1. Inconsistency clouds Pioneer Division playoff picture
The Pioneer Division has had a lot of different leaders up to this point in the season and now at the top of the list is the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, who sat in second place at the end of the last week.
The previous first place University of Calgary Dinos dropped both their games this past weekend and lost their first place position going into the final weekend of games.
This season in particular has been very strange in terms of the team’s leading the division. At this point many teams have held the number one spot only to give it up. While it is not a necessity to land the number one spot it gives the team that lands the seed the best chance to represent the Canada West at nationals. Going into the last weekend of competition it looks like the three best teams in the division have the best chances to be in first place and the number one overall seed heading in to the playoffs. Those teams – the University of Alberta Golden Bears, the University of Victoria Vikes, and of course the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Below are the chances of all three teams to walk away with the number one seed.
2. Golden Bears ride win streak into final week of action
After a slow start to the season the Golden Bears have seemed to have found their stride recently and are currently riding a six-game win streak into the final week of action in the Pioneers Division. Their streak is not only the longest active streak in the Canada West but also tied for the second longest active streak in the CIS behind Ryerson University.
The Golden Bears were able to benefit from a one-game week thanks to a schedule quirk that saw them play a rare December game against the University of Calgary Dinos. That game was only one half of their two-game series and on Thursday they played the second half.
During the first game Calgary was riding high as one of the best teams in the Canada West and were frontrunners for a division title. They would win the game 90-84 and send the Golden Bears to the break with four wins and five losses. Since that game the Golden Bears have lost only once, to the University of Manitoba Bisons 75-69. Their 12-6 record will likely extend to 14-6 after a pair of games against the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns.
The Golden Bears will need to win both games this weekend and have both the Vikes and the Huskies lose their games. The Vikes control the tiebreaker and the Huskies have a one win lead over the Golden Bears. While their sudden success could see that Golden Bear nab the number one seed, fans of the team shouldn’t count on it.
3. Will the Vikes talent propel them into the number one seed?
In my opinion the Vikes might be the most talented team in Canada West and will need to ride that talent if they want the number one seed. The Vikes are one of the more experienced teams and their starting five will prove that in the coming weeks.
However, unlike the Golden Bears, the Vikes have held the number one seed at a point this season. Granted the season was in its infancy when they last did but they have climbed back and are tied with the Huskies for the top seed going into the last week of the season. The only problem – of late they have been the most inconsistent of the top three. In their last ten games they have gone 7-3, a very respectable mark. But, the Huskies and Golden Bears have both gone 9-1 over their last ten leaving the Vikes as the odd man out.
Although they have a very easy last week of the season, they play the 2-16 Trinity Western University Spartans, their only matchup with the Huskies netted them two losses – 82-70 and 95-70. This is a big deal because if both teams come away with wins in their final games the Huskies hold the tie breaker over Vikes.
In order for the Vikes to take the one seed into the playoffs they must win both their games and count on the Huskies to lose at least one of theirs. If that happens than the Vikes will be the kings of the Pioneers Division.
4. For the Huskies … WIN
It is most simple for the Huskies team that is currently in control of the number one seed, all they need to do is win. They win their games, they win the seed. The highest ranked team in Canada West (number six) controls their own destiny.
The problem – out of all three teams that have the chance of securing the number one seed, they play the best team in their final games of the season. They have to play the 12-6 University of Calgary Dinos.
The Dinos have split games with both the Vikes and Golden Bears and will bring everything they have against the Huskies, for they also are fighting for their seed in the playoffs.
The Huskies are built to win and are the best team at the moment in the Canada West. However, they need to pull out a pair of clutch wins in order to be the number one team going into the playoffs.
For the record I don’t think they will be able to squeak out two wins against such a good basketball team and I believe that the Vikes will be the number one seed when it is all said and done.
5. Tommy Nixon wows and secures another Player Of The Week nod.
The Thunderbirds’ Tommy Nixon has been a beast in the second half of the season and has led his team to a resurgence and a playoff spot in the new Pioneers Division.
This past weekend was no different as he continued to thrive on limited shots and getting to the free throw line.
In his first game of the weekend he took only 13 shots and hit six – well below his average – but made is way to the free throw line 14 times where he converted all 14. He was good for 27 points while also grabbing 15 boards in a 76-64 win over the University of Regina Cougars.
The second game, while not his usual outpouring of scoring,his 7-8 from the free throw line contributed to his team’s 84-69 victory.
Nathan Hutton covers Canada West basketball for North Pole Hoops. Follow @Nathan_NPH on Twitter for all your West Coast action!