Canada West Basketball – Week Two – Five Takeaways
With week two of Canada West basketball action in the books, here are five topics to think about, entering week three.
1. The Cascades are the team to beat in the Explorers division.
Although only one week has passed in the new explorers division, the UFV Cascades are looking like the team to beat. The Cascades played this weekend in Kelowna, BC against the University of British Columbia Okanagan and although they suffered to gain a lot of traction against the feisty Heat, the Cascades saw great bench production in both games.
In game one, Nate Brown scored twenty off the bench in 30 minutes, the second game saw former all-Canadian Jasper Moedt score 19 off the bench in just 23 minutes.
Although the Cascades only beat the Heat by six and eight points respectively, the Heat are one of the toughest opponents the Cascades will face all year in the Explorers division and they managed to handle the Heat on the road. The Cascades’ biggest battle this year will be against complacency and beginning to treat the rest of their division like an easy win night in and night out. Upon the conclusion of the Canada West season last year, I was personally a firm believer in Adam Friesen for Coach of the Year after taking over for Barnaby Craddock the year before. If Friesen can manage his squad’s expectations and the team can keep their competitive fire night in and night out, the Cascades have a chance to go 20-0 in the explorers division and challenge for a spot at nationals.
2. Is UBC the biggest disappointment of the season thus far?
Ok, it is definitely too early to call the Thunderbirds a disappointment to start the season after they have only played two games but fans should be worried. The highest pre-season ranked Canada West squad in the national rankings (seventh) dropped not one but two games to start the season 0-2. They did play the best team from the Canada West a season ago – the University of Victoria Vikes – but the Thunderbirds were expected to contend.
Although the scores seem close, the actual contests were really not that exceptional. The T-Birds biggest problem it seems, came from their limited bench scoring, they received only eight points from the bench in the first game and fifteen in the second (all fifteen from Brylee Kamen).
I expect that the Thunderbirds will fall to 0-4 when they play the University of Alberta Golden Bears next weekend and at that point the Thunderbirds will need to buckle down for their last four games before the holiday break. If UBC is anything less than 4-4 by the time of the holiday break, then the panic button in Point Grey should be pushed.
3. The U-Vic Vikes are the best team in the Canada West until someone proves otherwise.
The Vikes are an exceptionally good basketball team inside and out. They have the defending Coach of the Year in Craig Beaucamp and one of the deepest rosters top to bottom in the Canada West.
The only problem – they play Saskatchewan, and Alberta both twice and those games are the next four on their schedule. I seriously doubt that the Vikes will be 8-0 after their four games against the other top teams in the pioneers division.
However, if the Vikes manage to sit atop the division at 8-0 by Christmas, then they look poised to grab the Canada West banner. Unlike the Cascades, the Vikes biggest threat will be the competition they have to face in the loaded pioneer division.
4. Is Chris Mclaughlin the best player in Canada West?
The fifth year 6’10” forward for the University of Victoria is not just one of the best players in the Canada West but in the country. Mclaughlin is a beast scorer inside averaging over 21 points per game in his first four contests of the year putting him as the highest player on the national leaderboard from Canada West at thirteenth.
McLaughlin’s PPG isn’t the impressive number however–it is his field goal percentage that jumps off the page at you, shooting just under 53 percent on 28 of 53 shooting. Not only does he shot a great percentage but he also gets to the line the most often out of anybody in the country – he has shot 33 free throws this season which is over eight attempts a game.
5. Are the University of Calgary Dinos for real?
The Dinos are 4-0– the only other team in the Canada West with that record is the Vikes
UofC didn’t make the playoffs last year and were fifth in their division at 7-15 – but the worst part – they lost eight of their last ten games of the season. Through the early games of the season they are 4-0 and have beaten Winnipeg and Brandon.
While neither team is a pillar of skill and consistency, it is still impressive to see the Dinos sitting atop the loaded pioneers division through four games. Their 82 points per game is extremely high for a regular Canada West team and fans can expect that number to drop in their coming games.
Their next six games aren’t against really dominant Canada West teams in Regina, Manitoba, and Trinity Western, so for the optimist it is realistic to think that they could go 10-0 surpassing their win total from last season even before Christmas.
With seven teams from the Pioneers division making playoffs this year ten wins before Christmas could confirm a playoff spot for a team looking to rebound from a less than stellar season the year before.
The Canada West season is full of unexpected teams doing well and favourites tanking early. I expect that this season will bring new players to the forefront of everyone’s minds and old dynasties falling.
The question is, when the playoffs come around at the end of February, which teams will have the opportunity to represent Western Canada at nationals in Toronto?