By Gavin Mackenzie
Now that it’s playoff time, Ryerson men’s basketball team is throwing its regular season achievements out the window. All that matters now is winning the OUA-East division championship this weekend. Anything less will be considered a letdown for the team.
“Playoffs are a new season,” Rams’ guard Jan-Michael Nation said. “We’ve accomplished a lot this year but we’re not finished yet. We’re out to defend out title.”
The Rams have enjoyed their best regular season in team history, winning 17 consecutive games and finishing first in the OUA East division. The team has been ranked among the top five teams in Canada for much of the year
On Thursday, the Rams (24-4) travel to Laurentian University in Sudbury to play the Queen’s Golden Gaels (13-16) in the OUA semi-final. The winner will play either Carleton (13-13) or host Laurentian (21-7) in the finals Saturday afternoon.
The Rams, ranked fourth in the country, are undefeated against Queen’s this season. During the Ed DeArmon Memorial tournament, Ryerson scorched them by 30 points, but their last two meetings have come down to the wire.
Three weeks ago, Ryerson came from behind to beat the Golden Gaels by five. Last weekend in Kingston the Rams survived a second-half collapse and hung on for a four-point win.
Should the Rams triumph over Queen’s, their competition for the division title will not get any easier. Both Laurentian and Carleton have played well against Ryerson this year. A division championship would secure a second consecutive berth for the Rams in the CIAU national championship tournament held in Halifax, March 17-19. If Ryerson fails to defend its OUA East title the team still have a chance to go to Halifax. The two highest ranked teams that don’t win their division are awarded a wildcard spot in the tournament.
Even with Ryerson’s impressive season, Nation says the Rams will have to turn some heads on the way to the nationals.
“We don’t get much respect around the country,” he said. That’s why we have to win the division. I’m not counting on a wildcard.”
Ryerson forward Bill Crowdis believes there’s no reason the Rams should fall this weekend.
“We’re like a walking all-star team because we’re so well balanced,” Crowdis, a first-year public administration student said. “If we’re on our game then nobody in this country will beat us.”