Will youth doom this edition of the Alberta Golden Bears?
Alberta Golden Bears
Head coach: Barnaby Craddock
Record in 2014: 14-6 (T-3rd in Pioneer division of Canada West Conference)
Playoffs: Canada West quarterfinals
Points scored per game: 76.9
Points allowed per game: 68.2
Key players: Mamadou Gueye, Brody Clarke, Sebastien Denault
Key losses: Joel Friesen, Kenneth Otieno, Youssef Ouahrig
The good thing about playing in the 11-team Pioneer division of the Canada West conference is that the teams that are still standing after the 20-game regular season will have deserved their spot in the playoffs. “We are well aware that the playoffs are not a guarantee for us this season,” Golden Bears head coach Barnaby Craddock tells NPH. “Determining between fifth and 10th place in our division will be ultra competitive.” Alberta was among those who qualified for the postseason a year ago and this January, with four away games in a row, may decide whether the team does or doesn’t do so again this season.
Key games: at UBC Thunderbirds, Nov. 6 and 7
VS Victoria Vikes, Jan. 15 and 16
Alberta Golden Bears head coach Barnaby Craddock thinks it’s fine to make the playoffs, especially playing in the competitive Canada West conference, but more important is to know how to win once you have qualified. “This year’s (team) has talent,” he says, “but is short on experience winning playoff games at a CIS level.”
Part of the reason why is that the team is simply so young, with only two players on the roster being in their fourth year. “A massive amount of (our) team experience has graduated,” Craddock says. “We will need our first- and second-year athletes developing some on court maturity on the fly.”
Third-year Mamadou Gueye is the elder statesman among the core guys and Craddock will rely on him quite a lot. “As one of the most dynamic and exciting athletes in CIS, we expect him to provide leadership, and an ability to create offense for himself and others.”
The Golden Bears will depend on eight players upon whom they didn’t last season, either because they didn’t play much/enough or because they are freshmen this year. Brody Clarke, who is among the group after a summer with the Canadian U-19 National team, stands out. “He has looked great in practice,” Craddock says, “and has the ability to start as a freshman for us.”