By now, the word "fluke" should not even come up in conjunction with the Carleton Ravens' annual August visits from NCAA teams.
Carleton — or "Canadian team" as it's known to U.S. headline writers — scored it most lopsided exhibition win yet over a U.S. visitor on Tuesday. Phil Scrubb, who might yet prove to be the biggest talent ever develop north of the border, went off for 30 points during the four-time defending CIS champs' 92-60 drilling of the Memphis Tigers. It's certainly the greatest margin of victory Carleton has ever enjoyed over a Division I team; certainly no CIS team in recent memory has thumped a NCAA team by more than 25 points.
It is another proof that Carleton, whose players enjoy one more year of eligibility and fewer restrictions on practising together than their NCAA counterparts, compares favourably with a Division I mid-major. It is awesomely good and a rising tide that has raised some, if not all boats, at the CIS level. Several others such as Ottawa, Ryerson, Windsor and McMaster are also play a Division I level — and within a Canadian Interuniversity Sport system whose first objective is graduating students, too. Still, there could stand to be some perspective.
For starters, Carleton, which also beat Memphis 86-76 last Saturday after leading by as much as 30, caught a tired Tigers team that played four games in as many days on its Canadian tour. Memphis played two other powers, Ottawa and McGill, in between games vs. the "sort of laying in wait" Ravens. That is a direct quote from Carleton coach Dave Smart, by the way.
Fans and media also tend to focus on the names on the front of the jerseys rather than learn the ones on the back. Memphis is the school that Derrick Rose led to the Final Four in 2008 on his way to the Chicago Bulls. Most teams that make the August trip north do so to speed up the maturation of an inexperienced squad. The Tigers were running with a freshman point guard, Pookie Powell, and a very young team; "six of the eight scholarship players Memphis had available, including Powell, either didn't play regularly last season or have no experience at the Division 1 level." Powell was in the eighth grade when Scrubb and his multi-talented brother, forward Thomas Scrubb, debuted for Carleton in 2010-11.
Last but not least, not to get too technical, there are striking differences between how fouls are called in the NCAA and in CIS, which employs the international (or FIBA) rules. An NCAA team isn't going to adjust for that, since it's never going to need it again. They know what they know; Memphis coach Josh Pastner made a comment to the officials during Memphis' game vs. Ottawa that reflected as much. That's a crucial element, especially with the way Carleton plays defence.
There should be pride, instead of indifference, that here in Canada a basketball player can stay in one place for five seasons and get on the national team radar. That is neither here nor there, apparently.
Making excuses for the Americans?
One should not lose sight of the big picture: this has got to the point where one has to find excuses/extenuating circumstances for the big-time American program that TSN talking heads could be talking about over come March, while Sportsnet sticks the CIS Final 8 on its least-watched channel.
If that does not get more attention for Canadian university basketball, what will?
Meantime, south of the border, those "(NCAA school) loses to Canadian team" headlines — anything not American must be inherently inferior, eh? — just look all the more tone-deaf. Carleton should be expected to win when it's at home and has incentive to perform. The NCAA teams compete mostly seriously, but it doesn't have consequences for losing.
That 32-point margin shouldn't be downplayed, merely explained. Carleton's next frontier, of course, is to beat a Division I team on its own floor. Ken Shields' great Victoria Vikes teams of the 1980s reached a point where they had a .500 road record against the NCAA. Carleton will take a shot at that when it faces Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Nov. 2.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.