Thursday, 12 March 2009

Thanks to Neate Sager for passing along a link to Howard Tsumura's UBC preview in today's Vancouver Province

Loose but confident, Birds look for elusive first round win at Nationals

By Howard Tsumura 03-12-2009 Little Man On Campus
The Vancouver Province

VANCOUVER -- When you've suffered as much heartbreak as the UBC Thunderbirds men's basketball team has at the CIS national championship tournament, at some point the anxiety can't help but give way to a calm.

Not that the 'Birds, first-round losers in each of their past five national tournament appearances, are taking any kind of a half-hearted approach to their opener today (11:30 a.m., CiTR 101.9 FM) against the Atlantic champion Dalhousie Tigers.

But you can only self-analyze past failures so many times. At some point, you break free and just focus on yourself. And that is where a 26-3 UBC team finds itself today as it looks for its first national semifinal berth since 1996.

"We're just at a level of confidence that we haven't been at the last couple of years going into nationals," said UBC post Bryson Kool, who along with forward Matt Rachar and guard Chris Dyck wrap up their T-Birds careers after this weekend. "Last year, we knew the whole team was going to be back and that there was a good chance that we were going to have the same chance again. This year it's been more of an unspoken thing."

Yes, no one has to say it. But everyone seems uniquely focussed on the task of getting past a defensively-tough and disciplined Tigers team, which would then give UBC a shot at getting to its first national final since 1987.

"I hope and trust that they have learned something from being here the last few years," said UBC head coach Kevin Hanson. "Bryson and Matt are here for the fourth time, it's Chris' third time and for a lot of others, it's at least their second. The guys are ready, but I have thought that every year."

Hanson's thoughts on what kind of team Dalhousie is were confirmed upon the team's arrival in Ottawa. "We ended up getting about seven games from their season and I am really impressed with their defensive effort," said Hanson of the Tigers.
"They are very aggressive, they make it tough to get to hoop and they don't make many mistakes defensively," Hanson continued, adding that Dalhousie's scoring threats come largely from their talented guard group, led by Simon Farine and Josh Beattie who scored at a clip of 19.1 and 14.6 points per game this season.

UBC's third-leading scorer Blain LaBranche (foot) will not play Friday and is doubtful Saturday.

Says Rachar of his final weekend as a T-Bird: "I am really looking at this as all of the work I have put in, all of the time I have spent in the gym, that this is going to be a celebration of all of that."

And of course, the Birds would love to be the ones celebrating after Sunday's national final. But for now, they're keeping first things first.

No comments: