Viewpoint: Ravens not assured success in NCAA

Nine national titles in 11 years for the Carleton University men’s basketball team is one of the most impressive records in university sport.

In the past five years, Carleton has compiled a 166-6 record against fellow teams from Canadian universities.

They have also recorded four undefeated seasons while under the careful tutelage of head coach Dave Smart.

In the most recent championship win – a 92-42 annihilation of Lakehead University – they set records for winning margin and for lowest opponents points.

Yet, it’s not good enough anymore to be the best in your country. Now, you have to be the best in the continent.

With the United States in the grip of March Madness and sports writers evaluating the merits of every team in the competition, the attention has started to drift north of the border.

For the past several years under the tenure of Dave Smart, rumours and whispers have abounded about making the switch to competing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

With Carleton brushing aside all their opponents, some think that a switch would add more competition.

A switch would mean the end of the winning tradition at Carleton, something fans can’t imagine.

If the Ravens were to join a different league and started losing, attendance would suffer. As seen with the Carleton football team, as well as the Ottawa CFL teams, a losing record breeds apathy and contempt.

For the sake of the winning tradition and understanding how different the competition is, Carleton shouldn’t make the switch.

Currently, only one Canadian team has made the switch to join the league down south: Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, B.C.

They joined Division II of the NCAA nearly three years ago and have seen varying degrees of success.

Their football team has failed to register a winning season and failed to make the playoffs since joining the NCAA.

The women’s basketball team was five-time Canadian champions before the switch. It hasn’t won a championship since.

Smart has faced these questions before. Carleton now takes part in a “Cross-Border Battle” for pre-season, facing off against NCAA Div. I teams.

They’ve competed in those games but never dominated, compiling just under a .500 per cent winning record.

They’ve lost to New Mexico State, University of Louisville and the University of Cincinnati.

“They’d be like a Seton Hall, or a lower level, rebuilding team,” said Rick Pitino, the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, after a pre-season game in 2006.

But making the switch to a different league is more than adapting to new teams.

The size difference between Ravens players and players in the NCAA is huge. Players are bigger, faster and stronger which would cause problems if Carleton started competing.

After the latest championship victory, Smart admitted that while he thought his team could compete, injuries would hamper their cause due to the physicality of the game.

The travel schedule would also be a hindrance to Carleton.

Bus trips to Toronto and other Canadian teams would be gone, replaced by flights or even longer rides to American cities.

Student athletes, who already face a tough time scheduling courses around their varsity commitments, would have a tougher time planning their coursework around the travel.

In some circles, a switch would be seen as a chance to revitalize the CIS competition.

Speaking to fans and coaches before the finals, the overwhelming discussion of any potential winner was unanimous: Carleton.

For teams, how disheartening must it be to not really be recognized when the talk of national championships come up?

The crowds seemed to agree too, as the final played out to large sections of empty seats. But that’s a larger indictment of how Canadian basketball needs to earn more recognition.

There have been a handful of sold out games at Carleton during my time here. If Carleton wants to retain its popularity, a switch to the NCAA shouldn’t happen.