Quebec – The RSEQ was as close as can be last season, with the UQAM Citadins winning the conference at 10-6, and the McGill Redbirds finishing last at 6-10. Statistics only strengthen the argument. There was only an 82-point difference between the best offence an the worst offence last season, and a 116-point difference in defence. It should be a very exciting season, and every team has a decent chance to come out on top.
The best team in the RSEQ regular season in 2022-23 should hold strong in 2023-24. They were the only RSEQ team at the U SPORTS Championships last season after defeating Bishop’s 88-71 in the RSEQ Finals. They gave the eventual champion Carleton Ravens all they can handle, coming out on the wrong side of a 73-71 decision.
Alix Lochard, Kevin Civil, and Defensive Player of the Year Bahaide Haidara–UQAM’s top-three scorers from last season–are all returning for their fifth year of eligibility. They have also retained the services of important depth pieces Karl-Tommy Laforest and Elie Karojo. Head coach Mario Joseph led the team to their best season since 2009-10. The Citadins are in good hands.
Laval Rouge et Or
Laval saw a big resurgence last season, finishing second in the conference at 9-7 after finishing dead last the previous three seasons and starting 2-4 in 2022-23. They did not see big improvements in total offence or defence, but they made a notable improvement in their ability to grind out tough victories. Five of their nine victories came by margins of 10 points or less. They will be looking to avenge their 100-86 RSEQ semi-final defeat at the hands of the Bishop’s Gaiters.
RSEQ Athlete of Excellence Sidney Tremblay-Lacombe is returning for his fourth year of eligibility. He was Laval’s leading scorer (18.9 points per game) and second-best in the conference. Steeve Joseph–RSEQ leader in assists (83) last season–is also entering his fourth year. Laval’s leading blocker, Ismael Diouf (17), is entering his second season. Like UQAM, it should be more of the same for Laval this season.
The Gaiters finished scorching hot after a 2-5 start last season. They won six of their final nine games to finish 8-8 and upset Laval before bowing out to UQAM in the RSEQ final. It could be Bishop’s time to shine in 2023-24. Dani Longarela was their only graduating player. They also lost the services of Zachary John–third-best scorer (11.4 points per game) and team-leader in steals (16) in 2022-23.
But the team has mostly stuck together. RSEQ Rookie of the Year Etienne Gagnon led the conference in rebounds last season (209) and was second on the Gaiters in scoring (14.2 points per game). He will have a massive all-around impact for Bishop’s this season. Leading scorer Charles Robert is entering his third year, which will bring a lot of stability. Picking up where they left off will be key for the Gaiters, since their slump out of the gate prevented them from being a top team in 2022-23.
Concordia was plagued by injuries last season. Fatigue and a lack of depth followed, causing them to falter after a 5-0 start and they slumped to a 7-9 record in 2022-23. They will be hungry to avenge their 80-69 loss to UQAM in the RSEQ semi-final.
Alec Phaneuf–the only Stinger to appear in all 16 games last season–is returning for his fourth year after finishing second on the team in steals (25) and rebounds (78) last season. Sami Jahan will return for his fourth year as well. Concordia has 11 first-year recruits on the roster, so their roles will be key to bolster depth in case of another unfortunate encounter with the injury bug. But with Oge Nwoko and Olivier Koumassou-Bernier being the only important losses off the roster, Concordia is in prime position for a resurgence in 2023-24.
An 0-4 start will sink any team. Despite that, McGill inched close to a playoff spot in 2022-23 and the statistical gap between the Redbirds and the rest of the pack was very minimal.
It could be a new era for Redbirds basketball, seeing that they lost RSEQ leading-scorer Samuel Chaput (19.1 points per game), rebound machine Haris Elezovic (161), and Sam Jenkins- the tenth best scorer in the conference last season (13.8 ppg). For the cherry on top, McGill has 12 first-year players on their roster. Interestingly, McGill has no third-year players to bridge the gap between the rookies and the veterans.
Like the conference in general, McGill’s season is very unpredictable, and it should be a joy to watch.