The Battle of Alberta – Scene 27,145
After having just witnessed first-hand the cultural phenomenon that is the Grey Cup, we can ‘feel the love’ flowing across all manner of sports competitions between Edmonton and Calgary. The dozens of Eskimos faithful in our section of B.C. Place Stadium on Sunday afternoon would have cheered heartily for the forces of Attila the Hun, or even the Russian Army as long as they were going to bring down the hated Stampeders. (Hate may be a strong word, but it fits in this Red vs Green ‘rivalry’).
The Dinos – Bears history has fewer participants, but the players, coaches, fans, and even some media (dwindling on a yearly basis, unfortunately), are energized by annual contests between the schools. This season, the basketball teams have scheduled a home- and- home pair of games, starting with Friday’s tip-off at the Saville Centre in Edmonton.
The sub-text here – Alberta has won 4 straight at home against the Dinos … however, Calgary beat the Bears in October in Calgary. Alberta are the defending Canada West champs, and Calgary have missed the playoffs for the last 2 seasons.
This season thus far, Calgary is 8-2, with 2 wins over Winnipeg, Brandon, and Trinity W., plus splits with Manitoba and Regina. Alberta has a 4-4 mark, arguably vs a slate of tougher opponents – 2 wins vs Trinity, then a split with Saskatchewan and with UBC, and 2 losses at UVic.
Neither offense has consistently pleased their coaches, Dan Vanhooren of Calgary or Barnaby Craddock of Alberta. The Bears spread their scoring around a bit more amongst starters, but Calgary has had an average of 28 ppg off the bench vs just 13.5 for Alberta. Alberta will try and harass Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, and the Dinos will attempt to contain Joel Friesen, both of whom are having sparkling 5th years. ‘OJ’ seems able to respond to one on one challenges, and he has been involving his teammates in the offensive flow to a greater extent this season.
The Bears advantage is their 3 point shooting with both Friesen and point man Youssef Ouahrig lighting it up from long-range. Calgary hasn’t been effective from beyond the arc, even though players like OJ, Phil Barndt, and rookie, Lars Schleuter, have had success in the past. Defensive stability has been a calling card for Coach Craddock, and the Dinos will be looking to improve the consistency of their effort in that area.
Home teams in Canada West have won 44 and lost 30 in the opening half of the schedule, and Alberta has been pretty good at defending the Saville Centre home court, so we’d have to establish the GBs as the favourites. Both teams will be looking at this as a special game, not only the ‘Battle of Alberta’ over-tones, but also with all the focus on them as no one else in the whole CIS plays this week .
Who can come up big for either team ? Of course, Friesen for Alberta and Ogungbemi-Jackson for Calgary, but let’s pick a couple of others: the Bears have proven firepower in both Mamadou Gueye, a quick, slashing wing, and Ken Otieno, who has been a 20+ ppg scorer in the past; for the Dinos, it might well be Phil Barndt, the 5th year post, who can hit the open jumper from any range, then take it to the hole, and 2nd year, LJ Hegwood, whose speed and quickness can create instant offense.
Game time – 8 pm Friday, Dec. 5 on Canada West TV (this costs a ‘small fee’ for any Bears home game this season. Just a Canada West test run on pay-per-view possibilities).
The CIS Top 5 … Plus 5
The ‘Famous 5 – Titans from the Heartland’, remain behind the giant moat separating the CIS Top 5 and the ‘also-rans’ from 6-10. (We must be aware that all of the 5 ‘won tournaments’ in various parts of the country in the pre-season. They are for real.)
If you’re in parts East or West, you might be excused, however, for a bit of cheering for teams like Western, Guelph, Lakehead, York, Laurier, or maybe even Laurentian to ambush one of the ‘Titans” in a future OUA league game. Maybe at a Holiday tournament?
In the 6 -10 spots, we have Victoria moving up after taking 2 from Saskatchewan. The Huskies are fortunate to stay ranked. Quite frankly, the continued exclusion of Manitoba, who are tied for the Pioneer Division lead in Canada West, is an ‘oversight’.
UNB loses a pair and drops from 6 to 8, and Calgary bumps up to 7 with 2 wins, while UFV are 9th as they remain unbeaten in the Explorer. Because of the Canada West ‘split’, it is tough to see the Cascades getting much higher.