Our basketball preview series continues with a conference-by-conference look at the contenders in the men's game.
Some explanation of the stats: The RPI ranking includes all 2009-10 games (exhibition, season, playoffs, Final 8). "Offence" and "defence" are points per 78 possessions (the average number in a CIS game) and can be thought of as adjusted points-for and points-against averages. The difference between the two is the number in parentheses, serving as a plus/minus of sorts. These numbers are rounded and may not add up precisely. Top 100 players refers to the Player Efficiency Rankings for 2009-10. Other statistics referenced can be found at the CIS site. "Wacyk Wisdom" is our way of deferring to the authority on CIS basketball, for teams Mark has previewed so far.
We'll go through the contenders in Canada West today, with the other conferences to follow.
Last year's results: 15-5 regular season, lost Canada West final to Saskatchewan and national semifinal to UBC (4th in RPI)
Offence / defence: 78/66 (+12)
They return: 7 players, 47% of minutes, 41% of points
Top 100 players: Tyler Fidler (37)
Outlook: For the past several seasons, the Dinos have enjoyed a nice run in both conference and national play, thanks to the likes of the Bekkering brothers and Robbie Sihota. But with those players gone and a pack of relatively inexperienced players taking their place, the Dinos’ hopes of a Final 8 run this year are possibly extinct. Still, Calgary’s talent pool is filled with potential, and a talent-heavy recruiting class of rookies and transfers should help them prey on unprepared opponents. Forward Tyler Fidler takes over Ross Bekkering’s role as post presence and offensive focal point, while Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, a standout rookie last season, will be given more freedom to create plays as the primary ball handler. For the Dinos to win, the veteran players will have to find a way to translate successes of the past into the present minus the play of Bekkering and Sihota. Without those players, however, the growing pains of 2010-2011 may leave Dinos fans feeling a bit sore.
Wacyk Wisdom: “Several strong, young pieces remain from last season - there are no fifth-year players on this season's roster - and a number of recruits, including a promising big man, are paving the way for another multi-year run at the Nationals.”
Last year's results: 14-6 regular season, won both Canada West Final Four and national championship (2nd in RPI)
Offence / defence: 84/70 (+14)
They return: 6 players, 46% of minutes, 35% of points
Top 100 players: Nolan Brudehl (67), Michael Lieffers (44)
Outlook: No team sees a bigger turnaround of top-level personnel than the Huskies, who are without last year’s stars Showron Glover, Mike Linklater, Troy Gottselig and coach Greg Jockims, who is taking a year away from the game. All four were key figures in the championship run, and Saskatchewan will inevitably face troubles without them. With Glover, a first-team All-Canadian last year, the Huskies had a flashy, play-making guard who could take over a game on his own. This year, Saskatchewan is hoping they’ve replaced him with fellow California product Jamelle Barrett, who scored 18.7 points per game last season with Consumnes River Community College. Sasky also adds another impact player with a rare double-transfer in Rejean Chabot, who started with the Huskies in 2007, transferred to Brandon for 2008-2009 (where he averaged 17.4 points per game) and has now returned to Saskatoon. The combination of Barrett and Chabot gives Saskatchewan one of the most intriguing backcourts in the CIS, and championship pieces Michael Lieffers and Nolan Brudehl are more than capable of taking on larger roles, and However, the shoes of last year’s team are likely too large to fill for the Huskies to make another title run.
Wacyk Wisdom: “Two top, experienced guards and a host of very good complementary players with the experience of playing for a National champion return, so this season may be one of simply re-tooling instead of re-building for the Saskatchewan Huskies.”
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS
Last year's results: 9-9 regular season, missed playoffs (18th in RPI)
Offence / defence: 79/78 (+1)
They return: 9 players, 78% of minutes, 78% of points
Top 100 players: Tyrell Mara (79), Jacob Doerksen (9)
Outlook: If the recipe for success in CIS basketball is a roster of experienced, returning players, the Spartans may be cooking up quite a season. Armed with one of the most experienced cores in the CIS, the Spartans are in prime position to return from a disappointing end to 2009-2010 (four losses in a row to miss the playoffs) and threaten to do some postseason damage. 2009 CIS Player of the Year Jacob Doerksen leads a veteran crew that includes six fourth- and fifth-year players, and will be once again depended on for the lion’s share of scoring duties. Trinity Western boasts a physically intimidating lineup, and with 11 players standing 6’6” or taller, the Spartans are able to punish teams with a deep rotation. Still, questions remain about the roles within the starting lineup. Transfers Tristan Smith and Kyle Coston figure to appear in the starting lineup, and the Doerksen-based offence is still a work in progress. However, with Saskatchewan and Calgary looking like they will take a step backward, the experienced Spartans may be ready to relish the role of challenging UBC for the Canada West title.
Last year's results: 9-9 regular season, missed playoffs (21st in RPI)
Offence / defence: 74/73 (+1)
They return: 8 players, 77% of minutes, 75% of points
Top 100 players: Jeff Cullen (71), Zac Andrus (65)
Outlook: A year of experience does the Vikes a wealth of good, with a roster that returns all but one key player from last year’s rotation (albeit a very good one in guard Cyril Indome). The Vikes will look to their experienced backcourt to lead the way, with veteran guards Cullen and MacKinnon the most dangerous threats on the floor. Cullen is one of the best floor generals in the conference, while MacKinnon and Marco Dolcetti will be depended on to fill up the bucket. The Vikes were able to stay competitive last year through sound defensive play, and coach Craig Beaucamp has taken steps to improve hot-and-cold scoring by implementing a ball movement-friendly Princeton offence. With a roster that is very deep, the key to Victoria’s improvement this season will be establishing who the key figures and role players are.
Wacyk Wisdom: “Vikes starting five are collectively as experienced and savvy as any first five in the CIS, so the personnel at the top is there to run this type of offense.”
Last year's results: 17-1 regular season, won Canada West bronze medal and finished second at nationals (1st in RPI)
Offence / defence: 82/64 (+17)
They return: 8 players, 74% of minutes, 73% of points
Top 100 players: Josh Whyte (5)
Outlook: The Thunderbirds are hoping the third time will be a charm, having seen the last two CIS Championship games slip through their fingers. UBC returns nearly all of their core from last year, including CIS Player of the Year Josh Whyte, and plays host to a very deep, very experienced team. Doug Plumb, a Fraser Valley transfer who redshirted last season, has had an impressive preseason and figures to add another element to the Thunderbirds’ considerable depth. However, as seen in the past two Final 8 championship games, UBC has struggled at times to find offensive consistency when Whyte plays ever so slightly below his usual stellar self. If they can fit Plumb into the offensive system while still taking advantage of Whyte's considerable playmaking ability, the Thunderbirds may be tough to stop all season long.