Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oh Canada! La Salle's North Country Tour, part 1

Why Canada?
Though initiated by Duke as a weekend whirlwind tour of Ireland scheduled to fill in a university-scheduled mid-semester break, the idea of a four game, 3-5 day barnstorming excusion did not catch on until 9-11 caused more than a few Division 1 members to reconsider the traditional 10 to 14 day tour to Europe (or Australia). At one point nearly 30 Division 1 programs per year squeezed through the loophole developed by Coach K. Local destinations like Canada, along with the Bahamas and Mexico, became popular Labor Day weekend destinations that allowed full squad practices without closing off the possibility of taking a longer foreign tour within the four year window. The NCAA banned these in-semester excursions as of the fall of 2009, and nearly banned foreign tours altogether. Cooler heads prevailed however and foreign tours were spared. Canada remains a popular destination for schools that want the full squad practices, but may not want to spend the time or the money on an intercontinental junket. The Carleton University Ravens, by consensus the most dominant basketball team in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS -- the Canadian equivalent of the NCAA) organization, has seized the opportunities presented and turned these tours into a cottage industry, hosting eight Division 1 teams this summer alone.

La Salle University headed north for a three game (plus a closed scrimmage) four day run to the Ontario Province city of Ottawa, home of the CIS Champion Carleton University Ravens and the The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees late last week (August 6). La Salle is one of two Atlantic 10 conference teams who will make the trek north in August. The Explorers began with a closed scrimmage with Carleton University on Saturday (8/6), and followed with a 75-61 win over the Gee-Gees on Sunday night. The possession-based breakdown...

La Salle73.11.0352.416.436.722.241.41.08

73.1 possessions is high even for La Salle, and given the horrific shoot conversion rate (eFG% was 45.4) of the Gee-Gees, combined with their very low offensive rebound rate (20.6%), suggests the Ottawa squad had too many one-and-done trips. La Salle did a nice job on the boards, the Gee-Gees clearly were not able to compete for missed shots. Other positives for the Explorers include....
1. Despite losing scoring from Aaric Murray, Ruben Guillandeaux and Jerrell Williams, La Salle nearly matched their overall offensive efficiency from 2011 (1.04) while holding the Gee-Gees to an impressive 0.83 points per possession (ppp).
2. Ottawa's assist rate (95%), combined with their 35.5% two point shooting rate (and board domination) suggests La Salle shut down the inside completely, Ottawa's guards were not getting into the lane much at all and their bigs were not able to finish. Though the Explorers allowed a 39% completion rate from the three point line (the equivalent of a 58.7% completion rate inside the arc), it did not hurt them because they essentially kept pace on the arc, hitting eight of their own.
3. Dr. Giannini used a starting line up of Tyreek Duren (pg), Tayor Dunn (#2#/3), Sam Mills (#2#/3), Jerrell Wright (#4) and Steve Zack (#5), giving those five 50% of the time. He used an 11 man rotation, allocating double digit minutes to five.
4. Ottawa's Gill Vikas paced all scorers with 20 points on 7-11 shooting from the field (6-10, 1-1). Earl Pettis led the Explorers with 15 points on 5-10 (2-4) shooting from the floor and 2-2 from the line, in 18 minutes of play. Steve Zack grabbed a game-high six rebounds, with Williams and Pettis taking five apiece.

1-1 After 2 Games
The Carleton Alumni Team edged the Explorers, 80-77, in their Monday night game, also played at the Ranven's Nest on the Carleton University campus. Though leading by seven at the 35:00 mark, the Explorers could not hold off a closing rush by the Carleton Alums, a tieing three point attempt at the buzzer missed. The possession-based breakdown...

La Salle69.41.1157.515.926.945.325.91.20
Carleton A's1.1555.317.332.445.650.01.15

Though La Salle had good offensive stats and compared favorably in shooting categories (eFG%, PPWS), the Carleton Alumni Team controlled the Explorers' backboards and, using their possessions more efficiently, squeezed out a more efficient 1.15 ppp to La Salle's 1.11 ppp. The alumni team, made up of several professional ball players (Osvaldo Jeanty, Neal Dawson, Stu Turnbull, etc.), were due to give La Salle a more competitive game than the University of Ottawa, but beating the Explorers is not a good sign for the coming season. These tours tend to show false positives, rather than false negatives. Teams that sweep up north may not necessarily have great seasons (see St. John's 2009 tour), but teams that lose games do tend to struggle in the regular season. Jeanty posted a game-high 34 points on 11-17 (8-13, 3-4) shooting from the field to go with a 4-5 night from the line. Jerrell Wright paced the Explorers with 19 points on a perfect 7-7 night from the floor to go with a 5-7 run at the line. Three other Explorers, Sam Mills (14 points), Tyreek Duren (10 points) and Devon White (10 points) logged double digit points. Mills also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. The teams played for about 69 possessions, closer to the NCAA Division 2011 average of 66.7 than the exhibition-level 73 possessions versus Ottawa.

La Salle closes out their junket with an exhibition game against their host, Carleton University, tonight at 7:00 pm. Ravens starters Tyson Hinz and Cole Hobin, currently rostered with the Canadian World University Games Men's Team and in China, will not be available for tonight's game.

Further Reading
A background piece on the CIS by Mark Wacyk, who blogs about Canadian basketball on the CIS Hoops.ca blog.
The Ottawa game recap and box score.
The Carleton Alumni Team game recap and box score.

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