Men's Basketball 2013 Outlook: Alberta Golden Bears

Next up in our series of 2013 previews: the U of A.

Record: 9-1 conference (1st, Canada West Prairie), 11-3 overall, +10.2 SRS (7th in CIS)

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency (CIS Rank): 106.8 ORtg (6th), 90.8 DRtg (10th)

First half highlights:
  • A wild win over UBC with a crazy final sequence.
  • A 35-point punishing of Victoria.
  • Two convincing wins over Lethbridge in November.
First half recap: Coming off a national championship game loss to Carleton in 2012, the Golden Bears have again looked like a Final 8 contender, looking better and better as the season has gone on. Their home-heavy schedule has helped them to jump out to a 9-1 record, but this is a solid team on both ends of the court. Sharpshooter Sahr Saffa, who didn't play in the team's only loss, has worked well with Jordan Baker and Kenneth Otieno and helped space the floor since coming back from a groin injury.

What makes them good: With new coach Barnaby Craddock implementing a slower-paced defensive style (73.9 possessions per game, sixth-lowest in the country), the Bears have still managed to score efficiently, shooting 50% on two pointers and posting the sixth-best offensive rating in the country. That's largely thanks to the duo of Otieno (28.9 PER, 60 TS%) and Baker, who has struggled from the field (39.5 FG%, 43% eFG) yet remained effective with a 27.6 PER and is leading the team in scoring. The Bears also have a league low turnover rate (tied with Lakehead and Carleton at 16%), generally a good sign that this offence can continue to score at a high rate.

What they need to improve on: Baker is a fantastic talent, but he's going to need to get even better to lead this team back to the national championship game, and one way he could do that is with improved shot selection. There's a lot to be said for Baker's ability to create his own shot and get the defence moving, but he's shooting almost five threes a game and making less than a quarter of them. It's a lot to ask an already great player to get better, but it might behoove the Bears to get a little more controlled play from their standout forward.

Goals/Outlooks/Scenarios: With Saffa and big man Robert Dewar coming back from injuries, there might be some more consistency to Craddock's lineups — nine different players have started for the Bears this year. Alberta will face a road-heavy schedule (8/12 out-of-province), and will need their veterans to play at their best to hold on to their division-leading record and start their journey back to the Final 8.
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