Thunderbirds will be tested in road series in Saskatoon
This opening week of play in January is a mammoth one for our projected top 3
teams. We’ve previewed the Calgary-Alberta match-up, and now we take a look at the T-Birds and Huskies (Friday and Saturday in Saskatoon). UBC is 8-0, and, if they get 2 wins this weekend, they may be the odds-on favourites to get the coveted #1 seed at year’s end. They have home court vs Alberta, then they will be heavily favoured in the last 4 series.
No, you say? Too early? Well, the ‘Birds are 9-1 vs the Sled Dogs over the past 5 seasons, and have these factors going for them this week – UBC have a 30 point average winning margin in 8 games. The ‘Birds are one of the top shooting teams @ 46% from the floor vs the 2nd worst 38.6% of the Huskies. UBC goes 10 deep in most games, while Saskatchewan have been 7 to 7.5 so far. The Thunderbirds boast the talents of 6-9 wing, Conor Morgan, who averages 25 ppg and leads Canada West with a 61.5% FG average. They have the battle-hardened Jordan Jensen-Whyte (14 ppg/ 6.5 rebs/ 3.5 asst) who is hitting 50% of his shots. 2nd year guard, Taylor Browne is starting to show his exceptional talent with 46% from 3 point range and 48% overall FGs.
On the other hand, U of S has home court, and they have the indomitable Shane Osayande. The 6-6 forward averages a double-double of 20 ppg and a League-leading 11.6 rebs. The Huskies have a dominant rebounding margin to go with the League’s top defensive numbers, thusfar. Guards, Chan De Ciman, Alex Unruh, and Jaylan Morgan are all scoring in double figures, and are all playing valuable minutes on the perimeter. We expect UBC to win at least 1 of the 2, but Saskatchewan will be up for this at home series against old rivals.
Victoria at Thompson Rivers – This is the other series needing deeper scrutiny. The
‘Pack (5-5) are riding a 6 game win streak, including 2 vs NAIA schools last week in California. UVic have lost 8 of 10 since the start of League play, with 2 losses at the Wesmen Classic last week. The once pre-eminent Vikes defensive squad have given up 84 ppg in League play. Victoria at 2-6 in Canada West, simply put, need to get it back on the rails quickly.
TRU are ‘re-building’ after a dream season in 2015-16. They do still have the stellar work of 6-7 Volodymyr Iegorov, their 5th year all-star forward, who averages 18.6 ppg/ 9 rebounds/ 4 assists. Forwards Luke Morris and Joe Davis have been complimenting Iegorov. Import Derek Rhodes, and locals Mike Rouault and Jeff Tubbs have been contributors on the perimeter. This is a big opportunity at home for Coach Scott Clark and his Wolves, and a critical ‘must have’ for UVic. Something has to give.
UNBC at Lethbridge – The Timberwolves (4-6) desperately need the services of Vaggelis Loukas, their top forward on the season. Loukas was nursing an injury last weekend, but his 11 ppg and 8 rebounds can add so much. Rhys Elliott ( 19 ppg/ 54% from the floor) is having another outstanding year at the guard spot, and 4th year Marcus MacKay (13.5 ppg) is becoming a bigger factor every game out. But, we’re in Lethbridge this week, and the ‘Horns are tough at home. We see lead guard, Dejon Burdeaux, causing UNBC real headaches, along with big Zac Overwater and shooters Elliott Sentance and Mike Pierzchala. ‘Horns will be hoping to sweep here, and the T’Wolves will need an exceptional team effort.
Brandon at Mt. Royal – The Cougars (4-4) have had post man, Brett Layton, on the shelf as he struggles with a ‘wonky’ (medical term) ankle. Obviously he makes a big difference with his rebounding and scoring. Josh Ross, Derek Wolf and company will want to get back on track after 3 losses in the Dalhousie tournament last week. Brandon (3-7) was less than impressive in 3 losses in the Wesmen Classic. They have the always tough Earl Thompson Jr., but are so inconsistent as a group. Cougars will be too much with Layton back in action.
Trinity Western at Winnipeg – The Wesmen were not at their best in their 50th Classic, but Denzel Lynch-Blair, William Sesay, and Ryan Oirbans will have big motivation to make this a 2- win weekend. TWU are making some progress, but the loss of Tyus Allen at the lead guard spot puts them in a difficult spot. Winnipeg to sweep.
Regina at UBC-Okanagan – The Green Cougars are not the most predictable team in Canada West. They’ve won 5 and lost 3. Beaten Saskatchewan, MacEwan, and Victoria, but twice they lose by 20 and win by 10?!? What’s up with that? UBC-O (1-9) is at home, and they are in great need of a win. This is looking very much like an ‘upset special’ in Kelowna.
MacEwan at Fraser Valley – The 3-5 Cascades host the 3-7 Griffins in a match-up where we see very little to choose. UFV Coach Adam Friesen had his troops down in California for 3 games (3 decisive losses), but he says, “ … it was great to get the group back on the court and get up and down the floor. We got a lot of people a lot of playing time, and we’re ready to get back into league play.” Veteran guards are the strength of both teams – Thadius Galvez and Denzel James for Mac, and Manny Dulay with Vijay Dhillon for the Cascades. The teams split in Edmonton last seaon, and we foresee the same result this time around.
All these game are broadcast on Canada West TV
- Canada West’s top rebounders – Shane Osayande, Sask – 11.6, Josh Ross, MRU – 10, Brett Layton, MRU- 9.3, Volodymyr Iegorov, TRU- 9, Matt Forbes, Sask – 8.9, Keith Omoerah, Man – 8.6, William Sesay, Wpg – 7.8, Earl Thompson Jr, Bran – 7.6
- The physical part of refereeing has become so important, with a faster pace of play using a 24 second clock. Why then, do we not see a concerted effort on the part of the officials associations to move out some of the older officials and move in more young refs?
- Name the only team in Canada West to be playing without an import player. It’s not UBC-O , with their Randy Jernidier from Guadaloupe. It’s not Manitoba, who have Ilarion Bonhomme from Washington, DC (even though he’s been here so long, we should be a ‘naturalized Canadian’.) No, it’s the Saskatchewan Huskies, who have, in the recent past, had at least 1 key player from South of the border, but are now ‘all-Canadian’.