There are people who are questioning the Concordia men’s basketball team’s decision to play in three pre-season tournaments against some of the top teams in Canada and seven exhibition games against some very good teams South of the border, but don’t count me among them.
They say the team is experienced, having lost only Philippe Langlois from a year ago, and that they don’t need playing time to gel. However, there are guys who need to play new roles, as well as key newcomers, and when you have an opportunity to play against the best, you take it.
Unless they lose several players to injuries, there are no problems with playing these tournaments because it allows them to start the season in shape instead of starting off rusty. The question on many people’s minds about the upcoming seven-game road trip is, how much can you improve by playing against the best?
I believe that you can learn a tremendous amount by playing these games. Most of the guys on the Stingers were probably glued to their televisions during the March Madnesses of the past, and to be able to go and play against a Duke University team or against the University of Connecticut and potentially against several future NBA players is a priceless experience. The scores and outcomes of these games mean absolutely nothing to either team. These are exhibition games, after all. The NCAA teams are getting in shape for their runs to the Final Four, while the Stingers will probably focus on playing their newcomers more than they would during the regular season. With the injury to Dwayne Buckley they don’t have the opportunity to play their starting five of Chris Blackwood, Rastko Popovic, Buckley, Pat Perrotte and Jamal Gallier. Instead they have a spot to play Dwayne’s brother Damian and other newcomers as well as some room to experiment.
You might be asking yourself, why would teams like Duke and UConn want to play a university team from Canada? Well, let’s not forget that this team finished second in the country last year, losing to Carleton in the final, and their athleticism and speed rivaled the Virginia Cavaliers when they came to Concordia to take part in the Nike tournament a year ago. At that time, the coach of the Cavaliers told Concordia reporters that if the team wasn’t one of the best in Canada by the end of the year, he would be very surprised. High praise like that can do a lot to a team’s confidence, as can playing with Duke for a half, and maybe even staying close the entire game. You learn a lot when you play the best, even if you lose by a wide margin. You learn how to handle defeat, how to handle yourself on the court when you’re being outmatched and you might even realize that you had a chance to beat the best. Also, after playing Duke and UConn, suddenly Bishop’s, McGill and Laval don’t look so intimidating.
Well, in football, Laval crushed the Montreal Carabins on Saturday in a game that was broadcast across Canada on TSN and across Quebec on RDS. The Carabins came up flat in their biggest game of the year. As I mentioned last week, when you have a week off like Laval did last week or Concordia did this week, it makes you a stronger team mentally and physically. That advantage, in my opinion, nullified any home-field advantage the Carabins may have had.
I predict a Stingers victory against the Carabins when they play in the QUFL semi-final on Saturday Nov. 5 at Stade CEPSUM, provided they limit Joseph Mroue’s damage and they come out strong, not flat, in the third quarter.