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CIS Final 8: RSEQ/Quebec struggles continue as McGill fail to advance

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CIS Final 8: RSEQ/Quebec struggles continue as McGill fail to advance
Photo: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics

Vancouver, BC – The struggles continue for the Réseau du Sport Etudiant du Québec (RSEQ) Quebec conference at the CIS Final 8 National Championships.

With the No. 5 McGill Redmen dropping a 72-69 nail bitter to the No. 4 seed Calgary Dinos it has now been eleven years (2005) since an RSEQ team has won a quarter-final game at Nationals, and over 18 years since the 1998 Bishop Gaiters lifted the WP. McGee trophy, claiming bragging rights as the best conference in the country.

A lot has changed between 1998 and 2005 when the Concordia Stingers knocked off the St. Mary’s Huskies 87-57 to advance to the national semi-finals. The University game as a whole has improved by leaps and bounds, we’ve seen realignment changes across two conferences, both in the OUA and CanWest divisions, CIS transfer rules have opened up the floodgates for NCAA transfers to return home without being forced to sit out a mandatory one year, and much more.

But outside of RSEQ teams competing during preseason exhibition against top NCAA teams during August and early September things have been pretty much status quo, for a conference that routinely challenged the rest of the country during the 1990s.

Majority of the problems with the RSEQ can be traced to the fact it only features five teams in comparison to the rest of the league. The Ontario University Conference (OUA) and the Canada West boast a total of 17 teams across multiple divisions, while the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference only has 8 teams.

UQAM-Kewyn-Blain-Citadins
Kewyn Blain – 2015-2016 RSEQ Player of The Year

The lack of competition and expansion have forced Quebec University Basketball teams to play fewer league games against the same underachieving opponents during the season, resulting in one or two teams finishing above 500% in the standings. Although not factually, it’s valid to argue that the conference is also losing the recruiting battle as most of the top high school players from Ontario, Canada West or Atlantic Canada rarely consider the RSEQ as a conference of choice for championships and exposure. Majority of the rosters across the five teams are filled with local CGEP Quebec talent and a few imports from french-speaking nations like France, Belgium, Haiti and few African countries.

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With all these disadvantages and rapid growth of the game across the country, from prep leagues to professional ranks (NBL Canada), the RSEQ still has plenty to offer from high-level educational opportunities to top-notch coaching and features one of the most diverse provinces Canada has to offer.

For the RSEQ the road to supremacy will require time, funding, strategic thinking, and potential realignments with the OUA and/or CEGEP additions to grow the university/collegiate game throughout the province. Adding more teams will surely make the league more competitive and attractive, improving facilities, scholarship offers and most importantly winning will also help solve some these dilemma’s and hopefully restore the conference as a prime destination and end championship drought.

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U Sports

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin

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Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
Omar Shiddo is Western University's leading scorer this season with 19.4 points per game. Western Mustangs Photo

It’s around 8:30 p.m. on a frigid Wednesday in the dead of winter, and Omar Shiddo is having his worst game of the season. 

The fourth-year Western Mustangs guard, who has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard for his clutch shooting, has just five points in the first half of a tight game against the Guelph Gryphons. 

In the second half his game marginally improves, but there are a series of missteps — layups that don’t go down, jump shots that rim out and an occasional lack of motion without the ball. 

Shiddo also gets hit with a technical foul after a physical bucket he felt should have resulted in an and-one, clapping back at two Guelph players who allegedly chirped at him during the play.

This is a far cry from the kinds of performance Shiddo is known for, and light years away from the 35-point outburst he had four days earlier in an 84-79 win over rival McMaster.

It doesn’t matter — not even remotely. 

Western clamps down on defence in the second half and several teammates make big shots. Shiddo helps neutralize Guelph guard Malcolm Glanville, who had 11 first-half points and showed signs of catching fire. 

Shiddo finishes with 12 points on 4-15 shooting, his lowest total of the year. Five other Mustang players players score in double-digits, including 27 points from sharp-shooting guard Eriq Jenkins. 

Western pulls away and cruises to a 94-73 victory that’s as ugly as it is decisive. 

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
Omar Shiddo knocks down a jumpshot

“That’s a win, boys!” someone shouts emphatically as the team gathers for a post-game huddle in the cavernous, mostly-empty Alumni Hall in London, Ont. — Western’s home court. 

“Guys on my team stepped up,” said Shiddo minutes later in an interview, his soft-spoken analysis tumbling out as quickly as he jukes opponents, like water over Niagara Falls.

“The second half was more of other guys doing their thing and me not having to do as much scoring, which I love to do. It’s all about team … we got a big win.” 

Shiddo is unquestionably a leader — and on most nights, the most effective offensive weapon — on a Western team loaded with potential. 

In his tenure, the Mustangs have been as good as they have been in a decade, with a legitimate chance to challenge for a berth in the U Sports Final 8 — Canada’s version of March Madness — in Ottawa.

“That’s our goal from the beginning of the year — trying to get to nationals,” said Shiddo, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., a hotbed that has produced several NBA players, including Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett.

“We think we’re a top-five team in the country,” said Shiddo. “We’ve just need to continue to play like it.” 

Western is ranked outside the Top 10 nationally, but has the second-best record in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), four points behind the Carleton Ravens.

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin

They’re also first in the OUA West division, with a roster that skews relatively young: Seven of the 12 players are freshmen or sophomores.

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Nikola Farkic, a 6-foot point guard from Waterloo, is team captain and Jenkins (Windsor, Ont.) is arguably its most reliable three-point threat. Veteran forward Julian Walker (Barrie, Ont.) anchors a front court with considerable promise, thanks in large part to lean, athletic second-year players Aaron Tennant (London, Ont.) and Ukasha Khan (Brampton, Ont.).

“A lot of stuff goes unnoticed on the stat sheet,” said Shiddo. “But we’ve got a full team and we’re 10 deep. Everybody plays their role. We’re not a team where it’s one guy.”

He’s right. This win over Guelph is proof enough of that. And yet in crunch time, Shiddo has a penchant for taking over games, Lillard-style, and making big shots.

It has become part of Western lore. 

When Lillard puts a team on his back and wills it to victory in the fourth quarter, fans and media call it Dame Time. When Shiddo does this, it’s #Omellytime. 

Shiddo showed hints of his #Omelly mentality early against Guelph. After Western fell behind 10-2 in the first quarter, his demeanour shifted from deferential to aggressive, pushing the ball up the floor and calmly making a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to six. 

Minutes later, he drilled a three-pointer to make it 12-7, and attacked the basket for a layup that lingered on the rim but didn’t fall. His teammates took their cue and soon Western had its first lead of the game.

At the end of the first quarter the score was 28-28. At halftime Western led 47-46, and they never looked back. 

“I’m not the rah rah type of — football type of leader,” said Shiddo. “I try to lead by example.

Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
Omar Shiddo – Western Mustngs Soft-spoken assassin

“Say what has to be said, and other than that just lead by example. It’s not how much you say, it’s about what you say.”

In U Sports, most teams are at the mercy of a Carleton dynasty that has won 14 of the last 17 national championships.

Western is a long shot to come anywhere near the title game this season, and Carleton is favoured to win it. When the teams meet for a regular-season tilt at Alumni Hall on Jan.  31, it will likely be for the last time. 

Shiddo is nobody’s fool. He knows the odds are stacked against his team, even if he’s at his best and #Omellytime is in full effect. 

His confidence is tempered with realism, but it’s still there.

“Against a team like that we’re not going to be up by one at half — we’ll probably be down by 20,” he said. “We have to play our perfect game.” 

They will almost certainly not be perfect. They will almost certainly lose. And yet Omar Shiddo, the soft-spoken assassin, has a question for you.

“Why not shock the country,” he said, “and beat the No. 1 team?”

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U Sports

Carleton Ravens set records in 129-44, 85-point beat-down of York Lions

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Carleton Ravens set records in 129-44, 85-point beat-down of York Lions
Photo: Valerie Wutti/Blitzen Photography

The No. 1 ranked Carleton Ravens improved to 16-2 overall and 8-0 in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference action with a 129-44 — 85 point beat-down of the York Lions to set a modern-day U Sports men’s basketball record, for most points scored and the largest margin of victory in a OUA conference game.

The Ravens’ 129 points is the most points scored in a (OUA) game and the third highest scoring output in historic programs’ 58-year history. Carleton routed the Fleming Knights (CCAA/OCAA) 130-78 in non-conference win on October 3, 2009. The 85-point win is the second largest margin of victory in team’s history — including CIAU, CIS, OUA conference, non-conference and games against NCAA teams.

carleton ravens set u sports basketball records in 129 44 85 point beat down of york lions
Carleton Ravens set U Sports Basketball Records in 129 44 85 point beat down of York Lions

According to historic records, and stats guru Martin Timmerman, the Ravens’ also hold the bragging rights for the most points scored and largest margin of victory in Canadian university basketball history. The all-time mark dates back to the 1964-1965 season with the Ravens’ beating the Ottawa Gee-Gees 144-52 — a whooping 92 point victory in the old Ottawa-St. Lawrence Intercollegiate Association (IAA) conference which was part of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union (CIAU).

The OUA was formed on July 1st of 1997 in a amalgamation of the both the Ontario Universities Athletic Association (OUAA) and the Ontario Women’s Interuniversity Athletic Association (OWIAA).

The previous largest OUA margin of victory stood firmly at 81, 77 points respectively, dating back to two occasions involving the same two teams. January 15, 2011 — the Ravens pounded the now defunct Royal Military College (RMC) men’s basketball program with a 121-40 win in Kingston, Ontario. Two weeks later, on January 28, in Ottawa, the Ravens’ won by a easy 77 points, in a 101-24 cake walk victory.

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The York Lions (7-15, 1-10 OUA) never had a chance — trailing 32-7 after the first 10 minutes and down 64-21 at half-time. The Lions allowed the Ravens’ to outscored them 35-15 in the third-quarter and were limited to just 9 points in the final 10 minutes — while giving-up an another 35-point-quarter.

Stanley Mayambo 17 points, 4 rebounds paced seven Ravens’ players in double-figures. Lloyd Pandi added 14 points, 2 rebounds. Aiden Warnholtz played a game-high 28 minutes off the bench and contributed with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. All of Carleton’s players scored at least five points and attempted at least five shots with only one bench player logging less then 10 minutes of playing time. None of the Carleton’s starting five logged more than 19 minutes of action.

Carleton knocked down 45-of-77 (58.4%) field-goals, made 15-of-32 (46.5%) three-pointers and connected on a healthy 24-30 (80%) from free-throws — while limiting the Lions to just 14-of-62 (22.6%), 4-of-20% (20%) from downtown and 12-of-23 (52%) free-throws.

Carleton, currently on a four-game home stretch will take on the Nipissing Lakers before closing out the first semester with a highly anticipated showdown against nationally ranked and cross-town rival Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Boxscore

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