One scenario Canadians have been asking about over the past decade is: Where would the Carleton Ravens rank if they were in the NCAA?
The NCAA March Madness tournament is just weeks away and our Twitter timelines are filled with bracket projections and rankings from major American media outlets like ESPN, USA Today and CBS to name just a few. The experts have broken down every imaginable bracketology scenario including questions about Gonzaga still being a No. 1 seed after losing to BYU or does UCLA now slide into that slot after a key road win over Arizona.
However, the one scenario we as Canadians have been asking about over the past decade that has yet to be answered is: Where would Carleton University rank if they were in the NCAA?
The Carleton Ravens have been the most dominant basketball program in Canada for well over a decade, winning 12 of the past 14 USports (formerly CIS) national championships including the past six consecutive titles. The Ravens currently boast a perfect 19-0 record and have been blowing out their opponents all season long, which includes score lines like the 100-36 stomping of the University of Toronto on February 18th, and a 104-54 thrashing of Windsor back on January 27th.
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Some may say the level of talent in USports isn’t as good as what it is in the Power Five conferences of the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, SEC or Pac-12 and that may be a fair assessment. However, the Ravens have played exhibition match-ups against some of the Power Five schools in recent years and have produced victories over Wisconsin and Texas Christian (TCU) a few years back, as well as taking Syracuse to over-time. During a preseason tournament in August of 2016, Carleton went undefeated against their NCAA opponents, including easy wins over Stetson and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, as well as 25 point thrashing of Wichita State 100-75.
The Wichita State Shockers are currently ranked No. 25 in the NCAA with a 27-4 record and they have made five straight appearances in the March Madness tournament. Following the loss to Carleton, Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall said, “we knew they were a very good team and obviously well coached, but they were even better than I thought.”
Marshall added, “despite their lack of size, they’re tough dudes that really do the right things basketball wise and they just kicked us man for man.”
On the floor, the Ravens are led by 6-foot-4 senior guard Connor Wood, who was the tournament MVP of last year’s national championship run, and he leads the team in scoring with 19.2 points per game. 6-foot-1 senior guard Kaza Kajami-Keane averages 15.5 points and 5.2 assists per game and came to Carleton after playing three seasons in the NCAA for Illinois State and Cleveland State. Emmanuel Owootoah is a 5-foot-11 junior guard and also spent some time in the NCAA playing at Fresno State. 6-foot-7 senior forward Ryan Ejim is the younger brother of 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and has also been a dominant force in USports since arriving at Carleton.
The old argument that Canada doesn’t have the talent to match up with our counterparts in the United States is simply no longer valid. Basketball has become a global game with 28 of the 60 players selected in the 2016 NBA Draft being born outside of the U.S, including Kitchener, Ontario native Jamal Murray who played his college ball at Kentucky.
There are well over 100 Canadians currently playing NCAA Division One basketball, highlighted by elite talents like Oregon’s Dillon Brooks from Mississauga, and Toronto’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who has been a star at Florida State over the past few seasons.
Just about every player in the Carleton lineup has the talent to be playing for a high-end mid-major program or a low-end Power Five School had they been born in places like Houston, TX or Atlanta, GA. But for players like junior forward Mitch Jackson, who is from Regina, SK, or senior guard Joe Rocca from Sarnia, ON, getting the attention out of high school from college coaches in places like Nacogdoches, Texas proved to be a challenge and they went over looked.
There is no doubt that the Carleton Ravens could compete at a very high level if they were a member of the NCAA. They’ve already beaten a team ranked in the top 25 in Wichita State so there is a case to be made they would be worthy of being ranked.
Based on their current roster, the quality of their head coach in Dave Smart, and the success they’ve had over the past decade; Carleton would be worthy of a ranking somewhere in the range of No. 15 to No. 25, and if they were to be seeded in the NCAA tournament, would likely be worthy of a No. 4 to No. 8 seed in a bracket.