We are fortunate to have several very capable correspondents covering Canada West (more on the lineup for CW coverage later) including Dave Wells, who has had a 30+ year affiliation with Canadian basketball in many roles interacting with numerous people across the Canadian basketball spectrum. We will provide a more comprehensive Wellsie bio in the near future but for today, Dave provides his thoughts on the first half of play in Canada West among other CW-related topics. We plan to publish much more of Dave's fine work, on many different CIS/Canadian basketball topics, going forward.
Canada West Christmas Break Update
By Dave Wells
It’s been a season of change in Canada West men’s hoops with the addition of the University of British Columbia-Okanagan (who play out of Kelowna) entering the loop, leading to some structural shifts.
Next year promises more membership growth with Calgary’s Mount Royal University and Prince George-based University of Northern British Columbia coming on board. These moves, bringing Canada West to a most-ever number of 16 hoop playing institutions, will produce scheduling and perhaps format change in 2012-13.
In fact, the potential for even more growth is in the pipeline due largely to the British Columbia and Alberta government’s relatively recent decision to grant university status to institutions that formerly were colleges. It is indeed debateable how these moves will affect Canada West and its programs mid-to-long term.
As for this season the Canada West schedule shifted back to the structure it last utilized two years ago when Simon Fraser was a Canada West member.
In 2010-11 there was of one 13-team division, with every team playing the other twice in the regular season (making for 24-games). The top-eight qualified for the playoffs.
This time around there is two divisions. The six-team West Division is comprised of the University of Victoria (8-0 currently), UBC (6-2), University of the Fraser Valley (5-3), Thompson Rivers University (4-4), Trinity Western University (2-6) and UBC Okanagan (1-5).
The East Division includes eight teams. They are University of Alberta (6-2), University of Saskatchewan (5-2), University of Manitoba (4-4), University of Lethbridge (4-4), Brandon University (3-5), University of Calgary (3-5), University of Regina (2-5) and University of Winnipeg (2-6).
Every team plays their divisional opponents twice and tips against teams in the other division once. Thus West Division teams contest an 18-game slate, with the East Division tackling 20 tilts.
The top three teams in the West Division automatically qualify for the playoffs, as do the top four in the East Division. The final playoff berth is decided by Wildcard vote among head coaches featuring the fourth-place team in the West and the fifth-place team in the East. There are seven criteria to be utilized by the voters.
The Canada West pre-season head coaches poll predicted the overall order of finish (which as we can see above in not totally applicable in any case) to be: Saskatchewan (including 12 first-place votes), UBC (one first-place vote), Alberta, Fraser Valley (one first-place vote), Victoria, Trinity Western, Calgary, Lethbridge, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Regina, Thompson Rivers, Brandon and UBCO.
Injures have apparently played a role throughout the loop this season. Clearly, Saskatchewan superstar guard Jamelle Barrett has been slowed, for example. It would seem no team has been hit nearly as hard overall as Calgary however, with significant long-term losses including point guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson (arguably the most valuable player to his team in the league by a significant margin) and superstar Ryerson transfer Boris Bakovic. If neither return for the second semester it will surely seem like a twisted knife through the heart of the U of C program. (Note: Late word is that Bakovic is practicing with the Dinos and is likely to play in the second half. Situation is not so certain for Ogungbemi-Jackson; we expect to get more on this in a later post from correspondent Wayne Thomas)
No question UVic has turned heads in a positive fashion up to this juncture! Full marks to the entire Princeton-running troupe, led by star fifth-year guard Ryan MacKinnon and head coach Craig Beaucamp.
Canada West is the only men’s league in the CIS that currently allows only two non-Canadian citizens or landed immigrants on an active roster at one time (the CIS as a whole has a three-max). The Canada West rule is presumed by many to be a nod to the American recruiting strategies and abilities of a former long-term Brandon bench boss.
For many years, most of the teams in the league did not utilize any “imports”. That has changed in recent times. Now many CW teams have two non-Canadians on the roster. The majority have prior post-secondary experience stateside.
Perhaps the three most influential foreign newcomers in the circuit so far in 2011-12 are TRU forward Justin King (Junior College product, leads the league in scoring and is second in rebounding), Lethbridge point guard Daryl Cooper (JuCo product) and Manitoba point guard Stephen Walton (from NCAA Division II).
One terrific addition to the league this year has been www.canadawest.tv which shows every regular season and post-season game on the web. Overall www.canadawest.org does a comprehensive job providing a wide array of cyber content.
There should be plenty of exciting action to follow for live and internet followers in the New Year!