The Carleton University men's basketball team won its 14th national title in the past 17 years (and eighth in the past nine) on Sunday, blowing out the previously undefeated Calgary Dinos, 83-49.
Why it matters: Carleton, a mid-sized public university on the outskirts of Ottawa, competes in U Sports, which is basically the NCAA of Canada. This isn't some intramural league, it's legit college hoops — and the Ravens almost never lose.
- They beat up on D-I competition, too, besting teams like Wisconsin (2014), Baylor (2015), Wichita State (2016), Cincinnati and Ole Miss (both this year) during their annual summer exhibition slate.
The mastermind: Meet Dave Smart. Since taking over as head of the Ravens in 1999, he has won more than 560 games — and lost a grand total of 48.
"Dave is one of the smartest basketball coaches I've ever met."— Villanova head coach Jay Wright
How he does it:
- Lack of turnover: In U Sports, players are allotted five years of eligibility, and since very few, if any, turn pro before graduation, Smart has the luxury of focusing solely on player development and team chemistry.
- Hard work: U Sports doesn't put restrictions on when teams can practice, so the Ravens are in the gym scrimmaging and working out year-round.
- Transfers: Eddie Ekiyor (Xavier) and Munis Tutu (Loyola-Marymount) are two of four current Ravens who began their college careers stateside. Ekiyor (12 points, 15 boards) was the player of the game on Sunday and Tutu scored 18 points.
And then there's Smart's patented defense, which relies on "one-word commands to instruct the man on the ball, a basketball shorthand that enables defenders to anticipate rather than react," writes Deadspin's Matt Giles.
- "Their defensive system is the most unique I've seen," says Wright. "I've tried to steal it ... but I couldn't do it, so I asked Dave to come and explain it in depth to our staff."
- Other D-I coaches like Michigan's John Beilein and Cincinnati's Mick Cronin have traveled to Carleton to glean aspects of Smart's defensive scheme.
The bottom line: Carleton is legit.