Four Straight Titles — Does Anybody Hear?

If a basketball team wins four straight national championships and hardly anyone notices, does it make a sound? (Does anybody but Mom and Dad meet them at the airport?) Do they go to Disney World? (Or maybe Ray’s Reptiles?) Will they meet the President? (The President, say, of their own university? Okay, this is Canada, and the school is in Ottawa. Maybe the Prime Minister will…Nah.) Wait. I know what happens. Finals are coming; these guys will probably be in class today. (No, Toto, I don’t think we’re talking about the NCAA anymore.)

Yes, the Carleton University Invisible Ravens did it again, and it makes no sense to me. [Editor’s note: they aren’t actually invisible. They just perform amazing feats of tough effort and athletic intelligence and united commitment when hardly anybody’s looking. Yeah, it’s a CIS thing… CIS, not CSI. We’re talkin’ actual people, not TV science cops. Canadian Interuniversity Sport… Yes, they have sports… Yes, they are sometimes on television, if local-access cable counts… No, they’re actually students at the university they play for…Yes, I’m totally serious!)

The Ravens don’t have an actual point guard nor a real post presence. Their most talented player missed the title run with a bum ankle. They’re outsized almost every night. But the Carleton basketball men do have some mysterious and some blatantly obvious qualities that allowed them to win the National Championship again. They’re fiercely competitive, defensively intimidating without either a shot-blocker or on-ball pickpockets, offensively disciplined without being tentative, and they rebound like their erectile function depended on it. Hey, it’s four in a row, kids. Don’t you think some attention should be paid to these guys?

Manny Jean-Marie just doesn’t make a mistake. For my money, he doesn’t make enough; when their gargantuan home winning streak was broken in January, his cautiousness and deference to teammates was exposed. When the Ravens had even less firepower available in the title game, though, he did more than “just being Manny”: his shots were daggers to the UVic Vikings, not just his stops and big boards and every loose ball. When Carleton actually had point guards during his first two seasons, Ryan Bell was an undersized but athletic forward. Yesterday, he convinced me that maybe the Ravens do have a point guard, one who happens to be their best rebounder. Bell took over the game late, and even got some clear-outs called for him when the shooting star had been taken away. (Finally.)

Because it’s not as if that Star, Osvaldo Jeanty, hadn’t already rained enough threes and drained enough clutch off-balance finishes to be named MVP of yesterday’s final. That, my friends, is another Four Straight. The Wizard of Os has been named the Final Ten tournament’s best man twice, including this year, but he has been Mr. Clutch in the national championship game every time he’s played in it. Four for four. (If CIS basketball ever decides to brand itself, they can just modify the Jerry West-inspired NBA logo with an Os silhouette. And unlike the original Mr. Clutch, Osvaldo actually does go to his left.) And next year, he’s gunning to fulfil the goal he set for himself and his team when Dave Smart recruited him: Coach, we’re going to win the CIS five times by the time I’m done. That’s the plan. Even before all those titles, Dave was a confident and spookily focussed guy, but I’ll bet even he had trouble not smirking. Sure, kid. Yeah. The Carleton dynasty. You bet.

Well, now it’s here. This was the year for the rest of the country to get ‘em, especially with star sophomore forward Aaron Doornekamp on the shelf. Their top 8 players, at least, are expected back. Osvaldo, a Business major, has some unfinished biz to take care of. I hope Os takes a day off. The Drive for Five, though, probably started today. Today, this will be a pretty big story in Ottawa, but not for long. I know Carleton students who don’t know much about the Ravens. Listen, I still can get a buzz about big-money athletics, but I must tell you: this is the most interesting ongoing story in my personal Wide World of Sports.

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