Prairie Rivalries are Focus This Week
The first week in February for Canada West sees the two most telling series tipping off in Manitoba and Southern Alberta. Four teams who sit at 9-5 or better in the Pioneer Division duke it out this Friday and Saturday, with playoff slots on the line. The difference in winning 2, splitting, or dropping both can mean in or out, home court, or a very different playoff draw. We also have Mt. Royal hosting MacEwan with neither team having the luxury of absorbing a loss if they are to get a decent shot at a playoff slot from the Explorer Division.
Lethbridge (9-5) at Calgary (12- 3) – The Dinos have home court and are coming off a bye week, while the ‘Horns are fresh from last week’s pummelling of the Golden Bears. Both teams appear to be at full strength, with Calgary having had a chance at recovering from ‘small hurts’, and Lethbridge seeing the return to form of import guard, Dejon Burdeaux, who is such a key for them.
Both teams have depth, with the Dinos featuring a dominant scorer, Thomas Cooper (tops in Canada West at 24.7 ppg) and Lars Schleuter at 11.5 ppg , while the ‘Horns have 3 in double figures – Brandon Brine (18.2 ppg) , Rob Olsen (15.1), and Burdeaux (13.8).
We expect a high-scoring affair, with both teams near the top of the ppg average in the League. Calgary’s challenge will be to crack the Pronghorns zone / press defense, and the ‘Horns’ to get their offense rolling with their running style against the quick UC guards.
Winnipeg (9-5) vs Manitoba (11-5) (Home and home series – at Manitoba Friday, and Winnipeg on Saturday) – These cross-town rivals are both peaking for this match-up, with the Wesmen winning 7 of the latest 9 games they’ve played. The Bisons would appear to be the deeper team, with the more explosive offense, but they have been without Ilarion Bonhomme, who is so valuable off the bench at the point, and 5th year post, Wyatt Anders saw limited action last weekend. Winnipeg will need a huge team effort on the boards, and to capitalize on their opportunistic defense, if they are to slow down the Bisons attack. A lower-scoring game might be to Winnipeg’s liking, while A.J. Basi and his Manitoba teammates like a more wide open style. ‘At least a split’ … this goes through both coaches minds, we can be sure !
Also in the Pioneer Division –
Victoria (7-9) Regina (8-6) – This is a ‘survival series’ for both the Vikes and Cougars, as they’re coming off disappointing 2-loss weekends, and are now wanting to get a place in the top 7 for playoffs. UVic has a tough road assignment, as last year’s Canada West champs looked particularly shaken vs UBC in their 2 blow-out losses. Veterans like Reiner Theil, Brandon Dunlop, and Mack Roth will need to get their troops ready, or they will be out before they know it.
Regina will need offensive production from Jonathan Tull, and a better series from big Will Tallman; big men Stephen Shields and ‘Pops’ Ndiaye could be a handful for the smaller Vikes.
Brandon (1-13) at Saskatchewan (4-10) – Neither of these teams are playoff bound, but will still want to finish up their season on positive notes. The Huskies may be particularly motivated by home court, and by wanting 5th year Saskatoon star, Evan Ostertag, to get some more satisfaction as his career winds down.
One very nteresting match-up – Huskies Chan DeCiman (Regina) vs Bobcats ‘Pookie’ Saunders (Calgary) … two rookies who are playing well.
Trinity Western (1-13) at Alberta (7-8) – Even with their 2 ugly losses at Lethbridge, the Bears can still get things on track for a playoff berth, starting with a good home stand against the Spartans. Alberta really has been most unlucky with injuries, and can only hope they have starters back healthy this week. Brody Clarke is a key for U of A, if he is 100%, and Colby Jackson is needed at the point. TWU have a win, and can use more defensive consistency as they try and take it on the road.
TRU at home and ‘sitting pretty’ in the Explorer
With a ‘death-grip’ on the #2 seed in the Canada West playoffs, the TRU Wolf Pack are trying to tune up their game, and be ready to take the steps necessary to reach the Final 4, then the CIS Nationals in Vancouver. Not unreachable goals, but like every team in the competition, it’s one step at a time (We can hear Coach Scott Clark, even as we write this).
UNBC (3-11) at Thompson Rivers (12-2) – This is a high hurdle for the struggling Timberwolves, with an away series against a stacked TRU roster. UNBC has Rhys Elliot, but even he, at 18 ppg, has suffered with the loss of 5th year lead guard, Billy Cheng, out with injury. Colin Plumb has played well on the forward line, but he faces a killer trio in Josh Wolfram, Volodymyr Iegorov, and Luke Morris. This should be two routine wins for the ‘Pack as they stay ahead of the other 5 chasers.
Fraser Valley (9-5) at UBC-Okanagan (7-7) – UFV Coach Adam Friesen will be looking for some indication of playoff readiness from his experienced group, led by all-star, Kevon Parchment, and shooting guard Vijay Dhillon. One question is, “Can Fraser Valley get players back in the rotation” ? They’ve had only 7 or 8 players available, and that has hurt. UBC-O are the challengers here, and will have a home crowd to help their cause. Big match-up – the Heat’s Aldrich Berrios at the point going up against the taller and more seasoned Manny Dulay of UFV. If Okanagan is to catch the Cascades for 2nd, they will need a sweep here we think, and Fraser Valley is likely too tough for that to happen.
MacEwan (6-8) at Mt. Royal (5-9) – Well, we know the Cougars need both these games to have a reasonable shot at a playoff berth, and MacEwan is really in the same boat, as they look up at UBC-O ahead of them. This should be a close set of games, with MRU’s aggressive defense, and play of 2nd year guard Glen Yang, and 1st year post man, Brett Layton giving them a real boost. Mac responds with guards Thadius Galvez and Denzel James, their 2 high scorers and floor leaders. The Griffs have more experience, but road wins are hard to come by; the pressure is on both teams to secure a sweep … something has to give !
Wednesday CIS Scores –
at # 1 Ryerson 104 # 5 Brock 79 – The Rams are decimating their OUA challengers in the past several weeks, and further justifying their top ranking.