After half a season of OUA basketball action, it is safe to say the McMaster men’s basketball team has been as advertised.
Currently sitting atop the OUA West with a 8-3 record and holding at No. 8 in the CIS top-ten rankings, the team has put themselves in a position to make the national tournament.
The most difficult opponents they will face are left in 2013 and Mac will look to continue this season’s earlier dominance of the OUA West, where they pummelled Guelph and Western by a combined 55 points.
The Marauders are not without criticism, though. They have hung with two of the best teams in the country – Ottawa and Carleton – but have also let weaker teams like Queen’s, Laurentian and York give them a test.
Free throw shooting has been downright abysmal so far, with Mac only hitting 63.2 per cent of their attempts.
The squad has also shown an inability to consistently defend top-tier players, with Phil Scrubb and Johnny Berhanemeskel going off for 44 and 38 points respectively, on back-to-back nights.
Granted, Scrubb’s shot making was bordering on “unguardable,” as he knocked down pull-up jump shot after pull-up jump shot from 15 feet.
But for Mac to succeed on a grander stage, they need to find ways to limit teams offensive weapons from having career nights.
Where McMaster has succeeded is overall defence, carrying over a trend from last year. Mac is allowing 72.1 points per game, good for seventh in the country among teams who have played at least nine games.
Keep in mind that three of their ten games have come against Carleton, Ottawa and Laurentian, who rank first, second and sixth respectively in CIS rankings for points scored per game.
The proverbial cherry on top is that Mac plays at one of the fastest paces in the CIS, averaging 68.4 field goal attempts a game.
Taking so many shots gives other teams more offensive possessions, but McMaster has been able to handle the extra defensive load.
On Jan. 11, the Marauders face the lone opponent who appears to be challenging them for the No. 1 spot in the OUA West: the Windsor Lancers.
After a injury-plagued run to the CIS Final 8 last year, the Lancers have failed to deliver in this season.
They sit at 6-4, with losses coming to Lakehead, Ottawa, Carleton and Ryerson.
Expectations were higher for Windsor this season, with a line-up chock full of upper-year players.
This will be Mac’s first attempt at the Lancers, who will bring their physical play and terrorizing defence to the Burridge Gym.
Should McMaster hand Windsor a loss, it will quell any doubts still lingering about the legitimacy of this team.