By Charles Vanegas
Last March, Ryerson Athletics sent busloads of students to Waterloo to cheer on the men’s basketball team in their semi-final match at the OUA Final Four. They gave everyone yellow t-shirts with a checklist on the back. Already checked off: 1stround bye, Clip [Ottawa] Gee-gees, 90 minutes to da ‘Loo, and Get on TV (Hi Mom).
But never did I think we’d be able to check off the last box: Hunt us some ‘Wolves. The Lakehead Thunderwolves were the second ranked team in the country and the defending OUA champions.
We were going to go, watch our team lose, and be content that they finished as one of the top four teams in the province.
But then the Rams started the game on a 13-0 run. At the end of one quarter, they led by 16. After three, they were up 20. They were not going to lose this game. At the end, many referred to it as “the upset of the CIS season.” But it was no fluke. They outplayed the ‘Wolves in almost every way imaginable and deserved to win.
Despite reaching the CIS national championships and only losing one starter to graduation, the Rams were left unranked in the CIS preseason poll, while Lakehead started at #6 before being promoted to #5 last week.
So when Lakehead visited the MAC last Friday, it was time to show-and-prove. While the Thunderwolves put up a good fight, keeping it close until the final minute, the Rams confirmed what their previous matchup suggested. Whenever Aaron Best is in the game, he is the most athletic player on the floor. With Jahmal Jones at the point, the Rams have arguably the best backcourt in Canada.
It’s too early to know whether they can compete with the Carleton Ravens – who thrashed the Rams in all three of their matchups last season, before winning their seventh national championship in nine years – but one thing is clear: the Rams have shown that they are among the elite teams in not only the OUA, but the CIS.
For years, Ryerson teams have managed to lose close games and lower expectations. But with the current group that head coach Roy Rana has managed to assemble, you should expect to win.