The University of Victoria Vikes basketball players, currently involved in spring-league play when not following the Raptors games, now know what the fall and winter will bring.
The Canada West conference released its men’s and women’s 2019-20 hoops schedules Tuesday.
“We will have UBC, Calgary and Alberta here, which are traditional rivalries our fans are always excited to see,” said Vikes men’s head coach Craig Beaucamp.
The Vikes teams open on the road Nov. 1-2 in Prince George against the UNBC Timberwolves.
“They have a good team and UNBC came in here in the fall and beat us twice last season,” said Vikes women’s head coach Dani Sinclair.
Same on the men’s side.
“UNBC has made the playoffs the last couple of years, so we will have to be ready for them on the road,” said Beaucamp.
The bye week comes early, in just the second week of the season, for both Vikes squads.
The home openers for both teams are Nov. 15-16 against Alberta on Ken and Kathy Shields Court at CARSA gym.
The Brandon Bobcats make a visit to CARSA on Nov. 22-23 in what will bring back a bit of nostalgia for old-school fans, especially on the men’s side. The UVic Vikes won seven consecutive national championships from 1980 to 1986 with the Bobcats following up with three straight national titles from 1987 to 1989. No other teams won men’s national crowns in the 1980s.
The Vikes teams are in Calgary to play Mount Royal on Nov. 29-30.
UVic opens following the Christmas break with a home set against UBC-Okanagan on Jan. 3-4.
The Jan. 10-11 road trip to Saskatchewan to face the Huskies will be especially significant for the UVic women. The Huskies have been a national power the past five seasons under Canadian Olympic team head coach Lisa Thomaidis.
“We have those games circled on the calendar,” said Sinclair.
The biggest rivalry games follow with the UVic teams at UBC on Jan. 16 and the Thunderbirds crossing the strait on Jan. 18. You don’t have to tell any of the players to get up for those games.
Thompson Rivers from Kamloops is at CARSA gym on Jan. 24-25 and the Manitoba Bisons from further afield on Jan. 31-Feb. 1. The Vikes close out the regular season on Feb. 7-8 in Langley against Trinity Western.
The playoffs begin Feb. 14-16 with the single-loss elimination play-in games featuring the fifth through 12-place finishers.
The quarter-finals and semifinals, formerly a mix of best-of-three and single-loss elimination are now all single-loss elimination from Feb. 21-23.
The men’s and women’s Canada West championship games are Feb. 29.
“I like it. Single-game elimination has proven itself in many ways in basketball, including the NCAA” said Beaucamp.
“One-offs are exciting. There’s a lot of merit to them in conference playoffs because when you get to the national championships, it’s the same — win or go home.”
Sinclair concurred: “There’s less wear and tear in one-game playoffs. Not only does it add excitement, but it better assures sending the healthiest team to nationals out of our conference.”
Meanwhile, the Vikes men will host the Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament Oct. 4-6 headlined by the Calgary Dinos and Carleton Ravens, who met in the U Sports national championship game this spring. The Vikes and Regina are the other teams.
The exhibition season begins at CARSA Oct. 19 against the Seattle Mountaineers senior team and Oct. 25-26 against the Fraser Valley Cascades.
There is much hype surrounding in-coming freshman Diego Maffia out of Oak Bay High.
“He is learning the physicality and strength involved in spring league, but is proving he can still score against older players and will make an impact early on,” said Beaucamp.
“[Fourth-year guard] Scott Kellum will play a huge role for us as starting point guard and he has taken Diego under his wing.”
The women Vikes open exhibition play Oct. 4-6 with a tournament at the University of Toronto to begin the post-Amira Giannattasio era. The prolific scorer graduated this spring as No. 3 on the Vikes women’s basketball all-time scoring list with 1,539 career points and behind only two-time Olympian Carol Turney-Loos (1,646) and former Belmont star Lisa Koop (1,660).
“Amira was such a dominant scorer that we would look to isolate her,” said Sinclair.
“Now, the ball will move more and we will do offence by committee more than we did. But our Achilles heal was defence and that will be more of a focus.”