Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Canada West Preview by Ben Matchett

An excellent preview of this weekend's Canada West Final Four in Calgary

DINOS HOST CONFERENCE’S BEST AT FINAL FOUR CALGARY – For the first time since the introduction of the Final Four format in 2002, the Canada West men’s basketball championship takes place in the Jack Simpson Gym. In fact, it’s the first time a men’s hoops conference championship of any kind has hit the hardwood in Calgary since Richard Bohne hit ‘the shot’ to defeat the Victoria Vikes in 1993 to send the Dinos to the conference final – which they won in two games over the Saskatchewan Huskies. This time around, fans will be treated to the best basketball in the country this side of the CIS Final 8 in Ottawa. Three of the top five teams in the country will take to the floor in a single elimination tournament, and with only two guaranteed trips to our nation’s capital available, Friday night’s semi-finals take on increased significance. The Dinos made it this far with a perfect 14-0 record at home, capped off by a two-game sweep of the Alberta Golden Bears last weekend in the Central Division final. Calgary has thrived in the Jack, outscoring their opponents by an average of nearly 20 points per game and hauling down 10 more rebounds than the opposition. Their statistical dominance on home court has been striking – the Dinos boast wide margins in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, free throw attempts, steals, and blocked shots in the friendly confines. Extending that streak to 15-0 Friday night would guarantee the program’s first berth to the national tournament since 2004, when they won the conference title and fell by two points to eventual national champion Carleton in the CIS semi-final in Halifax. However, there are four very good teams at this tournament with similar designs on the conference title standing in the way. Here’s a team-by-team look at the Canada West Final Four which, incidentally, features the same four teams from 2004 when the Dinos last won it all:


20-2 Canada West, 2-1 playoffs, 27-7 overall

CIS Top Ten: No. 3 • Media Poll: No. 3

The Bobcats got a rude awakening last Friday night in their 87-85 loss to Regina at home – the team’s first home loss since the conference championship game last season. A comeback for the ages it almost was, with Brandon rebounding from a 29-point deficit to make a game of it, but the Cougars sent them to the brink of elimination. Like all good teams, the Bobcats responded well, crushing the Cougars 105-70 in Game 2 and winning the series with an 89-67 victory in Game 3, earning their second straight Great Plains Division title. Brandon makes a rare appearance in the Jack as the top seed at the tournament and will face the wild card-winning Alberta Golden Bears in the early semi-final Friday night. The Bears have caused problems all season for the Bobcats, who won the CIS silver medal a year ago. Alberta took an 86-80 win at a pre-season tournament in Victoria back in October, then won the lone conference meeting between the teams 106-93 in Edmonton. First team all-star Dany Charlery leads the Bobcats’ attack with 18.5 points per game, while second team all-star Adam Hartman adds 17.5. Point guard David Yul Michel, the conference’s defensive player of the year, is playing his final CIS season and is among the league leaders in assists (2nd), assist/turnover ratio (3rd), and steals (12th).


18-4 Canada West, 2-0 playoffs, 24-6 overall

CIS Top Ten: No. 4 • Media Poll: No. 2

The host Dinos face the UBC Thunderbirds in the other semi-final match-up on Friday night in just the second meeting between the two teams this season. The first came in week one of the regular season, where the Dinos erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 73-68. While second team all-star Henry Bekkering has gotten most of the headlines this year, including an interview and photo in last week’s edition of Sports Illustrated, he is surrounded by a strong supporting cast and all have stepped up their game in the post-season. The team played its best game of the year last Saturday night against Alberta to clinch the Central Division pennant with a 90-66 win. Bekkering leads all players in playoff scoring, averaging 29 points per game in the two wins over Alberta. Among players still involved in the post-season, Brandon’s Yuri Whyms sits second in that statistical category with 17.3 points per game. Ross Bekkering was more than effective in his return to action after missing five games with an ankle injury at the end of the year, scoring 32 points, hauling down 18 boards, and recording seven swats in the two-game sweep of the Bears, where he went 16-for-17 from the line. Robbie Sihota scored 17 each night, while conference rookie of the year Tyler Fidler played quality minutes in the Dinos’ series win.


18-5 Canada West, 4-0 playoffs, 24-5 overall

CIS Top Ten: No. 5 • Media Poll: No. 6

After four seasons without appearing in Calgary, the Thunderbirds will meet the Dinos for the second time this year with a berth to the CIS championship on the line. UBC rolled through the Pacific Division playoffs with relative ease, winning four games at home over the Fraser Valley Cascades and Victoria Vikes to advance to the Final Four, where they hope to repeat as conference champions. Defence was the story for UBC in those four games, where they allowed 70-plus points just once. They have also shot the ball very well in the post-season, leading all teams with a field goal percentage of .480 and connecting on 22 of 53 attempts from beyond the arc (.415). The Thunderbirds bring the experience of several conference championships, appearing in their third straight Final Four and their fifth in six seasons. Chris Dyck, a fourth year guard that transferred from Manitoba, was UBC’s lone all-star, appearing alongside Bekkering on the second team. His 18.4 points per game led the T-Birds by a considerable margin, and he was the only UBC player to appear in the top 30 in conference scoring. UBC’s offence is well-distributed, with six players averaging eight points or better per game over the regular season.


16-6 Canada West, 2-3 playoffs, 23-10 overall

CIS Top Ten: Not ranked • Media Poll: Not ranked

Despite losing the Central Division final to Calgary last weekend, the Bears make the return trip down the QE2 for the Final Four as the wild card team, beating out the Victoria Vikes. Led by conference MVP Alex Steele and coach of the year Don Horwood, the Bears have beaten every team attending this weekend at least once this season, including two wins against first round opponent Brandon. And, after going 1-5 against the Dinos this season, the Bears will be relieved to play anybody but the host Dinos. “Right now, anybody is better for us than Calgary,” said Horwood when his team was given the wild card berth. Steele, a fifth year guard, was the offensive catalyst for Alberta all season, averaging 21 points per game and connecting on 84.1 per cent of his free throw attempts. C.G. Morrison’s 13.2 points per game has paced the Bears in their five post-season games behind 15.8 from Steele, but it will be Alberta’s ability to pound the ball inside against Yul Michel and the tenacious Brandon defence that will determine their success. With one national wild card berth to the CIS Final 8 available, it’s very possible that three of these teams will advance to Ottawa in two weeks’ time – but each of the four certainly wants to earn the spot on their own merits, and that means a win on semi-final Friday.

Ticket sales for the Final Four have been brisk, and Dinos Athletics expects sell-out crowds both nights. Fans are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance by calling (403) 220-7749 or via email at A very limited number of tickets will be available at the door, and line-ups are expected to be very long.


2007 Canada West Men’s Basketball Final Four; Jack Simpson Gym, University of Calgary

Friday, Feb. 29

5 p.m. - #1 Brandon vs. #4 Alberta

7 p.m. - #2 Calgary vs. #3 UBC

Saturday, Mar. 1

5 p.m. – Bronze medal game

7 p.m. – Conference final

All games will be streamed LIVE by NUTV at

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