In the midst of a seven-game win streak, the McMaster men’s basketball team is firing on all cylinders. They ripped off an important win in the Burridge Gym against the No. 10 ranked Windsor Lancers – their second win over a ranked team in OUA play, their third if you include the preseason victory over Acadia – and Mac has ascended to the No. 6 spot in the CIS top-ten poll. The sixth place ranking is the highest placing in the past four seasons and the best in head coach Amos Connolly’s tenure.
While the ranking is a positive, what is most encouraging for the Marauders is how the whole team is contributing. Through twelve games, Mac has been led in scoring by five different players. The squad has also had a 20-plus-point scorer in only four of their 12 matches. Their leading scorers are Taylor Black, Joe Rocca and Aaron Redpath, who have put up 15.9, 11.9 and 10.5 points per game, respectively.
Mac has tweaked its starting line-up a handful of times this year, but regardless of who is coming off the bench, the players are producing. Connolly has the personnel to avoid burning out his players. Black is the leader in minutes played a game with 27.2 minutes per game, 39th in the OUA.
Of course, this is not by mistake. Connolly has built a roster to play an up-tempo style littered with offensive weapons.
“This is 100 per cent by design. For our situation, we are best to play off of a guy like Taylor Black, and if he can score, so be it. But if not, he is a good decision maker and we have guys who can capitalize on that,” said Connolly. “We spend a lot of time talking about what is a good shot and what isn’t, and we are less concerned with who takes it.”
McMaster’s offensive design incorporates labels for players. Some examples for perimeter players are shooter, slasher, or point. A handful of players are a combination of two labels, and only a couple have all three. Connolly says that this system help players understand what they are supposed to do in certain situations.
In order to have this balanced offense, Connolly has to get the players to buy in. A certain sacrifice is required for Mac to succeed – players have to put individual statistics aside and focus on what is best for the team. Any given night, McMaster has players capable of getting buckets.
“It is nice to have different weapons that can put the ball in the net. Against Windsor I was struggling and it’s a comforting feeling to know that other guys will step. It’s nice to have that backing from your teammates,” explained Rocca, who is second on the team in points per game.
For most players, the numbers they are putting up are drastically different from their high school days. Mac has brought in high-level recruits over the past few seasons, but Rocca says that no one is upset with the change in statistics.
“It is definitely a change, but if we are winning basketball games, you cannot be bothered by it. With more weapons, you’ll have less shots. That’s not a bad thing, you’ve just got to adapt. It’s working and the guys are buying in for sure,” said Rocca.
There is room to grow for the Marauder offence, especially in the fourth quarter – something the coaching staff has duly noted in conversation. But there is no reason to think that Connolly’s crew is incapable of progression, given how the team has evolved over the past seasons on both ends of the court. If the Maroon and Grey keep the course and stick to the process, McMaster fans could see their team contending for championships.