Another memorable Canada West season is in the books and one that saw plenty of competitive action, lots of upsets and surprises, in the end, four teams remain. The OUA conference clearly has the bragging rights as the “top” conference in the country this year. By comparison, Canada West also had their fair share of Top Ten teams and when looking at the win and loss records of the final four teams in each conference, the West stacks up fairly well against the OUA, posting a 71-17 record while the Ontario divisions last remaining teams (Carleton, Ottawa, Windsor, McMaster) combined for a regular season best a with 76-12 record.
Alberta Golden Bears, Victoria Vikes, Saskatchewan Huskies and the Fraser Valley Cascades have survived the best-of-three Canada West Quarter-final series to be within reach of a CIS Final 8 spot.
Alberta Golden Bears
CIS Ranking: #3
Last Season: Lost 2-1 to UBC in best-of-three quarter-finals
Golden Bears, ranked in the Top 10 all year behind the stellar play of 2014 Canada West Player of the Year Jordan Baker, required a third and decisive game to get past the UBC Thunderbird’s who put together a formidable effort before bowing out in three-games.
CIS Ranking: #4
Last Season: Canada West Silver, CIS Consolation finalist
The Victoria Vikes have shown signs of maturity throughout the season maintaining a top five ranking throughout the another successful campaign. Victoria lost the first game of their series against Winnipeg by allowing a uncharacteristic 79 points but return to their defensive ways to take the series 2-1 limiting Winnipeg to a 61, 63 points respectively in the final two games and reach their second straight Final Four.
Fraser Valley Cascades
CIS Ranking: #9
Last Season: Lost to UBC in Canada West semi-finals
Winners of 16 in row are the Fraser Valley Cascades who look to keep the momentum going after sweeping their opening round opponents in a 2-0 series win over the Lethbridge Pronghorns. UFV is peaking at the right time of the season and with their best regular season in the programs short history behind them you have to like their chances of make some noise in this tournament. The lowest scoring of the remaining teams (72.3 PPG) they struggle against the elite of the conference going 0-4 against Alberta, Victoria and Saskatchewan in the regular season.
CIS Ranking: #10
Last Season: Lost 2-1 to Fraser Valley in best-of-three quarter-finals
Saskatchewan Huskies, ranked in the Top Ten for most of year, made quick work of the TRU Wolfpack earning a 2-0 series sweep in their opening series. The Huskies posted a 500% record in the 2nd-half of the year with a 6-6 record, three of those losses came to Victoria and Alberta. Saskatchewan is deep and well balanced at all the right positions with talent in the back-court and mobile forwards in the paint ranking 7th in the country in scoring with 83.5 points per game and 6th in rebounding with 42 per game.
Fraser Valley Cascades vs. Victoria Vikes
The Vikes get majority of their scoring production from seniors Terrell Evans (18.1PPG/7.0RPG) and Chris McLaughlin (14.7PPG/8.2RPG) and will need everything they can get from their front court if they hope to beat a deeper and extremely hot UFV squad that matches up well Vikes. Victoria won both regular season games back in Nov 2013 but the Cascades have improved defensively since and eager to return the favor.
Players to Watch
First team Canada West Terrell Evans does it all for the Vikes and could be the difference maker, his athleticism and ability to bang inside and out poses some questions for UFV.
Keys to Victory
Expect a low scoring slug-fest between these two division rivals. The Vikes will need to get some production from their back-court of Marcus Tibbs and Kyle Peterson and hope their main players stay out of foul trouble against the more physical Cascades.
Saskatchewan Huskies vs. Alberta Golden Bears
Alberta is currently 14-1 on their home floor with their only loss coming to UBC last week in 79-78 defeat, as a result they host the Final Four a Second year head coach has assembled himself quite the roster, loaded with experience and youth Golden Bears will have the mental advantage in this one having beaten the Huskies two weeks ago.
Players to Watch
Jordan Baker 17.6 PPG, 8.2RPG has dominated the Canada West for the past three-years, won almost every possible conference award and is eager to cap off a great career with a trip to Ottawa for the 2014 CIS Men’s Final 8.
Keys to Victory
Who’s got the deeper bench? Saskatchewan or Alberta?
What to Expect
The Canada West is a toss up both Alberta and Victoria have played consistently all season and look like the early favorites. Expect the Huskies and the Golden Bears to go the distance in second semi-finals with Alberta winning the Canada West Championships over the Victoria Vikes.