OTTAWA — For the first time since the 2010-11 season, the Carleton Ravens will enter the new campaign without the title of defending national champions.
Despite winning the OUA crown and advancing to the U Sports Final 8 tournament, the Ravens were unable to secure their eighth straight Canadian national championship.
Carleton entered the tournament undefeated on the year, and were the clear-cut favourites to secure yet another national crown. They passed their first test in the quarter-finals, picking up an 81-64 win over the Acadia Axemen to advance to the semi-finals.
There, they squared off against the Ryerson Rams, also from the OUA. The Ravens had their hands full with the Rams, and Ryerson pulled off the upset, 84-76. Carleton would face off against the McGill Redmen in the Bronze Medal game the next day, picking up a five-point win to earn another podium finish.
In 2018-19, the Ravens won’t enter the season as the defending national champions, but they will still be one of the favourites to win it all. Their roster is loaded with talent, and if their results against NCAA opponents this season are any indication, they’ll be a tough out all season long.
Year in and year out, the Ravens take on top-tier teams from the NCAA in exhibition play, and they regularly pick up wins. That sparks the yearly debate as to whether or not the Ravens, or any team from across the U Sports landscape, could compete in the NCAA on a regular basis.
The answer is simple. Yes.
This year was no different, as the Ravens went a perfect 5-0 on their home floor in the CanAm Shootout. They picked up wins over the Cincinnati Bearcats, Ole Miss Rebels, Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks, and South Dakota State Jackrabbits (twice). Carleton was dominant over the five-game stretch, once again asserting themselves as the premier team in Canada.
Over the last two years, the Ravens have won 15 of their 16 games against Division I opponents. Their lone loss came at the hands of the James Madison Dukes in the U.S. Virgin Islands ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Head coach Dave Smart has assembled a talented roster that features several players from Division I schools across the NCAA. This year alone, his roster will feature players from the Conference USA, Big East, America East, and the West Coast Conference. The likes of Eddie Ekiyor, Munis Tutu, and Troy Reid-Knight are back from last year’s team, plus they added Canadian Isiah Osborne in the off-season to bolster what was already a deep roster on both ends of the court.
As a team last season, the Ravens posted an average of 88.5 points per game in 23 contests against OUA opponents. They shot over 47% from the floor as a team, and over 36% from three point range. Carleton had a pair of players average double-digit points per game, while 10 different players averaged at least 5.9 points per contest.
The pair of Ekiyor and Yasiin Joseph led the way for Smart’s crew last season. Ekiyor, a native of Ottawa, led the team with 7.6 rebounds to go along with his 14.3 points per contest. Joseph, who also hails from Ottawa, led the Ravens with an average of 14.7 points per contest.
Joseph was also one of three players to start all 23 conference games for the Ravens last season. Ekiyor was named a Second Team All-Canadian for his efforts in 2017-18.
Looking ahead to the 2018-19 season, and the Ravens have their core group back for another shot at the national title. They have another year of experience under their belts, which will only make them better as the season progresses. Add in their talent on both sides of the ball and the depth of the team, and it’s a nightmare match-up for any team in Canada.
Leading the way will be the aforementioned Ekiyor, who put his talents on display throughout the 2018 CanAm Shootout. In the opener against Cincinnati, he went for 26 points in the Ravens’ 19-point win, 86-67. Then, in the second of two games against South Dakota State, the 6’9” forward went for 35 points in another 19-point win for Carleton.
Ekiyor was once committed to the Xavier Musketeers, but opted to return to Canada for his collegiate career. Based on the numbers he’s put up, it looks as though he made the right choice.
The addition of a player like Osborne late in the off-season adds another level of depth to the Ravens’ rotation this season. Prior to playing for the UTEP Miners in the Conference USA, Osborne was a member of the Windsor Lancers. Last season with the Miners, Osborne averaged 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He also shot 37.7% from the floor and 32.8% from three point range.
Osborne will add size to the back court rotation for the Ravens, giving them another scoring option on the outside while also possessing the ability to finish in the paint.
Tutu. Reid-Knight. Osborne. Ekiyor. Marcus Anderson. Mitch Wood. Stanley Mayambo. The Ravens are loaded.
One could go on and on about this year’s roster for the Ravens. They have talent on both sides of the ball, and are one of the top favourites to be cutting down the nets when all is said and done this season at the U Sports Final 8 tournament in Halifax.
Dave Smart is undoubtedly one of the top minds in all of basketball, and he will have the Ravens ready for whatever their opponents throw at them each time out.The Ravens will once again be atop the OUA standings, and will be looking to secure an unprecedented 14th national title in the last 16 seasons.
– T. Bennett