Dinos, Huskies, Bears, and Thunderbirds are odds-on favourites
We look at these match-ups, and we definitely see 4 clear favourites in these quarter-final series, which tip-off Thursday night in Calgary, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Vancouver. If the series’ go as predicted, we will be re-convening in Calgary on March 3 -4 with our 4 top seeds in the Championship Tournament – Calgary vs UBC, and Saskatchewan against Alberta.
But first … let’s take a look at this weekend’s draw. We’re pretty sure Thompson Rivers, Winnipeg, Lethbridge, and Manitoba would like to prove us wrong by upsetting one of the home clubs!
Thompson Rivers Wolf Pack at Calgary Dinos – Calgary has home court, and, with some fortuitous circumstances, the #1 seed. The Dinos are deep, while TRU are relatively ‘shallow’, and, quite likely, a bit ‘road -weary’ .
This could, however, get very interesting, if we consider TRU’s 95 ppg average last week vs Brandon, which indicates a willingness to open it up, offensively. The Dinos will be only too willing to oblige that possibility. Keys – TRU – Control the pace. Stop the Dinos’ Thomas Cooper. Play their season’s best team defense. Get good team shooting, and ball control. Calgary – Play their fast pace, and help that along by turning the Wolf Pack over. Throw multiple defenders at Volodymyr Iegorov. Limit the 3 point shooting from the Orange. Run some consistent half-court offense. 7 pm games Thurs, Fri, and Sat (if necessary)
Winnipeg Wesmen at Saskatchewan Huskies – These teams split their November series in Saskatoon, but this is a bolstered line-up for the Huskies in February, as they now have Matt Forbes at full throttle, and guards Jaylan Morgan and Lawrence Moore in the back-court. The Wesmen have a team that may be able to harass the Sled Dogs ball-handlers, but can they neutralize the U of S bigs? If the Ws can generate offense vs a stingy Huskies D, they have a shot. Keys – Winnipeg – Spread the scoring. Apply full-court defensive pressure. Get a stand-off in the post. Play a fast pace. Saskatchewan – Execute their offense, and hit open shots. Limit turnovers. Pound it inside, and force their own pace of play. 8:30 Thurs and Fri , and 4 pm Sat (if necessary).
Lethbridge Pronghorns at Alberta Golden Bears – Very familiar opponents, with
Alberta enjoying home court, and a more experienced , deeper roster. The Bears should be healthy and rested, while the ‘Horns had some intense action last weekend vs Victoria. The Austin Waddoups – Dejon Burdeaux match-up should be worth the price of admission, and Elliott Sentance vs the den of U of A outside shooters will be a highlight as well. Keys – Lethbridge – As always , try and keep Burdeaux on the floor, healthy. Push the pace on offense without turning it over. Get ‘secondary -scoring’ from other than Burdeaux and Sentance. Stop U of A from getting it inside. Win the rebounding battle. Alberta – Use their depth, and wear down the ‘Horns starters. Fill it up with 3 pointers (tops in Canada West in % treys and # scored per game). Attack with Mamadou Gueye and Brody Clarke. Concentrate defense on the 2 Lethbridge king-pins. 8 pm Thur, Fri and 7 pm Sat (if a 3rd)
Manitoba Bisons at UBC Thunderbirds – Manitoba’s Coach, Kirby Schepp, reminds us that the Herd lost by 8 in game 1 at UBC back in November, then ” … could, and maybe should have won game 2.” That went 75-72, and was tight down the stretch. Yes, but … the ‘Birds did go 19-1, which is a measure of their consistency and quality.
They are at War Memorial, a notorious ‘burial ground’ for visiting teams, and UBC has had some time to rest injured stars, Conor Morgan and Phil Jalalpoor. Manitoba is a match for UBC in terms of experience in their line-up, and they have won 15 of 17 to finish the season. On the flip side, the Bisons have won only once vs the T’Birds in 23 games since January of 2001. Keys – Manitoba – Disrupt the UBC offense; they cannot allow the ‘Birds to get too much momentum. Take care of the ball. Go after Morgan at both ends. Do a ‘shut-down ‘ job on Jordan Jensen-Whyte. Share the load on offense, and use the bench. UBC- Establish their defensive style, and limit fouls. Just do what they do on offense. Whyte is a key catalyst for the rest of the squad. Keep Morgan healthy. 7 pm Thur, Fri and Sat ( if 3 are necessary).
In the East –
The OUA first round games are getting underway tonight – Queens at Nipissing , Laurier at Laurentian , Lakehead at Toronto, and McMaster at Windsor . These are ‘sudden victory’, and you move on to play the top seeds Carleton, Ryerson, Ottawa, Brock on Saturday.
Strong rookie prospects throughout Canada West
We have a large field of rookie to choose our All-Rookie Team from, and we think we can say that this is an exceptional class. Without the playing minutes, and resulting scoring, and other stats, we can whittle down our list of honourees. Our suspicion is that we may have some exceptional players in the following group, and they aren’t on our Team ! (reverse alpha order – just a quirk)
Jeff Rodehutskors, Fwd, Calgary … Trent Monkman, Wing, Thompson R. … Josaiah Meppelink, G, Trinity W … Madhu McConnell, G, TRU … Scott Mazutinec, W, Lethbridge … Triston Matthews, G, UBC-O … Craig Martin , G, Mt. Royal … Tyrell Laing, G, UNBC … Cole Knudsen, F, Alberta … Kobyn Jopp, F, Brandon … Graeme Hyde-Lay, G, Victoria … J.J. Hamel-Carey , G, Victoria … Benjamin Hillis, W, Regina … Riley Braich, G , Fraser V. … Emmanuel Akintunde, F, Saskatchewan.
- UBC Coach Kevin Hanson, commenting on star forward Conor Morgan’s readiness for play vs Manitoba this weekend, “He won’t be 100 per cent on Thursday night, but he’ll be healthy enough to contribute in some way.” More on the T’Birds – Bisons in this story from Steve Ewan in The Province