A hint of nostalgia will permeate proceedings tonight and Saturday when the University of Brandon Bobcats come onto Ken and Kathy Shields Court in CARSA gym for Canada West basketball action against the University of Victoria Vikes.
That is especially so on the men’s side. The Vikes won seven consecutive national championships from 1980 to 1986 with the Bobcats then winning three consecutive national titles from 1987 to 1989. No other teams won men’s Canadian university hoops crowns in the 1980s.
“There’s an Original Six kind of flavour to this match-up and that makes these kind of games always fun,” said UVic men’s head coach Craig Beaucamp, throwing in a hockey metaphor.
But those halcyon days are a distant memory for the Bobcats as the Brandon men come to the Island at 1-5 and women at 0-6 in conference.
But at 2-2 in conference play, the Vikes men know they can’t take any opponent for granted.
“Brandon is highly capable and athletic team that is good in transition,” warned Vikes boss Beaucamp.
“They were up 10 points on Calgary [national runner-up last season and 4-0 this season] with three minutes left before the Dinos pulled it out.”
The Vikes have begun the season defensively sound but have not been as sharp on offence.
“We have struggled on offence. In order to break in to be a national level team, you have to be good on both sides of the ball,” said Beaucamp.
With a tall forward wall, UVic was always looking this season to be a good inside team. The perimeter shooting has yet to catch up. It’s important that it does because hitting the outside shots keeps opposing defences honest and opens up the inside.
“Our inside game has mostly been fine but we need more contributions from the perimeter,” said Beaucamp.
“But we don’t have an extensive pre-season, so it takes a while.”
The UVic women’s squad is 3-1 and has been ranked nationally this season in the U Sports top-10.
“We have to get rid of that underdog mentality we have played with too long,” said UVic head coach Dani Sinclair.
“We want to be a front-running team because that’s who we are now. But we don’t want to take anything for granted.”
Especially against a winless team looking to make an upset splash.
“Brandon is largely an unknown for us because we have not seen them for a couple of years,” said Sinclair.
“We need to be up-tempo, to control the pace of games, and be more consistent. The key for us this weekend is [defensive] rebounding. We don’t want to give them any second chances.”
The UVic-Brandon men’s games are 8 p.m. tonight and 7 p.m. Saturday, with the women’s tilts at 6 p.m. tonight and 5 p.m. Saturday in CARSA.