Changing of the Guard in Canada West ?
After watching all 3 of Victoria, Alberta, and Saskatchewan absorb two losses each this past weekend, we find ourselves in the ‘New Order’ of Canada West Basketball. These three teams have figured prominently in Canada West and CIS hoops for years past; the last 5 Canada West championship games were won by – 2015 – Victoria over Saskatchewan, 2014 – Alberta over Victoria, 2013 – UBC over Victoria, 2012 – Alberta over Fraser Valley, 2011 – UBC over Saskatchewan.
The T-Birds are still good bets to be in the Final 4, and, of course, host the CIS Nationals, but what of the Bears, Vikes, and Huskies? It would seem unlikely, or even shockingly improbable for all 3 strong programs to have such a difficult year. We certainly think U of A and UVic still have playoff shots, but U of S has faded too far South; graduation of key players, injuries, and defections have conspired to reduce these teams to chasers rather than the leaders they had been for so long.
We suspect they will all be back next season with their usual competitive squads, but, for now, they have given way to ‘upstart teams’, like Calgary, Lethbridge, Manitoba, and Thompson Rivers. We have 3 weeks of play remaining in both Divisions, and it’s highly likely that we may have a very different slate of teams competing in the Final 4 come March 11-12.
Four Series Sweeps Change the Standings
We had 5 series in the Pioneer last weekend, as the 6 Explorer teams and the UC Dinos had the weekend off. We saw movement away from the middle of the standings by several teams, as 4 of these series’ ended with 2-game sweeps.
> Manitoba has officially exorcised their 2nd half of the season ghosts of past years; they pounce all-over the Regina Cougars, 89-82 and 77-63, and sit at 11-5.
> Across town, the Winnipeg Wesmen prepared themselves for the ‘Red River Rivalry’ series by dispatching a scrappy U of S Huskies squad 81-77 and 81-72 to win their 6th in a row for a 9-5 mark.
> At Lethbridge, the short-benched Bears were trounced by a running, pressing Pronghorns team, who used 2nd half onslaughts to dispatch their Northern rivals 93-61 and 88-62.
> In their brand-spanking -new Carsa Centre, the ‘rebuilding‘ Victoria Vikes were sorely pressed to stay anywhere near the visiting UBC Thunderbirds. UBC took both games with unusual ease … 79-51 and then 86-67.
> It was fitting that both Brandon (Friday) and Trinity Western (Saturday) got their first wins of the season in their series in Langley. No playoff chances, but the shut-out is averted!
Top Performers last weekend –
- Keith Omoerah may not have a big ’S’ on his chest, but he should have ! Keith’s return to the Bison Herd has put this team on a path for championship contention, with his rebounding, scoring, and defensive effort. 16 points / 14 rebounds/ 6 assists on Friday, then 18 boards plus 12 points, 3 asst, 4 steals in the Saturday win. Oh, and we might mention A.J. Basi’s significant sharp-shooting role … 27 points Friday, and Jonathan Alexander chipping in both nights for totals of 26 points and 14 rebounds.
- Winnipeg’s Denzel Lynch-Blair has to be in the all-star discussion, with yet another week of multiple contributions for UW, with 49 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists, and 12 steals. Nicely done, young man ! Ryan Oirbans with his rebounding and a 29 point night on Saturday from Jelane Pryce pace the Ws to a sweep.
- Brandon Brine hits 37 points, with a scoring frenzy at home for the ‘Horns on Friday, then Jared Baker takes over on Saturday, hitting 3s everywhere, and scoring 17 points / 5 assists. Lethbridge has a ‘not-so-secret-weapon’, however; Dejon Burdeaux, back to ‘match-fitness’ is a dominant force at both ends of the floor … 31 points over 2 nights, to go along with 16 assists and 12 steals off the very effective UL press.
- UBC has a varied attack, as they get 8 players contributing in both definitive victories at UVic … their depth is apparent, when their scoring leader Conor Morgan has a quieter weekend, but rookie Taylor Browne steps up with 15 points/ 4 reb, 3 asst on Saturday, while the night before David Wagner returned to the ‘Birds line-up with 12 points/ 6 rebounds.
A round of applause for the TWU Spartans’ Lucas Mannes with his tour de force of 56 points/12 reb/14 asst/6 steals; his teammate Kelvin Smith chimes in with 49 points/ 14 rebounds/ 5 steals. Brandon’s Earl Thompson pots 37 points / 19 rebounds in the split series, and the Bobcats’ rookie, Pookie Saunders, gets our attention with a combined 39 points /12 boards / 10 asst/ 5 steals.
CIS Scores on Sunday –
Atlantic – UPEI 97 at Cape Breton 80 … a split of their weekend pair, leaving the Panthers (10-4) in a 1st place tie with Dalhousie, and the Capers (7-6) scratching for a playoff spot, back in 5th spot .
- UBC are wanting to try and duplicate the feat of the 1982 UVic Vikes under Coach Ken Shields, who won the CIS Championship at Memorial Arena in Victoria that season, the 3rd of 7 straight for the Vikes. The Birds don’t yet have that kind of roll going, but UBC Coach Kevin Hanson wants to start this March !
- As for the 7-9 Vikes, Coach Craig Beaucamp says , “We’re trying to stay up in a down time. There is so much left to play for. We’ve got a good nucleus and can’t lose sight of the big picture. We can still make some noise.” From the Victoria Times-Colonist, Cleve Dheensaw.
- Speaking of the U of A Golden Bears , who his UL team beat twice last weekend in Lethbridge, “They’re a banged up group,” said Horns coach Mike Hansen. “It’s a reversal of fortune. We limped up there last season and lost and this time it was their turn to have a bunch of injured guys. Our guys played great D all weekend,” said Hansen. “Jared Baker and Dejon Burdeaux at the top of our press were great both games.” From Dylan Purcell in the Lethbridge Herald.