John Abbott College and Vanier College.
Justin Owen-Renwick looks poised to have a big year across the board for the John Abbott Islanders after his showing at the 21st annual Vikings Invitational.
I look for him to be a big reason his team punches its berth to Fort McMurray come March.
Projected national representative: John Abbott College (conference champions)
Have a different opinion? Follow Jose on Twitter @coloradourb and have your say.