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

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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 1990’s.

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 competition and expansion has forced Quebec University Basketball teams to play less 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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New wave of Canadian Freshmen making NCAA splash

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New Wave Canadian Basketball Freshmen Making NCAA Splash

There’s a new wave of rising Canadians basketball players making an early NCAA splash. Below we take a look at freshmen players that are making their mark on the college basketball landscape. Like previous years, look for most of the names on this list to become household names come March Madness and a select few to continue Canada’s NBA takeover.

Oshea Brissett New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen

Oshea Brissett (Mississauga, ON) – Syracuse Orange

Oshea Brissett – Syracuse Orange

Brissett has been arguably the best freshman in college basketball. The 6’8″, 210 lbs forward from Mississauga, Ontario is beasting the opposition, averaging 13.6 points per game, including a team-high 9.2 rebounds (55th in all of the nation.) A true special talent, he has already racked-up four double-doubles in his first eight games, missing two more by just a single rebound. Look for Brissett to continue his torrid start to season as he helps the Syracuse Orange make a run at a conference title in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Although early in the season, Brissett is looking more and more like a true one and done prospect. Expect a green room invitation come June 2018 at NBA Draft.

Canadian Lindell Wigginton Iowa State Cyclones NCAA

Lindell Wigginton (Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) Iowa State Cyclones

Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State Cyclones

Looking for stability at the guard position? Well, look no further than Lindell Wigginton. A true versatile bucket getter, with major hops (38″ vertical), he currently leads all Canadian freshmen in scoring at 16.3 points per game while contributing in other aspects with 4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia product is shooting a healthy 46.3 % from the field,  48.9% from three-pointers and has reached double-figures scoring in 7-of-9 games, including a season best 28-points, 7 rebound performance against Northern Illinois. Although, the tougher part of the Big 12 conference schedule remains, it is clear that in less than ten games Wigginton has solidified himself as a go to option in the fast paced Cyclones offensive system. Expect the 6’2″, 188 lbs guard to flourish all-season long as he looks to fulfill is long time dream of playing in the NBA.

Nickeil Alexander Walker Virginia Tech Hookies New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen

Nickeil Alexander Walker (Toronto, ON) Virginia Tech Hokies

Nickeil Alexander-Walker – Virginia Tech Hokies

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Talk about talent. Standing 6’5″ tall, weighing-in at 210-pounds, is Toronto, Ontario freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker. A diamond in the rough find for head coach Buzz Williams and Virgina Tech. The Hokies, traditionally not a prime destination for top Canadian prospects is seeing just how special Alexander-Walker can be early-on. The 19-year-old kicked-off his NCAA career with scoring outbursts against Detroit Mercy (24 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and Citadel (29 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and is an integral reason for the Hokies early season success. A knock-down shooter (.529%, FG% .477% 3-pointers) with a 7-footer wing-span Alexander Walker is averaging 14.4 per game, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. A triple-threat he is comfortable handling the rock as well as, dishing off no looks, as he is scoring.

Shai Gilgeous Alexander Kentucky Wildcats New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen

Shai Gilgeous Alexander Hamilton/ON) – Kentucky Wildcats

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky Wildcats

It’s hard to talk about Shai-Gilgenous-Alexander (6’6″, 180 lbs, Hamilton/ON) without mentioning the aforementioned Nickeil Alexander-Walker. After-all, both are cousins, their names resemble each other, their games even more. What-else, they played, dominated and caused headaches for coaches as a dynamic high school back-court duo for Hamilton Heights Christian Academy, winning a State title along the way. Now they find themselves on the biggest stage of college basketball doing similar things for highly respected basketball teams. Despite coming off the bench Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 28.2 minutes per game, good for second on a team that also features a bevy of NBA prospects, including Hamidou Diallo, P.J Washington. A efficient natural stat-stuffer he’s averaging 10.1 points, a team-high 4.4 assists per game along side 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game.

Marcus Carr Pittsburg Panthers New Wave Canadian NCAA Freshmen

Point Guard Marcus Carr (Toronto/ON) – Pittsburgh Panthers

Marcus Carr – Pittsburgh Panthers

A true floor general, Marcus Carr (6’1″, 185 lbs, Toronto/ON) has taken charge and ignited the Pittsburgh Panthers rebuilding offense. Carr’s strong play has propel the Panthers to a early four-game winning streak. The pass-first guard scored a career-best 23 points in a overtime win over St. Mary’s and has scored in double-digits in the five of the past six Panthers contests. Currently averaging 12 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds, including shooting a 48% from the field, 48.1% from downtown and Steve Nash like 921% from the charity stripe. Despite his size Carr is strong enough to finish through contact and loves to gets under your chin with defensive pressure.

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Montreal’s Luguentz Dort commits to Arizona State Sun Devils

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Montreals Luguentz Dort Arizona State Sun Devils

Five star Canadian Guard Lugentz Dort has committed to Bobby Hurley and the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Dort a 6-5, 220lbs, product of Montreal, Quebec has been one of the most exciting Canadian Basketball prospects in recent years, combining raw speed, with gifted athletic ability, the the 2018 elite top prospect is expected to boast the Sun Devils credibility in a tough PAC 12 conference.

Dort narrowed down his list of top schools from Baylor, eventually settling with the upstart Sun Devils program that will help him transition from a two-guard to a more accomplished point-guard.  After all, Coach Hurley knows a thing or two about playing the point, having played the position for the Duke Blue Devils  in the early 90’s and over 269 games in the NBA.

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Highly touted Alabama Crimson Tide Return To Canada

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Alabama Crimson Tide Avery Johnson Return To Canada

The Alabama Crimson Tide led by former NBA Head Coach Avery Johnson, a 16-year veteran and NBA champion point-guard during his playing days will bring his highly touted Alabama Crimson Tide to Canada for series of games against Canada’s top university basketball programs.

The Crimson Tide will visit both Montreal and Ottawa for a three-game exhibition schedule against McGill Redmen (Mon Aug 7), Carleton Ravens (Wed Aug 9) and the Ottawa Gee-Gees (Thu Aug 10).

The Tide competed hard last year and took a step in the right direction with a 19-15 record, 10-8 SEC record and have NCAA March Madness tournament aspirations thanks to solid recruiting class which ranks amongst the nations best.

Led by a talented crop of returning guards, Dazon Ingram (10.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Riley Norris (9 PPG, 3 RPG), the coaches son Avery Johnson Jr. and forwards Braxton Key the Tide will be a handful for the it’s Canadian opposition.

Key a 6’8″, 220 lbs flirted with the  2017 NBA draft after a stellar freshman season, the Charlotte, NC native led ‘Bama in scoring with 12 point per game and was second in rebounding at 5.7 per game. The Tide will also welcome incoming red-shirt sophomore 6’10”, 240lbs Daniel Giddens to a line-up that returns four starters.

Alabama anchored by current NBA player Alonzo Gee (Denver Nuggets) last visited Canada back in 2007 and finished with a record of 4-1 against the same exact teams, dropping a tight 83-72 decision against the Carleton Ravens who have won seven straight Canadian titles including 13-of the-last-15 championships.

Carleton’s signature win over Alabama was only their second ever against a NCAA division one team after 16-game losing streak from 1999 to 2006. The Ravens current record against NCAA teams in Canada stands at an impressive 26-23 (.531%) record.

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